Summary of InBusiness Magazine’s Economic Symposium

On Friday, May 18, InBusiness Magazine presented its Guest Editor Economic Symposium: Growing Local Business, a new signature event that is sure to be an annual tradition for the young publication that was founded in November 2010. With nearly 300 attendees that included sponsors, advertisers, small business owners and affiliated business associations, the event at the Arizona Biltmore featured a panel of distinguished leaders and executives from several industries.

The magazine will institute a subscriber-access only version starting June 1, so if you want to read the May online flip-book edition for free, you’d better do it soon.

Each of the past 18 issues was guest edited by a prominent Valley business leader, and nine of those individuals were available  – Jos Anshell (retired partner, Moses Anshell), Dr. Craig Barrett (retired Chairman & CEO, Intel), Derrick Hall (President & CEO, Arizona Diamondbacks), John Huppenthal (Superintendent of Public Instruction, State of Arizona), Howard Lein (Owner, RE/MAX Excalibur), Vicki Panhuise (Chair, Arizona Aerospace & Defense Commission and owner, VePoint Consulting Group), Jim Pederson (CEO, The Pederson Group), Rich Rector (Chairman, Realty Executives) and Candace Wiest (President & CEO, Wast Valley National Bank).

Prior to the symposium, a centennial exhibit titled “At Work in Arizona” sponsored by the Alliance Bank of Arizona was available for viewing. After InBusiness publisher Rick McCartney welcomed everyone, he introduced keynote speaker Kathy Heasley, found of the Heasley & Partners branding company. She spoke passionately about local businesses putting more heart into everything as we enter “The Next Frontier”. She expressed to the audience that the Valley has the capabilities of being a driving market of start-up innovation and economic vitality like Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas.

Ted Simons of KAET-TV Channel 8 moderated the panel with great style and patience, no easy feat with a dais packed with nine prominent Valley VIPs. I normally contend that four is the maximum number of panelists to ensure a productive dialogue session with a relatively equitable distribution of air time for each participant; but for a more expanded symposium agenda such as this one, seven would seem to be feasible. However, Simons deftly got everyone involved, injected well-timed humor and fostered some healthy debate and dissenting perspectives.

After all of the insights, some cynical banter and spirited back-and-forth, the panelists agreed that everyone loves and wants to improve Arizona’s education, economy and national public image. As Anshell remarked, “Tell everyone you know how much you love Arizona, we’re all here and love working and living here. By telling others, people will continue to come here for the great things here.”

A sampling of interesting highlights and notes from the symposium panelists follows:

  • There was a healthy exchange between two panelists regarding the impact of the recent Chase $2-3 billion loss and whether government should even be involved in the aftermath of the company’s hit to the books.  The notion of size-appropriate federal regulation of banks was floated as a reasonable course of action given the continued PR flare-ups of the big bank transactions.
  • In regards to a financial reform discussion, one panelist remarked: “You know what they say about regulators, they’re the ones who come in after a massacre and shoot the survivors.”
  • The consensus was that Valley business want to improve Arizona’s education system, enhance infrastructure collaborations between the public and private sectors and maintain safe neighborhoods (2006 peak of 240 murders has dropped to 100 this year) to sustain high-paying employment opportunities.
  • The aerospace industry is $9 billion business for Arizona with careers that earn an average salary of $109,000.
  • September 2011 stands as the bottoming-out of the median home price, and prices have risen 26% since then.
  • Home values are on the rise again and appreciation is back, which will
  • Seventy percent of the home sales in the last six months were cash buyers, but more traditional sales are also on the rise.
  • The Valley’s freeway system shows the prospects for continued long-term new residential building growth.
  • Building permits were up 60% this March from March 2011.
  • Of the 4,600 new jobs created last month, 25 percent were generated in the health care and hospitality sectors.
  • Diamondbacks have provided the most affordable family experience in baseball for six straight years.
  • Dr. Barrett touted the traditionally trail-blazing university research hubs of Silicon Valley and Boston as premier economic engine and wealth creation generators, and the ideal that Arizona’s universities should strive for, while  Simons offered that taxpayers may prefer university curriculum that provides more immediate, reliable and practical work skills and career preparation.
  • Derrick Hall espoused the continued importance of businesses being proactive in improving the education system through school challenges and collaborative programs to support recreation, nutrition and information technology for students, parents and teachers.
  • Candace Wiest stressed that “banks are lending!” to any qualified customers.
  • One executive noted houses have been receiving 5-15 offers with a high total of 76.
  • Arizona needs to continue to diversify its economy to avoid an over-reliance on the fate of the real estate market.

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