New Tools Needed

[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?”

Portrait by Elven Whims

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

While Arizona politicians continue to debate what tax cuts to make, or which national chains to ‘subsidize’, other states are taking innovative measures to spur their local economies.

  • 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.

Note: I learned of the Oregon task force initiative through Sarah Dinges on Twitter. Kimber Lanning from Local First Arizona told me about the New Mexico legislation.

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Yuri Artibise

Yuri Artibise is an experienced policy analyst, community engagement practitioner and social media specialist. I have a Master of Public Administration degree with over 10 years of public policy research, analysis, and advocacy experience.


  1. Nice. So how does something like this happen?

  2. Through hard work and perseverance. Those of us who think that there is more to economic development that low taxes and cheap labor need to get our voices heard by the people making decisions, to counter the anti tax and government crowd. The nice thing on the small business front, is that even some of the most conservative republicans are open to meausres that support small businesses, as many of then are small business owners themselves.

    I know Kimber Lanning and Local First AZ is working hard to make changes in the legislature, regarding government procurement and is gaining cross party support. I’m working to return Ken Clark to the Legislature for District 15, who is supportive of idea like those mentioned in my post, to the legislature. However, he is but one candiate.

    I would start by contacting the candidates in your district and asking them directly if they would support measure like this, and find ways to support those who will, either through volunteering or donating (or both). You can’t climb out of a hole without getting you hands dirty.

  3. Wow! This sounds awesome. Thanks for bringing us these out-of-the-box ideas.

  4. Perry, I’m glad you liked it. Please pass these ideas to your friends and colleagues. If we want to get something similar enacted in AZ, we need as many supporters as possible.

  5. Local is great, but an economy will stagnate if it is not exporting more than it is importing. I don’t think we want Arizona to just have a circular economy (though that would be an improvement over the negative economy we currently have).

    The future is about having the best access to human capital. Anything we do should be about growing, retaining and attracting talent to the state. Everything else is merely short term gain.

    • I agree that education/human capital is the foundation of a sound economy and should be the central focus of our economic development strategy. However locally based businesses are much more likely to invest and contribute to their community over the long run, including supporting the growth and retention of talent.

      Also, it does not good to grow and attract the best and brightest if then have to leave the state for advancement in their careers/company .This goes as much for entrepreneurs leaving for broader opportunities as it does for corporate employees moving up in their careers.

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