June 5, 2018
Education drives economic development by contributing to a strong workforce. Our Economic Development Committee (EDC) invited Dr. Rita Cheng, President of Northern Arizona University, and Regent Larry Penley, from the Board of Regents of Arizona, to discuss higher education. Due to the direct impact on workforce, a discussion of the results of the West Valley Pipeline workforce initiative also took place. The speakers talked not only about their areas of expertise, but also engaged in a discussion with the Committee on improving our higher education and possible initiatives.
The discussion centered on increasing the attainment rate of Arizonans with an Associate's degree, Bachelor's degree, or a certificate. This also would increase the workforce pipeline for the state. However, achieving this goal depends heavily on our K-12 education, as well as lower cost options for higher education, financial aid through the state, and creating policies that support education in our state.
With our growing economy, there is a need to build a strong workforce throughout our region. This can lead to an increase in our economic prosperity, business attraction, and jobs in the communities we live in, which can reduce commute times and create healthier communities.
Northern Arizona University (NAU) is one of three public universities in the state of Arizona and has more than 31,000 students enrolled in its programs. NAU President Dr. Rita Cheng provided a report on NAU's role in developing talent for our future economy. Seven out of ten jobs will require more than a high school education by 2020 and only 40 percent of the population age 25 and older in the Maricopa County have an associate's degree, bachelor's degree or workforce credential. NAU is actively working to address this educational attainment gap by partnering with community colleges, businesses and cities in the region. NAU provides opportunities beyond northern Arizona, such as the health programs at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus. The university has an economic activity of 2 billion dollars and in 2016, 82.1 percent of graduates were employed in Arizona.
Over the next 25 years, 49.5 percent of the growth in Maricopa County will occur in the West Valley. City of Surprise Economic Development Coordinator Mike Hoover and City of Peoria Business Development Coordinator Kirsten Hall provided a report on the West Valley Pipeline. Communities in the West Valley partnered with WESTMARC and MAG to develop a workforce and education strategy. The West Valley's main challenge is that the region has more workers than jobs, which results in many West Valley residents commuting to jobs in the central city and the East Valley. The goals for the strategy are to validate the existing talent in the West Valley and to strengthen the pipeline to grow the talent base. The target industry sectors are advanced business services, advanced manufacturing, aerospace and aviation, health services, information technology, and transportation and logistics.
Education past high school is essential for Arizona's workforce to thrive. Arizonans with an undergraduate degree earn a median wage that is approximately 82 percent more than individuals with a high-school diploma. Arizona Board of Regents Chairman-elect Regent Larry Penley provided an overview of the board's strategic plan to drive educational attainment as well as Achieve60AZ, an initiative endorsed by Governor Ducey. Today's higher education attainment rate is 42.7 percent. Achieve60AZ aims for 60 percent of Arizonans to achieve a college degree or certificate by the year 2030. The Arizona Board of Regents is conducting outreach to raise awareness of the importance of having sound public policies. Good public policies are crucial in supporting steps needed in college entry and completion, adult education and training, and identifying and closing skills gaps to better prepare Arizona's workforce for the future.
Arizona Commerce Authority staff commented that the 2018 Arizona Mexico Commission Summit is taking place on June 14-15, 2018, in Tucson, Arizona. Topics of the economic development session include innovation, tech parks, and technology development.
Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) staff commented that after Seattle's City Council recently approved a head tax for local companies, GPEC conducted a strong public relations and digital media campaign for business attraction in the Seattle market. GPEC also hosted international delegations from the Netherlands, Ireland, Kazakhstan, and Taiwan to promote bilateral industrial cooperation. GPEC participated in the recent City of Phoenix's trade mission to Mexico City to establish agreements of cooperation to support cross border collaboration and trade.
The next meeting of the EDC will be on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, at 11:30 a.m. at the MAG Office, 302 N. First Avenue, Phoenix, second floor, Saguaro Room.
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