As mayor, people ask me every day about Phoenix’s economic future. “Do we even have one?” Phoenix finally is rising out of this recession, but two key ingredients have to be mixed together to seal our city’s economic fate: education and business. Without them, we can kiss our economic future goodbye.
Our state has hit many all-time lows over the last few years, but one of the worst had to be Intel CEO Craig Barrett’s “truth-hurts” comment in 2011 when he said that if Intel had to do it all over again, they would likely not come to Arizona due to the lack of support for public education.
It was a kick in the rear, and we desperately needed it.
The truth is that Phoenix’s economy is coming back, but we’ve got to start down the right path with a simple equation: better education attracts businesses that create jobs.
Today, the number of U.S. jobs that require education beyond high school has doubled from the 1970s. So to bring employers to Phoenix, and keep them here, an educated workforce is essential.
Improving our education system and reducing the dropout rate are key actions to Arizona’s economic and internationally competitive future.
This is why I’m asking Arizona’s business community to be advocates to education. Employers need a quality workforce to be competitive. Beyond that, business executives want their children to have quality schools. So do their employees.
While there’s still time this legislative session, we all — the business community especially — need to deliver the message to our state Legislature to draw the line at more cuts to public education. It’s bad for our economy and our children.
Creative partnerships between the business community, local government and our schools as well as getting business leaders involved directly in school-based programs are big parts of the solution.
It’s critical that our business community works closely with our education leaders. In Phoenix, when it comes to supporting our schools, it’s an all-hands-on-deck issue. There is no organization that can say “it is not my problem.”
Once we look at education as an economic development issue, it’s clear why this is needed. We all bring something to the table. Schools have educational expertise. Businesses know the skills they need in a workforce and have operational expertise. Government has other resources that can complement and reinforce what our schools are doing.
With a great education, our kids will be well-equipped to help Arizona compete in a global economy. Our business community, our state Legislature, our local governments and all of us need to do what we can, today, to make sure that happens.
• Greg Stanton was elected mayor of Phoenix in 2011.