A Conversation With.Kent Ennis, Deputy Director, Arizona Department of Commerce
"Bioscience is a targeted sector - jobs are up 16 percent and wages are up 13 percent, and this represents higher salaries than other science and industry groups."
A. By the measures that we track here in Arizona, we have found that our capital investment grew by 263 percent to $1.6 billion. General Motors is relocating its Proving Grounds to Yuma and establishing a partnership with the U.S. Army for the shared use of its test track. This will bring 155 new jobs to Yuma and a capital investment of $120 million. In another important development, Global Solar Energy, a manufacturer of photovoltaic solar cells, is investing $75 million in Tucson. Its manufacturing plant will require 86 jobs. An $11 million capital investment for Embraer, a manufacturer of commercial and corporate jets, will result in an Embraer-owned executive jet service center to service Embraer-manufactured executive aircraft at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa.
Q. What is the legislature doing to help improve the economy?
A. Our legislature agreed to apportion $25 million per year over four years to the 21st Century Fund to promote science and technology research and advancements. The fund, managed by Science Foundation Arizona, received $35 million in its first year last year.
Also, the Job Training Fund administered by the Arizona Department of Commerce, has been extended by four years. This is a critical incentive to establish and attract companies to our state by improving the work force.
Q. What sectors are growing the most?
A. Bioscience is a targeted sector - jobs are up 16 percent and wages are up 13 percent, and this represents higher salaries than other science and industry groups. Our National Institutes of Health funding is up 30 percent, and research and development investments are up 23 percent. We have many initiatives in this category, such as the TGen Research Lab, Arizona State University, the Phoenix Bioscience Center, and the Bio5 Lab at the University of Arizona at Tucson.
Q. Are any regions expanding with a particular type of growth?
A. The Yuma region is experiencing growth in renewable energy and agricultural biotechnology. The area has a biorefinery, a number of ethanol plants, and fuel farms, for both biodiesel and solar farm development. In biotechnology, at the University of Arizona Agricultural Extension and Arizona Western College, farming is being transformed into a high-tech process, with advanced harvesting, automatic processing and packaging, and seed research. Ninety percent of the nation's production of winter loose-leaf and head lettuce comes from Yuma. In other areas, Pinal County is one of the fastest growing in the state, and cities of Maricopa and Casa Grande have attracted significant and diverse projects recently.
Q. How are exports and foreign investment faring?
A. Exports remain as a key target. In 2007, our exports were 23 percent higher than in 2006. We are on track to exceed $20 billion in exports. Mexico and Canada are our largest trading partners, with Mexico at $5.4 billion and $1.8 billion with Canada last year. A recent study shows that 128,000 jobs in Arizona are tied to trade with Canada only. Ten percent of the state's jobs are tied to exports in such sectors as electronics and aerospace. We have trade offices in the U.K., Mexico and Asia, all focusing on enhancing foreign direct investment.
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