AZ Chamber of Commerce: The CEO of CEOs
This fall, I spoke with Danny Seiden, CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. It was fascinating to receive an inside look at how the state is working to foster a culture of innovation, one of the most valuable assets to any entrepreneur. By upholding core values of sustainability, collaboration, and creativity, Arizona is rapidly becoming one of our nation’s most significant geographies for economic and technological growth.
I witnessed the start of Arizona’s growth boom when I still lived in California, as friends began relocating to Phoenix. Since then, the state has continued to experience a period of unprecedented success. From 2020-2021, 5 out of the top 15 fastest-growing cities were in Arizona, as are 154 of the nation’s fastest-growing companies – which have created a collective $18.5 billion in revenue since 2018. It is an exciting time to work in Arizona, and innovators from all backgrounds have flocked to the state to reap the rewards.
If these trends continue, Arizona will surely be an innovation oasis. It is one of the best places for young entrepreneurs, and I can’t wait to see what other revolutionary ideas will spring out of this state. Here are my most significant takeaways from the conversation with Danny:
Collaboration Amplifies Innovation:
In these times of increased polarization, it is easy to be discouraged by our government’s seeming inability to work together. However, Danny reminded us that bipartisanship still happens and can make a massive impact. There are common interests that unite us, and Danny’s philosophy is to focus on the 80% that we can all agree on rather than the 20% that we cannot. Arizona’s leaders utilized this strategy when helping to create the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act, which focused on two common, critical concerns: power and water. Negotiations were led by Arizona’s Senator Kyrsten Sinema and contained a committee of politicians that were split among political parties. The team was able to unite to provide around $15 billion in funding for clean energy projects while raising $52 billion for critical water initiatives. It is no coincidence that Arizona’s leaders were behind this working partnership, as the state believes that the best ideas are developed through discussions among a diverse group of stakeholders with differing perspectives. Business leaders are drawn to this sentiment and are moving to Arizona because they want to be part of this rich strategy for ideation.
Innovators Seek to Make the Greatest Positive Impact:
Most corporate America is enacting some form of internal sustainability measurement, and the best firms tailor their commitment to the local community. And those leading the charge know we need a sustainable environment to ensure long-term growth and profitability for ANY business. This is particularly evident in Arizona, where the Colorado River continues to cause growing concern for businesses and homes that rely on the water. Intel’s work in Arizona is a great example of smart sustainability being built into the business strategy. As Arizona experiences long-term drought conditions, the company aims to reduce its water usage. Intel worked with Arizona policymakers and community partners to help reduce strain on the state’s water supply. Some of their solutions looked beyond the company itself to the agricultural industry, which utilizes 70% of the world’s freshwater. Intel looked across the state and now funds over 15 water restoration projects around Arizona. I am especially intrigued by their work in the Verde Valley, which led to the creation of some awesome local beer. Danny explained that Intel convinced local farmers to switch their crops to hops because it requires less irrigation. And now those hops are used by the booming craft beer industry in the state. Their solution will help the water crisis and farmers and support a growing consumer sector! Danny believes that Intel will be water positive by 2030. Other businesses have noticed the state’s partnership with companies like Intel, promoting the common good, and they have decided to operate in the state in pursuit of this same goal.
Arizona Is Charging Forward With Big Energy:
With auto industry leaders like GM and Ford investing billions in states like Tennessee and Michigan, the legacy auto communities will experience great growth from the boom in #EVs. BUT, the Southwest is also enjoying growth. Arizona and Texas have various EV projects, fueling domestic manufacturing growth. Arizona, in particular, has a major Nikola factory, where America’s trucking industry is seeing electric innovation. Since freight trucks account for 26% of all #carbonemissions in the transportation sector, the boon to the state will go beyond economic growth to include helping mitigate carbon pollution. Nikola embodies a trailblazing mindset. The EV manufacturer is forging its path by developing an electric truck powered by hydrogen fuel cell propulsion systems. This alternative should reduce EV charging time to 20 minutes while increasing the range to 500 miles. And where will these groundbreaking fuel cells be manufactured? You guessed it: Arizona’s $1 billion dollar hydrogen production center.