OPINION: Regional group’s economic committee chair gives update

The August Economic Development Committee meeting marked the end of my service as chair of the committee. In looking back at the past year, my first reaction is how fast it went. My second reaction is recognition of how much the committee has evolved from its beginning in 2010.

I truly believe that the EDC has made a difference not only for this region, but also for the state of Arizona. This is a tribute to the elected officials, business and education leaders who understand that teamwork is essential to growing our economy.

Close to my heart is the work that has been done on the Tourism and Shopping Initiative to extend the travel limits for Mexican visitors with border crossing cards from 75 miles to the entire state of Arizona.

When we started this effort more than three years ago, the task seemed monumental. With great leadership from the EDC, our effort to extend the travel limit for border crossing card carriers is now at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The request is for an administrative action to allow the extension of the border crossing card zone. It is important to note that border crossing card holders are low-risk, frequent travelers who have undergone rigorous security checks.

Not only would this change bring $181 million in sales tax to Arizona, it is good public policy because it increases border security. I am especially proud of all of the work done by the EDC on this effort.

The Tourism and Shopping Initiative also ties in to the report provided by Maricopa Association of Governments staff regarding the Sister Cities program, which further demonstrates the importance of our shared relationships to our regional economies.
Through the trips taken by elected officials from the EDC, we gained a new appreciation for our neighbors to the south and how our economies are linked. I had the opportunity to personally tour the Ford Motor plant in Hermosillo and understand that it is one of the most advanced automobile plants in the world. Its supply chain stretches into the United States.

Also during our August meeting, Local Motors, located on the border of Chandler and the Gila River Indian Community, with a facility in Tempe, made an outstanding presentation to the EDC on their revolutionary process in how they manufacture the automobiles of the future.

What was compelling to me was their approach to innovation and product development through a process they call “co-creation.” Local Motors harnesses the talent and creative energy of engineers and designers throughout the world to competitively create their products in record-breaking time.

As an elected official, I believe we could all learn something from their approach to problem solving and apply it to our daily work in government to streamline and be more effective.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as your chair. I look forward to continue working on the committee as an avid supporter of the economic development efforts for this region.

Michael LeVault
Maricopa Association of Governments

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