Originally published Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 06:00a.m.
PRESCOTT – Rep. Karen Fann was pleased in May to see Gov. Doug Ducey sign a bill she sponsored to revamp the state’s economic development efforts.
Fann said the bill – House Bill 2666 – was crafted in close consultation with the governor’s office in an effort to update and streamline the state’s revitalization efforts.
“One of the problems we were hearing was we are not business-friendly when it comes to attracting businesses from other states,” Fann said.
The bill establishes the Governor’s Economic Opportunity Office and places several economic development agencies under it.
The governor’s office described the new agency as “a one-stop economic development shop.”
While the Economic Opportunity Office is a new name, most of its functions already existed within the agencies that fall under it or were done in the Office of Employment and Population Statistics.
“We did not add any new agencies,” Fann said.
She said there were several purposes in making the change.
Fann said the Economic Opportunity Office will be tasked with reviewing and researching regulations and taxes in an effort to both reduce the burden on businesses as well as be able to explain to potential new businesses what requirements they can expect in Arizona.
The agency will also compile workforce data from various agencies across the state.
“(Businesses) were not able to get the data they needed to see if we had the workforce for them.” Fann said.
The data collected by the Economic Opportunity Office will also be used to make decisions about what courses to offer within the state’s higher education system and in joint technical education districts.
“Arizona is increasingly a destination for businesses large and small,” Ducey said in a prepared statement. “As businesses compare each state, searching for high quality of life, light regulations, low taxes, good financing and qualified workers, the Office of Economic Opportunity will be there to help make the pitch and communicate the advantages that Arizona has to offer. I commend Rep. Fann for her leadership in this significant legislation and her efforts to increase Arizona’s economic competitiveness.”
Fann said the biggest winners in the process are small businesses that lack a team of lawyers and lobbyists to navigate the state’s regulatory structure.
“We really tried to craft this in a way that put an emphasis on helping rural areas,” said Daniel Scarpinato, spokesman for the governor’s office. “It’s taking a whole new look at how we do economic development in this state.”
He said once the office gets going, a business inquiring about opening its doors in Arizona will have more current and complete information, localized to the specific region of the state where the business plans to locate.
On top of that, state officials will be able to compare the tax and regulatory climate in that specific location against requirements in other states the business may be considering.
Scarpinato said the direct comparisons will help form future revisions to state laws to help increase the state’s competitiveness.