By Doug Bruhnke, March 20th
Phoenix Business Journal
Arizona lags in international trade versus states like California, Nevada and Texas. Those states have each made greater per capita investments to attract foreign companies and to support those that are locally-based. Arizona is ranked near the bottom of US states for Foreign Direct Investment, and so until Arizona government grabs the strategic opportunity to more rapidly increase global investment and commerce, it is grassroots efforts that can and must make the difference.
At the recent AZIGG Global Business Fair sponsored by Squire, Sanders & Dempsey and Arizona International Growth Group (AZIGG), over 250 Phoenix-area business people gathered to discuss practical ways to be more global. Some general themes emerged. One conclusion was that despite low per capita investment on attracting and supporting global initiatives in Arizona, progress is being made with the help of the private sector.
Glenn Williamson of the Canada-America Business Council (www.canaz.net) is a good example of what one individual and group can do to create international cooperation and results for Arizona. Five years ago there were 160 Canada-based companies in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Today in large part due to efforts by CABC, there are over 700.
“We weren’t getting enough government action, and so we decided to take action to grow the business relationships between Arizona and Canada,” said Glenn Williamson, CEO of CABC. “We created a rocket ship with a little funding and lots of hard work and creativity.”
“That said, I’m very nervous about what’s next”, continued Williamson. “As a state we have a long way to go, and more people here need to realize how important international business is to creating a sustainable economy. We have so much more to do in Arizona to create the global links that I think we need, including getting more international flights.”
Rod Miller, VP of International for Greater Phoenix Economic Council (www.gpec.org) agreed. “We need investment to capture strategic industry growth for Arizona like Germany-based solar companies,” said Miller. He seeks greater awareness in the business community of how important private industry and government cooperation is. Like Williamson he sees value in cooperation. “In the current environment, increasing our investment in economic development initiatives will support a quicker and stronger economic recovery,” Miller concluded.
Les Gin, President of the Asian Bank of Arizona (www.asianbankaz.com) sees advantages and opportunities for Arizona. Some very real advantages exist particularly versus California in attracting investment. “We have a cost advantage versus California, and that supported investment in the Chinese Cultural Center completed in 2006 and most recently in the East Valley Mekong Plaza by a group from San Francisco.”
Susan Shultz, President of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations (www.pcfraz.org), agrees that with or without government support, much of the solution lies in the private sector. “So many times our government has tried grand initiatives, but they have not been as successful as they could have been,” said Shultz. “CABC is a wonderful example of a successful private sector initiative that worked and keeps on working.”
It was in consideration of these challenges and opportunities that AZIGG was founded in 2007. It provides a place for Arizona-based business owners to gain the international information and connections they need to be more successful overseas. It’s also a place where Arizona businesspeople can learn more about the importance of Foreign Direct Investment. AZIGG has attracted over 1,000 members from the Arizona business community that meet monthly to discuss global business issues for Arizona.
AZIGG encourages cooperation between local international business and cultural groups to benefit the greater good. These groups include the Department of Commerce, the SBA, SCORE (www.scorephoenix.org), GPEC, other city economic development resources, the international consulates, Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, World Affairs Counsel of Arizona, financial institutions working with the US Export-Import Bank, trade associations such as the Arizona Technology Council and global service providers such as Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. Cooperation can make a difference.
It is grassroots efforts by individual entrepreneurs that also helps build a stronger international business community. Abhay Jajoo, Managing Director of Eupath (www.eupath.com), founded two firms thanks to the support from the Small Business Administration, the City of Phoenix and community banks.
“The SBA in Arizona was a tremendous help as we started Eupath,” said Jajoo. “They were able to understand our needs, cut through the bureaucracy and direct us to the funding and specific support that we needed. In the end they were essential in our locating global operations in Phoenix.”
Eupath helps companies lower costs while keeping their operations in-house by off-shoring legal, software development and analytical work.
All of us can help with the grassroots efforts to grow the global economy of Arizona. There are initiatives that residents of Arizona can support to create a more level playing field for companies based in Arizona that will ultimately create more business opportunities for all us.
Increase direct international flights to and from Sky Harbor Airport
Send a clear message that Arizona is a state open to legal immigration
Improve education in Arizona from below average in the US to above average
Provide tax incentives to attract capital-intensive industries like solar to Arizona
Support GPEC, the Department of Commerce, AZIGG and others working for Arizona
By Doug Bruhnke, CEO/Founder of Growth Nation www.growthnation.comand President/Founder of the Arizona International Growth Group (AZIGG) www.azigg.com