First Quarter 2016

The Quick Jab

by Bill Jabjiniak

Advancing Economic Competitiveness

A fundamental change is underway in the practice of economic development and in the very ways in which regions compete for economic growth. Historically, a region’s competitiveness has been evaluated based on the operating cost environment with a focus on taxation and the regulatory burden on business. While these factors will remain important, the foundations of competitiveness are shifting to new priorities.

Today, competitiveness encompasses more than being low cost. Companies focus on regions with features that enhance their productivity and ability to compete in a global marketplace. The new framework relies on foundations that work together to enhance Arizona’s position: leadership and collaboration; advanced industries; workforce and talent; innovation and entrepreneurship; and access to jobs and opportunities. Advancing competitiveness along these pillars ensures that the state’s economic engine is achieving optimal performance to increase output and jobs.

Regionally, representatives from all levels of government, academia, and industry have been discussing what key areas we should focus on for improving Arizona’s competitive position. Consensus is developing around the following principles: growing industries that are export-oriented and knowledge-based; reinvesting and creating economic development tools that our competitors have, and use against us; attracting new companies and growing existing and start-up businesses; and increasing prosperity – specifically closing the gap that exists in education inequality.

For Mesa, we are implementing strategies at the municipal level that will positively influence our level of success. However, as a city, we are able to compete for significantly more projects when there are state and regional assistance programs to employ. These foundational economic development tools help ensure Arizona is short-listed for, and can win, more impactful projects.

As a professional economic developer, the greatest concerns for our future sustainability are to ensure the state offers competitive economic development tools and to reduce the gap that exists in education inequality which directly affects prosperity. Continued improvement of Arizona’s economic development toolbox is a short-term solution, while solving the educational attainment gap needs urgent attention bolstered with a long-term, ongoing plan.

Economic development tools that make a difference

Enable Tax Allocation Districts (TAD)

Currently, no economic development mechanism exists to facilitate the building of needed public infrastructure as companies look to grow their operations in the region. This puts Arizona at a disadvantage as the only state that does not have such a financing mechanism. Tax Allocation Districts (called Tax Increment Financing or TIF in some states) requires a technical change to the Arizona Constitution that would enable Arizona municipalities to finance public infrastructure improvements and encourage private sector investment without raising taxes.

TAD is a financing tool that allows local governments to fund economic development projects by capturing the increased property value stemming from these projects. A municipality can finance public improvements through tax-exempt bonds secured by property tax revenues generated by new development. Because TAD debt is secured primarily by the incremental tax revenues derived from the property taxes levied within the specified district, cities can finance development without implementing a new tax.

There are many different financing mechanisms that are often called TAD. A traditional TAD model, as is proposed here, captures the increased property taxes in a specified district. It does not capture city or state sales taxes and does not require the creation of a new tax.

Provide Funding for Effective Job Training and Workforce Programs

Companies often need support when training new employees or upgrading the skills of their existing workforce to remain competitive globally. Nearly every state in the U.S. has a program to aid companies with customized training of new or existing workers.

The Arizona Job Training Program is a job-specific reimbursable grant that supports employee training for employers creating new jobs or increasing skill and wage levels for current employees. Since 2012, the program has awarded more than 120 grants for companies to provide training throughout Arizona to more than 20,000 workers. These companies range from large international corporations like IBM to startup tech companies like InfusionSoft and WebPT.

The program was funded through a 0.1 percent Job Training Tax paid by employers on the first
$7,000 in gross wages paid to each employee in a calendar year. In the Arizona FY2016 budget, the Job Training Tax was eliminated. In addition, $25 million was swept from the Job Training Program and used to pay for other expenses in the general fund. The program still exists but will conclude in the near future as fund monies are depleted.

While Arizona eliminated funding for Job Training, in contrast competitor states have made investments to ensure companies would have a qualified workforce with skills needed to meet the demands of industry. To remain competitive, Arizona needs an effective job training program that supports industry efforts to provide targeted skills training to new and existing Arizona workers.

Increasing prosperity – closing the gap of education inequality

Sustainable growth requires the region’s workforce is well equipped for high-quality employment and prepared with the skillsets most desired by growing industries. This means providing quality education and services to equip all students with access to college and careers. The Greater Phoenix region is one of the youngest and most diverse regions in the nation. Roughly 30 percent of the people in Greater Phoenix are of Hispanic or Latino origin. The region is projected to become majority-minority by 2030 — driven by the growth of the Hispanic population.[i] The majority of the emerging workforce pipeline will be made up of people who are young, Hispanic and educated in Arizona schools.

Currently, an educational attainment gap exists between the Hispanic population where only 11 percent of Hispanics over the age of 25 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 34 percent of their white peers.[ii] In addition, the Greater Phoenix region has one of the highest rates of disconnected youth in the nation; nearly one in four young Hispanic people are neither in school nor working.[iii] This educational attainment gap has implications for issues related to social-equity and for economic growth. To remain competitive as a state, region, and city, this gap must be closed, which means providing quality education and pathways to career opportunities to all students.

This cannot happen in a vacuum, and cannot be done by educational leaders alone. The business community must take the lead in shaping the narrative for access to opportunity in our region, and engage with successful programs to create more pathways to well-paying jobs in emerging industries.

Accelerating change

Improving economic development tools and educational attainment of all members of the workforce are critical to advancing Arizona’s economic competitiveness. I look forward to working with public and private partners throughout the region to drive these necessary changes. Please feel free to contact me with questions or comments at or visit our website at


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Aerospace ExporTech Boot Camp offered in Mesa

Openings still available

The City of Mesa and the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) are partnering to offer the Aerospace ExporTech Boot Camp, an intense export training program for Arizona aerospace, aviation and defense companies. The program will include three full-day class sessions on Fridays running February 12, March 11, and April 15, 2016 at the Mesa Center for Higher Education in Downtown Mesa. All Arizona aerospace companies are invited to apply. Mesa companies participating in the class are eligible to receive a reimbursable 50/50 matching grant toward enrollment fees offered by the Mesa Office of Economic Development.

The ExporTech Boot Camp will educate companies regarding the export process, key international market identification, export compliance, logistics, sales channel partner identification, and go-to-market strategies and activities. Each company will be assigned an export coach who will work with the company to develop a strategic international export plan.

The program assists new-to-export (NTE) companies develop proactive strategies (rather than reactive) in their approach to exports, and helps new-to-market (NTM) companies already exporting to be strategic in identifying new markets to penetrate.

Space is limited for eight-10 companies, however each company may have up to three employees attend the classes. Participants graduate with an international export plan and the following benefits:

  1. MEXICO TRADE MISSION – Companies will have the opportunity to participate, with no fee, on an ACA trade mission to Baja California, Queretaro, or Chihuahua, Mexico (three of the largest aerospace clusters in Mexico). The companies will have the opportunity to participate in pre-arranged, pre-vetted B2B meetings with potential distributors, representatives or end-buyers/end-users. Participating companies will be responsible for their travel, hotel, meals, and incidental costs.
  2. MEXICO TRADE ASSISTANCE – If participants identify Mexico as a target export market, they will be able to access (with no fee) the services of ACA’s Mexico City-based trade team to help find sales channel partners (including distributors, representatives, or end users) throughout Mexico and conduct business-to-business and business-to-government matchmaking services for the participant’s company throughout the Mexico market.
  3. $750 VOUCHER – The voucher, funded by Federal Express, can be used for export assistance services with the US Commercial Service. For example, this could be a matchmaking service to help the participating company find international distributors, sales representatives, or end-users in a particular export market.
  4. FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE – Financial assistance of up to $2,000 can be provided to companies via ACA’s export assistance program to participate as an exhibitor at an international aerospace show (including, but not limited to, Farnborough 2016) identified as a go-to-market initiative in the company’s ExporTech export plan.

The standard enrollment fee for a company in the Aerospace ExporTech Boot Camp 2016 is $900. The City of Mesa offers a $450 matching reimbursable grant to Mesa companies.

For more information, contact Lynn Spencer, City of Mesa Economic Development Project Manager, at or Kevin O’Shea, ACA Vice President of International Trade, at







Wilkes Ranked 25th in the nation for economic value by The Economist

University is Highest Ranked School in Arizona

Wilkes University is ranked 25th in the nation for economic value by the renowned international publication, The Economist – higher than any other Arizona university.

The ranking confirms the commitment of Wilkes University-Mesa campus to preparing students for success in high-paying careers. It determines a college’s economic value by comparing what a school’s graduates earn to how much they might have earned had they studied elsewhere.

The Economist isn’t alone in recognizing the value of a Wilkes education. The Brookings Institution ranked Wilkes in the top 10 percent of four-year colleges nationwide based on how much graduates actually earned over predicted earnings.

Students not only earn more with Wilkes, but they can do so while paying less for their degree. A variety of scholarships are available for transfer and MBA students, proving that a quality education, with small class sizes and personal attention, doesn’t have to be out of reach.



ATSU-SOMA selected to join prestigious American Medical Association consortium

New schools will join AMA to reshape how future physicians are trained and improve health outcomes

A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA) was selected by the American Medical Association (AMA) to join their Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium, a dynamic group of medical schools which share best practices and ideas for developing innovative curricula that can ultimately be implemented in medical schools across the country.

ATSU-SOMA was nominated by AMA because of its approach to incorporating comprehensive community-based projects as part of its curriculum, empowering students to actively learn to assess needs of the community through their second, third, and fourth year of medical school education while embedded in one of ATSU-SOMA’s 12 community health center campuses.

The AMA announced a total of 20 leading medical schools from across the U.S., all of which landed a spot on the Association’s consortium, and were awarded a three-year grant totaling $75,000. With the added schools, the now 31 school consortium will support training for an estimated 18,000 medical students who will one day care for 31 million patients each year.


BenU Logo

BenU at Mesa English program serves Spanish-speaking community

Benedictine University at Mesa has launched a series of free English as a Second Language (ESL) workshops to provide parents of Hispanic college students and the greater community with the tools they need to communicate more effectively in English.

The University’s newly established Academy of Language Acquisition and Success offers practical English language lessons in reading, writing, speaking and listening. Participants practice useful, everyday vocabulary in both large and small group settings.

“We believe offering a University-sponsored ESL program will be an incredibly valuable and rewarding service that we can provide to the greater Mesa community,” said Kevin Broeckling, associate vice president for University Services and Student Life at BenU at Mesa.

The University also provides a “Kids Corner” activities area staffed by college students to accommodate children ages 2-12 whose parents are participating in the workshops.

Sessions are open to the public and held from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at Gillett Hall, 225 E. Main St., in downtown Mesa. 2016 sessions are currently scheduled for Saturdays on the following dates:

  • January 23
  • February 6
  • February 20
  • March 5
  • March 19
  • April 2
  • April 16
  • April 30
  • May 14

Participants may drop in for a session, but are encouraged to register in advance by contacting (602) 888-5500 or


MCC Blue logo

MCC Red Mountain enhances flexible schedule options

In response to requests from students for more scheduling options, Mesa Community College (MCC) Red Mountain has created a new 2 days/4 days/1 day schedule with the flexibility that can help fit college into work and family life. The most popular three-credit classes — now offered on Fridays only — may be just what those who are working need to take that first step toward higher education. For others, Fridays without classes is the best option.

“Based on student feedback, we will basically eliminate three- and five-day-per week classes, thus decreasing the number of visits to campus, without compromising instructional quality or instructional time. This represents just one of many efforts MCC is making to support student success.” said Dr. Shouan Pan, MCC President.



Mesa teacher selected as 2016 Exemplary Teacher by Rodel Foundation of Arizona

The Rodel Foundation of Arizona selected their 2016 Exemplary Teachers, we’re proud to announce that six of the 15 selected are Northern Arizona University alums. One of which is Mesa’s own Irving Elementary School, Meredith Hey.

The Rodel Foundation’s goal is to unite teachers that have excelled in high-need schools with promising new student teachers who are working in similar high-need schools. Over a year-long mentorship, the Exemplary Teachers model effective teaching practices, curriculum and instructional strategies, and classroom management skills. Studies have shown that Arizona students from Exemplary Teachers’ classrooms perform at a high level on state-mandated assessments.

Congratulations to Meredith Hey and all of the 2016 Rodel Exemplary Teachers!

To learn more about NAU’s education-based programs please visit our Mesa campus at 145 N Centennial Way or online at


Official UIU Logo wReg - Use this logo

Two Mesa residents receive scholarships from UIU-Mesa Center

Upper Iowa University (UIU)-Mesa has awarded two $2,500 scholarships to incoming students. Marlon Mattis and Mercedes Pena Moreno, both Mesa residents, were awarded the scholarships as part of UIU’s partnership with the Mesa Educates U Initiative to expand educational offerings to area students.

Mattis attended Mesa Community College and will major in accounting. Moreno will be entering the human services program.

UIU has provided educational programs beyond the Fayette campus since the 1970s and has been establishing educations centers to serve communities across the United States for more than 25 years. The Mesa Center is the 19th U.S. center, established by the University, headquartered in Fayette, Iowa.  The UIU-Mesa Center is located at 1601 W. Main St., in Building 15. For more information, go to



Mesa Arts Center announces Street Pianos Mesa to enliven public spaces in Downtown Mesa

In late February, music and art will invigorate Mesa, as pianos transformed into works of art inhabit public places, emblazoned with the simple invitation, "Play Me, I'm Yours." The art project, conceived by British artist Luke Jerram, has been created and installed by 50 cities worldwide, but this is its first time in Arizona. Artists, working with local community groups, will transform 24 playable pianos into works of art that engage the public in playing, dancing, and gathering near community landmarks and in the heart of Downtown Mesa.

The project will be celebrated with a public Kickoff Event on February 27, and this year's Mesa Arts Center Gala will be the VIP Preview Party on February 26 for Street Pianos Mesa, with all of the pianos unveiled on Mesa Arts Center’s Shadow Walk. The event will feature the world premiere of a commissioned work by a nationally acclaimed piano artist performing with all 24 street pianos, plus food, drink, and more.   LEARN MORE >