GOLD CANYON — According to Arizona Chamber of Commerce CEO Danny Seiden, the only thing hotter than Arizona’s temperature is its economy.
This month’s Pinal Partnership breakfast discussion, held at Gold Canyon Golf Resort, focused on bringing manufacturing jobs to the region. While the panelists touted the business-friendly atmosphere and collaborations between stakeholders, Seiden said the state’s budget that passed this week was a boon to the local economy.
“What keeps me up at night is how our tax rate compares to other states,” Seiden said. “We have to do what we can to stay competitive.”
While critics of the budget have characterized the $1.9 billion income tax cut as a gift to the very wealthy, Seiden insisted the plan would help both large corporations and smaller businesses too, such as food trucks.
The talk, which featured Seiden, former Arizona chamber Chair Dawn Grove, Saint Holdings CEO Jackob Andersen and Hexcel Plant Manager Christian Ennis, discussed other things industry leaders were doing to build out the county’s manufacturing potential.
All of the speakers said they believe partnerships with education, such as the new Drive48 facility at Central Arizona College’s Signal Peak Campus, make the region that much more attractive to local businesses.
“Incoming industry knows this county is a place they can be quickly up and running,” Andersen said.
Andersen gave updates on Saint Holdings’ developed properties, which include the Nikola and Lucid campuses in Coolidge and Casa Grande, respectively. Lucid Motors has begun producing its line of EV luxury cars, the Lucid Air, which will have a 500-mile battery range. Lucid opened a studio in Chicago earlier this month and plans to open another flagship studio in New York later this year.
Despite agreements limiting how much detail he could reveal, Andersen suggested that the industrial park next to Lucid’s plant was almost full with tenants, including supply chains for some of the area’s current or upcoming microchip manufacturers.
Andersen said the Nikola plant would have a ribbon cutting for the Coolidge facility later this summer. That factory is to assemble electric trucks by the end of the year.
Grove, who is currently a corporate counsel for her grandfather’s golf club company, Karsten Manufacturing and PING, said that it would not be long before adjacent industries such as suppliers or retail would locate around the larger companies.
“You can set your ability to have jobs for decades to come,” Grove said. “I believe in Pinal.”
Another benefit the county has, Andersen said, is the transportation infrastructure and the fact that residents — i.e. workers — can travel with relative ease between cities in Pinal to either the Phoenix or Tucson metro regions, something that could be made even easier by the proposed North-South highway that would connect Apache Junction to Picacho.
“In Los Angeles or New York, 55 miles is ‘I’ll see you tomorrow’,” Andersen said. “Fifty miles here is 55 minutes.”
According to Seiden, manufacturing currently accounts for 10% of Arizona’s economy and has grown tremendously in the past eight years under Gov. Doug Ducey’s leadership. Although there are varying estimates for average salaries, the annual salary for manufacturing engineers in Arizona is between $70,000 and $90,000. However, the average for any job in the manufacturing industry in Arizona is just over $30,000.
The topic of Proposition 208 and the budget’s impact on education was briefly addressed, with Seiden suggesting that incoming residents and property values would help pay for schools. Seiden said the budget “mitigated” the direct impact of Proposition 208, which taxes the wealthy more.
Seiden also criticized the Biden administration for failing to support policies that would keep jobs in America.
He said many of Arizona’s largest companies are creating innovative ways to deal with water scarcity or, more broadly, being responsible environmental citizens.
In part to demonstrate the level of stewardship — sans government regulation — the Arizona Chamber of Commerce will be holding a sustainability summit on July 21 in Phoenix.
Earlier during the meeting, Pinal Partnership recognized Executive Director Melissa Johnson, who is stepping down after several years with the group, with a gift package she and her family could use at various places throughout the county. President Tony Smith also asked attendees to keep those who’d been impacted by the wildfires in their thoughts.