Arizona is not what it could be — not in education, not in economic development, not in immigration policy, or how we care for our children, our poor and our sick.
In days gone by, Arizona built big things like canals and cities. We focused on our future. These days, we seem to be more interested in running out the clock than embracing the future. Tomorrow is not at the forefront of our thoughts; it lies dormant somewhere in the back of our mind.
So, let’s look at a few facts about “today.”
As 2013 ended, we ranked: 43rd in education, 22nd in infant mortality, 37th in median household income, 17th in life expectancy, and 37th in exports.
No, Arizona is not what it could be. But it can be.
While we have many challenges and deficiencies to overcome, we can be optimistic that, at the same time, we’re on a positive trajectory, with many good things happening in economic development: the development of a new unmanned-airplane industry; Scottsdale’s blossoming technology corridor; a host of new biotech, medical cure and research facilities. Apple’s choice of Mesa as the location for its newest U.S. manufacturing facility will create 700 jobs in its first year alone.
As part of an in-depth strategic economic development project with the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Morrison Institute for Public Policy looked at what makes up the basic foundation of strategic planning in Arizona. To that end, we indexed and summarized major efforts currently underway across the state, as well as some of the major plans of the past decade. A summary and posted chapters are on our website.
These reports encompass eight broad categories: aerospace and defense; bioscience; infrastructure; trade with Mexico; science and technology; sustainability and solar power; the Sun Corridor; and Arizona’s economic competitiveness. In addition to investment, if there is a single thread running through them, it is the value of and need for collaboration.
That was underscored recently by Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, who told The Arizona Republic editorial board that the Apple deal was a team effort, that we will succeed individually only to the level we succeed as a region. That cannot happen if we don’t address an educational system that is inextricably linked to an attractive and innovative business climate and, just as important, the ability for the state to compete.
As noted at our annual State of Our State Conference last month, regardless of how you slice and dice data points, the current education funding level simply isn’t enough. Arguing over whether the state ranks 48th or 45th or 42nd in the nation on any of these measures misses the point. The important fact is that we are below the national average in educational attainment. We are not serving our children well; we are not positioning our economy to prosper.