By Kyle Backer
After the pain of the Great Recession, Arizona resolved to reinvent and diversify its industrial landscape to create a more resilient economy and put itself on the path to becoming a Tier 1 market. No single person or entity can take sole credit for this shift in priorities; it was made possible through the partnerships between municipalities, economic developers, lawmakers, educators and the taxpayers.
But Chris Camacho, president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), is among the group of leaders responsible for the ink drying on multi-billion-dollar investments from businesses such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and LG Energy Solutions.
Az Business magazine sat down with Camacho to talk about the region’s economic transformation, Arizona’s pro-business climate and his thoughts regarding 2023. The following responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Az Business: Let’s start with 2022. What’s one of your top line takeaways from last year?
Chris Camacho: We’re still in this supercycle where we’re seeing global companies in advanced technologies — whether that’s semiconductors, battery and energy storage, electric vehicles (EVs) or even data centers — expanding in the U.S. at unparalleled levels.
AB: How long has Arizona been in this supercycle?
CC: For about the past five to six years. Fortunately for us as a market, what these industries care about is quality, redundant infrastructure and strong labor pools that continue to produce labor. We also have the tailwinds of continued population growth and a pro-business policy environment.
When you put all those things together, that’s why we’ve seen success with EVs, with LG Energy going down to Queen Creek, or with TSMC and all the supply chain that’s followed. A lot of the leaders that I talk to nationally are saying this is still going to continue for the next five years. We’re very well situated for this industrial technology renaissance.
AB: You mentioned that Arizona has a pro-business climate. That phrase is thrown around a lot, but what does it mean to you?
CC: It starts with a can-do attitude from state, county and local officials throughout the process a company goes through to activate in our market, whether they’re going to the Arizona Corporation Commission to obtain a business license or working with a city for a permit.
You’d be amazed at the value of having a mayor, a council, and planning development services staff member showing up at a meeting and being problem solvers — that goes a long way. The flipside of this would be an attitude of “I’m going to make it very difficult for you to obtain a permit and work through our process.”
AB: What about tax policy? How does that factor into being a business-friendly state?
CC: As industry shifts to more capital-intensive goods producing enterprises, companies care more about certain taxes than others. I want there to be balance across the regulatory and the tax environment to make sure we’re competitive. But we also need revenue collections to invest in core infrastructure, whether that’s people infrastructure or physical infrastructure.
Being pro-business in my mind is understanding which taxes matter and really priding ourselves on being expeditious in our permit process. I would argue we’ve put ourselves in a position to be very competitive for capital-intensive industry. And we need to keep our foot on the pedal to make sure we continue cultivating the new base industry investments that are evolving here.
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