Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton gave the Phoenix State of the City Address, the third of its kind, last Wednesday. In it, he acknowledges Phoenix as one of the biggest cities in the country, but one that could be much better living up to its name.
“We’re a big city, but a new big city still trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up,” he said. He highlighted our lacking trade relationship with Mexico, unacceptable for a border state. Another pressing trade issue, one with Canada, will come to a head with the building of the I-11 freeway that will stretch from Mexico to Canada.
Indeed, on the topic of trade, he believes our economy needs to undergo a paradigm shift in not only our volume of exports, but the commodities which we are exporting.
Stanton believes that all of the greatest cities in the country have an ideas-based economy, rather than an economy based in material goods. “Today’s global economy, it’s rooted in innovation. And innovation is anything but business as usual.” This will attract more progressive think tank-esque companies which have traditionally settled in cities like Seattle or Silicon Valley.
The inclusion of the Downtown campus will help Phoenix grow as an ideas city, as thousands of journalism, nursing, law and arts students, among others, will continue to flood the city with young bright minds.
He also acknowledged the huge influx of people into the city and ordered the tripling of our light rail coverage in the next three decades. Events that are happening within the next year, like Super Bowl XLIX, were guaranteed both commercial success and safety. Although it will be held in the safety of Glendale, the economic benefits will stretch to the city of Phoenix.
All of this sounds great in theory, but how much of it will actually come to fruition? In my mind, it is not Stanton’s overly lofty aspirations that make this plan unrealistic, but rather the state’s politics. After all, this is the state that almost lost the Super Bowl because of a religious discrimination bill.
It seems that with legislation like Senate Bill 1062 cycling in and out of our Legislature, it will be incredibly difficult to bring in prospective businesses, especially the innovative, progressive businesses which Stanton is striving to attract.
As a city and almost as an institution, Phoenix needs to find a way to separate itself from Arizona politics as a whole. Otherwise, the economic locus of Arizona will crumble beneath the broader perceptions of the state at large.
Reach the columnist at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @izzyg25