[Orginally posted on February 11, 2010]
A frustrating thing about living in Arizona is the parochial attitude of many of its residents, especially long-timers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “Arizona is unique,” or it will never work here” or “good idea, but we don’t do things that way here.” Sometimes their rationale is sound, but more often than not, I want to shout “Has any one looked around lately and seen the results of the way you DO do things?”
The ongoing economic crisis isn’t the short-term results of the housing melt down, banking fiasco, or illegal immigration. Rather, it is a predictable results of a generation of poor policy and economic decisions made at all levels of government by officials of all political persuasions. Quite simply the decisions that the state has made over the past generation have dropped us into a hole that will be all but impossible to climb out of without radical rethinking. Applying the same tired solutions (more tax cuts, more corporate ‘incentives’), or hoping the next housing boom will solve the state’s problems is not only short-sighted—it is a recipe for continued decline.
Other States are Getting It
- Earlier this year, the Oregon legislature created a task force to look at ways of encouraging communities to grow their own jobs through local entrepreneurial activity. Based on the concept of ‘economic gardening,’ this proposed legislation intends to balance the more traditional business recruitment strategy of economic development, in which towns and cities do whatever they can to try to lure big employers, who often leave for greener pastures as soon as the costly incentives expire. In baseball terms, this is the difference between hitting the odd home run versus hitting a steady stream of singles and doubles. While the home run may make ESPN, the singles and doubles win the game. Alas Arizona continues to hope to lure the free agents with the big, but un-loyal bats while ignoring the locally grown talent in our ‘farm system.’
- In New Mexico, the House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that allows the state to move between $2 and $5 billion of state funds to credit unions and small banks. The proposed legislation is base on a national movement called Move Your Money that encourages people and businesses to move their money to smaller credit unions and community banks. Not only would this keep more money and investment in the state, it should also improve the quality of local businesses and developments. Alas the legislature adjourned before the Senate could vote on the bill. Hopefully it will be reintroduced in a future session.It would be great to see a similar bill proposed in Arizona. A significant barrier to responsible development in the state is that local developers need to go to national banks for funding. These lenders often look at local business as high risk and prefer one size fits all templates that favor chain stores and big box developments. Having more local options would help give local owned business more local funding options.
Neither of these ideas are the Holy Grail that will save Arizona. However, they are new tools to consider for the new times we’re living in. They are ways to start building a ladder to help the state climb out of our hole, rather that the shovels that we continue to use.
Thanks for reading. As always I’d love to heat you perspective on the issues raised above.