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May 29, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Bridgestone Guayule Research Facility

  |   Video
  • The Bridgestone tire company has broken ground on a new research facility in Mesa to find better ways to produce biorubber from the Guayule plant. Shea Joachim, Economic Development Project Manager for Mesa, will talk about the plant.
  • Shea Joachim - Economic Development Project Manager, Mesa
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: environment, mesa, arizona, plant ,

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Ted Simons: The Bridgestone corporation recently broke ground on a new research facility in Mesa designed to produce biorubber from a desert plant. Shea Joachim is economic development project manager for the city of Mesa, he joins us now to talk about all this. Good to have you here.

Shea Joachim: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: Bridgestone, a tire, rubber company, what are they building again now?

Shea Joachim: We're very excited about the project. There's two components. There's the biorubber research process center, which we built in Mesa, and then there's also an agricultural operation that will be built down in Eloy. The research center in Mesa is a multimillion dollar investment for Bridgestone, to explore the use of the Yuli plant as a natural source of rubber. If successful it will help Bridgestone meet the growing demand for rubber, and also release some of the reliance on another tree used for rubber production today. So down in Eloy they're going to cultivate the plant, and then they'll ship it up to Mesa, the feed stock will be used in the processing center. The Mesa facility will be located on approximately acres of property, and just a couple miles east of the Phoenix Mesa gateway airport. And probably most importantly will support 40 high-wage jobs.

Ted Simons: We're looking at the plant right there, and this is the site for the research center?

Shea Joachim: That's correct.

Ted Simons: And the site research center should eventually look like a nice high-tech operation.

Shea Joachim: Correct. Over time they hope to expand, and if they can improve the commercial scalability of the process, they look to do a full production facility.

Ted Simons: Let's talk more about this Yuli plant. Where is it naturally found?

Shea Joachim: It's native in the southwest.

Ted Simons: It's around here somewhere?

Shea Joachim: It's all over. In New Mexico, northern Mexico, and Arizona.

Ted Simons: And how does it become rubber?

Shea Joachim: My understanding is there's a natural presence of rubber within the bark of the shrub. And the process that Bridgestone is working on perfecting extracts that rubber from the plant and it can be used in shoes, tires and what not. If they can produce it as a price that's competitive it will relieve some of the reliance on the current primary source for rubber.

Ted Simons: This area of Mesa, what part of Mesa?

Shea Joachim: It's what we call the Mesa gateway area, the southeast corner of our city.

Ted Simons: By the airport.

Shea Joachim: Correct.

Ted Simons: Is it under developed right now, or do you have things going?

Shea Joachim: We have a lot of things going right now. A freeway under construction, state route 24, our airport is growing like gang busters, and this project is located just a couple miles east.

Ted Simons: State route 24, tell us more about that.

Shea Joachim: That will be -- What's being built now is the first extension of state route 24 from loop 202, which will go to about Ellsworth road if you're familiar with the area.

Ted Simons: 202 South or north?

Shea Joachim: South. And it will loop right to the east side of the airport.

Ted Simons: And isn't first solar and Fuji film in that area?

Shea Joachim: First solar is also in the area, Fuji film is across the street.

Ted Simons: And you're saying how many jobs?

Shea Joachim: 40 to start. If they can grow the operation we hope to see the job growth come as well.

Ted Simons: What kind of jobs, what kind of wages?

Shea Joachim: Above average wages and they'll primarily be technician and researchers. Those are the types of jobs we're trying to grow in Mesa. That's very much in line with our economic development strategy, which we call Mesa HEATT, and HEATT of course is the acronym is health care education aerospace technology and tourism.

Ted Simons: Talk to us more about Mesa. We had the mayor talking about it, give us more information as to what the goal is and what the process has been and what you got going so far.

Shea Joachim: You probably have heard of our education initiative which resulted in five high-quality higher learning institution, Albright college, Westminster colleges, Wilkes University, Benedictine University and Upper Iowa university. Those universities were an economic strategy and we believe they'll complement our work force development efforts, but also breathe new life in downtown Mesa and west Mesa. Next up for us we're in the process of finalizing our strategy now, is a health care strategy. We believe there's sectors within the health care umbrella that are really strong opportunities for Mesa, and we look to take advantage of that.

Ted Simons: Has this been easy to convince the Mesa movers and shakers, because Mesa has had a reputation for years of being bedroom community, we don't want to get involved in this such, sounds like you're getting involved in this stuff.

Shea Joachim: We are extremely fortunate to have the mayor and council we have right now. They're very forward thinking, in fact they've set the economic development strategy for us. Mesa HEATT. And there have been very business friendly and pro economic development, which some of these projects like Bridgestone, provides a certain comfort level for these companies to make these investments in our community, because they'll know that the projects won't be just supported, they'll be celebrated in Mesa.

Ted Simons: Talk to us again about why Bridgestone decided -- Has Bridgestone had a presence in Arizona in the past?

Shea Joachim: I'm sure they've had some retail presence, but as far as a research facility, I'm not sure --

Ted Simons: Right.

Shea Joachim: Why I think they chose Mesa, big investment decisions, there's always a variety of factors. The Yuli plant shrub is native to the southwest, so geographically their scope was somewhat narrow. But I think they chose Mesa for three reasons. The mayor and council and their pro economic development approach, but also the east valley boasts a very deep and talented work force. I think Bridgestone saw they could meet their immediate work force needs as well as their future human capital needs, and lastly, the site they chose had all the infrastructure in place. So water, sewer, gas, electric was all at the site. So from a timing perspective they could get started right away and could meet the deadlines that were set by the company for the investment.

Ted Simons: I'm sure Mesa residents would want to know about incentives. Does the cost the city much to keep them there or get them to that location?

Shea Joachim: There's no tax incentives involved, there's no fee waivers involved whatsoever. This is a relatively underdeveloped portion of the city, it's surrounded by large industrial users. So the only thing we were able to work out with Bridgestone, they asked for a temporary deferral of some street improvements on mountain road, which is where the project is located, and the city council supported that. That's really the only deal point that we had with the project. It's a great project all around.

Ted Simons: Last question, when does the first Bunsen burner fire up? When does the research start?

Shea Joachim: The construction is under way. They hope to have the facility operational by 2014. And hope to have their first rubber trial run in 2015.

Ted Simons: Sounds like fascinating stuff. A lot of stuff going on in Mesa. It's good to have you here.

Shea Joachim: Thanks for having us.

Legislative Update

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  • Get the latest news from the state legislature in our weekly update with Arizona Capitol Times reporter Luige del Puerto.
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: legislative, update, legislature, ,

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Ted Simons: Thank you. Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Medicaid expansion is still topic one at the state legislature. It's the primary condition that lawmakers are still in session. Joining us now for our weekly update is Luige Del Puerto of "The Arizona Capitol Times." Good to have you here, what is the latest on Medicaid expansion?

Luige Del Puerto: Nothing happened in the house this week on the Medicaid expansion front. And we are not expecting anything this week. However, as I had mentioned earlier, there were three options about how to proceed, and right now there's really only just one, and that's the governor's proposal. That's because speaker Tobin had concluded he cannot get the votes to pass his proposal to ask the voters what to do with this issue.

Ted Simons: Could not get the votes in the house or knew he couldn't get the votes in the senate?

Luige Del Puerto: He said he could not get the votes in the house. It is also very certain he could not get the votes in the senate. It sounds to me like lawmakers in the house either get it passed, get it out of here, or kill it and let's go home.

Luige Del Puerto: Certainly we are seeing that sentiment, that anxiousness, the get going and get this thing wrapped up.

Ted Simons: I thought Tobin, one of the reasons he was going to route is because he was concerned about prop 108, the idea a two-third mass jotter is needed to vote in a tax increase, which he sees this as, others of course don't. What happened to that argument?

Luige Del Puerto: He believes that's still the case. But of course his idea of resolving that issue by sending this to the voters is not going anywhere. And so even if he still believes this needs a prop 108, therefore two-thirds vote to pass, he can't get the votes to refer it to the ballot. So he's conceded that point.

Ted Simons: What about the idea of getting enough votes just to pass the house? Not the two-thirds, just the majority. Are those votes there?

Luige Del Puerto: The sentiment all along is the votes are in the house to do it. There are eight Republicans we know of that are willing to support the governor's expansion proposal, that's enough, along with the democrats to pass this.

Ted Simons: So the votes are there, but it sounds like he's not convinced the votes are there.

Luige Del Puerto: Well, what's happening right now is that he is trying to work for ways to amend the governor's proposal in order to include what he thinks are necessary to satisfy some of his concerns. And he wants to, for example, put in some accountability measures in the proposal.

Ted Simons: So this is that tighter circuit breaker, if necessity -- If the feds go below that threshold, boom, the whole thing is over.

Luige Del Puerto: Yes. He doesn't want 25% drop before we terminate this program. In addition, I think he wants to ensure that this assessment fee on hospitals is not going to be passed on to patients. Some of those provisions have absolutely already been included in the current version. So it's -- It would be interesting to see what else he could get, and what else would be added to this proposal. When they are ready to address it.

Ted Simons: Is it -- Is the consensus that he can provide cover for Republicans in the house if he goes ahead and votes, let's get it passed and move on? And allow for a lot of folks to say no, even though it's going to be a yes?

Luige Del Puerto: Certainly if the speaker of the house got some of the things he wanted, and it satisfies his concerns-- he ends up voting for this proposal, it would provide his colleagues, Republican colleagues a lot of political cover. They could then say, our leadership voted for it. We fought it, we had concerns about it, we tried to get the best deal that we could, and our -- The speaker tried to do that for us and this is the best deal he could get, and therefore we went with him.

Ted Simons: Now, so the idea of the speaker sending this, referring this by way of the legislature to the ballot for a vote, it looks like it's pretty much --

Luige Del Puerto: That's dead.

Ted Simons: But there's a move from former lawmakers to get this on the ballot in another way? Talk to us about.

Luige Del Puerto: So the Arizona constitution, which was created during a more populous time, allowed for the voters to challenge any law or any section of the law Via what's called the referendum process. You only need 5% of the signatures that were cast in the last gubernatorial race for governor, therefore there's fewer signatures you need to challenge the law. Essentially they are thinking that they could get the signatures. So what's going to happen, assuming they can get the signatures to challenge this law is that in the meantime, this Medicaid expansion would be put on hold because the Arizona constitution says we have to wait until the next general election. Of course that creates all sorts of complications about this whole process.

Ted Simons: It sounds as though, let's say they get the 86,000 whatever they need as far as putting this on the ballot, just getting it on the ballot delays the whole thing because you can't go through with the law until it's voted on. That's with November 2014?

Luige Del Puerto: Yes. And precisely that's what some of them are hoping for. For example, a former lawmaker might be spearheading this effort along with former senator Ron Gould said, if we can delay this one that would be a big win.

Ted Simons: But can you do this constitutionally? I read as well that if it's part of the budget, that you really can't do that. Is there arguments pro and con on that?

Luige Del Puerto: The legal route to this issue is circuitous. The governor's office thinks there's a shield against a referendum challenge to Medicaid expansion. The governor's office has presented -- Dug up a 1992 court of appeals ruling that basically says there's flexibility in some broad interpretation as to what is considered an appropriations measure, rather, what could be excluded from the referendum challenge. And if a tax measure that's meant to support a budget plan, that would be off limits through the referendum process. Obviously if there's a referendum challenge, it will get hammered with a legal challenge with those -- From those who support expansion plan.

Ted Simons: That should be fun to watch. That will be very interesting to see if they can -- But it sounds like rank and file GOP, precinct and committee folks, they're saying we can get those signatures no problem.

Luige Del Puerto: It's always very tough to get a proposal, an initiative on the ballot without paid circulators. Would be the safest route, for them to have the money to hire paid circulators and get the signatures. They have three months to do this, they have to gather 86,000 signatures, within three months.

Ted Simons: We've got about a minute left. The Arizona Supreme Court is going to look that the idea of funding education with inflation increasing. What's going on?

Luige Del Puerto: So three years ago, two, three years ago we passed a law that basically said we're going to not fully fund inflation, inflation or adjustments for our schools. And several school districts sued, and it went through the superior court and the appeals court, and the appeals court sided with the plaintiffs. The state appealed, and now the Supreme Court has decided they will take a look and review this case.

Ted Simons: Alright. By the way, has adjustments for inflation, are they included in the adjustments floating around?

Luige Del Puerto: The prevailing sentiment is let's go and do this one. In the meantime, so they did set aside $82 million for now.

Ted Simons: Alright. Good stuff. Thanks for joining us.

Phoenix Coyotes Update

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  • City of Glendale officials met Tuesday with National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman and executives from a Canadian business group that is interested in buying the Phoenix Coyotes. Arizona Republic Reporter Paul Giblin with give us an update.
  • Paul Giblin - Reporter, Arizona Republic
Category: Sports   |   Keywords: phoenix, coyotes, hockey, glendale, ,

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Ted Simons: Glendale officials met yesterday with the commissioner of the national hockey league and executives of a Canadian business group that's interested in buying the Phoenix coyotes. Paul Giblin of the "Arizona Republic" has been covering the story. He joins us now. Paul, it's good to see you again, though it seems as though we go over this repeatedly. But what is the latest now on the sale of the Phoenix coyotes?

Paul Giblin: As you mentioned, the group is called Renaissance Sports Entertainment, came into Glendale yesterday, they're led by two Canadians and there's also two Americans principles in this organization, they came and they met with the mayor, the city manager, and two groups of city councilmen, and presented their idea and spoke about their optimism of getting a deal done.

Ted Simons: We've heard this particular song before. What about this group is different than previous groups that have come in and met and expressed optimism?

Paul Giblin: An important difference is that the NHL has approved this group. They say that the money is in place for the group to buy the team. And the only condition that's left is for the group to work out a deal with the city of Glendale to operate and presumably manage arena.

Ted Simons: Does that suggest if the deal is in place with the NHL provided you can get Glendale to play along, if Glendale doesn't play along the deal is still in place with these guys go find a new home?

Paul Giblin: I've spoken to both of these two Canadian guys leading the operation. And they said they're interested in the coyotes as contingent upon getting a deal with Glendale. If they don't get a deal with Glendale that meets their needs, then they're no longer interested in the coyotes. That's not interested in the coyotes in Glendale or anywhere else.

Ted Simons: What are their needs?

Paul Giblin: The arena has always been managed by whichever group owned the coyotes. The last time Glendale got this far is with a guy named Greg Jamison. They offered to pay him $15 million a year to manage the arena. So the new guys come in, and they say, hey, that $15 million a year looks nice. But since then the city has looked at that a second time and said we're more comfortable paying about $6 million a year. So that's a margin.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, you may be more comfortable paying million, but I'm guessing that ownership group is going to be looking for somewhere far above that.

Paul Giblin: Keep this in mind, the city was paying the NHL $25 million to operate the arena. They offered this other guy Greg Jamison 15 million, and now they say six. So the NHL is conditioned to taking in a lot more money.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, let's say you keep it at six, or seven, eight. At the lower end of the spectrum. Are there other revenue streams that might be included to kind of spice up the mix?

Paul Giblin: There's a lot of discussion about that just in the last week or two. Because of the feeling is these guys aren't going to be too satisfied with $6 million. So they're thinking about other revenue streams. They're thinking about how much revenue does the coyotes – Do the coyotes bring to the city, and can they tap in those revenue streams like restaurant taxes and those sort of things. But that brings up other questions. If you take all the money that the coyotes bring to the city, and you give it back to the coyotes, what's the game for the city?

Ted Simons: Right. I would imagine that particular argument is all over the map.

Paul Giblin: That particular argument is happening behind closed doors right now. Because simultaneous to all this is the city is also requested bids by management companies to manage the arena. Those are due on Friday.

Ted Simons: Have they been getting many bids? Do we know who's interested?

Paul Giblin: That's private. I've spoken to city officials, they tell me we're getting a lot, but I don't know who, I don't know who's bidding on them. That should be apparent Friday.

Ted Simons: You could have Ted's management company bidding as well.

Paul Giblin: Ted's management company and $25 million a year, could you do well.

Ted Simons: Yeah. Is there any talk, and I've thrown this out in the past, it's usually shot down pretty quickly, but is there any talk of the team staying in the valley but not in Glendale?

Paul Giblin: I haven't heard that. There's issues -- For instance, when they first got to town they tried playing downtown. But that's a basketball arena, so that didn't work. There was discussion about them going to Scottsdale for years and years. That never came to happen. Then they built this brand-new hockey specific arena out there in Glendale, this is a perfect place for them to play from a hockey point of view. And there's really nothing else quite equal to that.

Ted Simons: And yet the Suns are making noises, the arena is getting old, needs refurbishing, maybe the -- You look at salt river fields a talking stick, that is a colossal success, Indian tribe -- but it seems as though -- Again, I'm playing monopoly. What do we look for next? This renaissance company, on a scale of one to 10, give me a chance this could actually be serious business here.

Paul Giblin: These guys are serious. This is George Gosbee, an investment kind of guy up in Canada, and Anthony Le Blanc, a bigwig with the company that made blackberries. Anthony Le Blanc, he retired at 38, and quite well. Then two other guys from the United States, one in Connecticut and one in Houston, and so these guys really represent a lot of money. And they tell me beyond that, they have friends and neighbors who can contribute millions more. So this is a good solid group, if they can get the deal with Glendale.

Ted Simons: How often are they meeting that you know?

Paul Giblin: Good question. They met yesterday with a series of meetings, so I was asking city officials, when is the next meeting something they said none is scheduled. I said, what paperwork did they leave, and they said they didn't leave any paperwork either. So they came in and they said they're very interested and they want to work with the city but they haven't even got to a starting point. At least one you can trace by paper.

Ted Simons: You're dealing with city officials, are you sensing fatigue, optimism, maybe a mix of both? At some point people are just going to say, this -- If it's not going to work it's not going to work, let's move on.

Paul Giblin: Interestingly that four of the seven members of city council are brand-new. They weren't on the council last year so they haven't been through this like the previous council members. But they also came in when there's really not as much money left in the city. The city used to spend a lot of money. But now they're on a pretty tight budget. They're not allowing the police department to expand, they're not allowing the fire department to expand, in fact, every city department is losing employees, and they're getting rid of those positions. They're not replacing them, they're just getting rid of the positions. So the finances are tightening up with the city, and that makes it tougher.

Ted Simons: I just thought of another last question. The businesses around there that are supposed to benefit from the coyotes that are supposed to be the ones that are really wanting to keep that team there. Do they really want to keep that team there?

Paul Giblin: Well, good question. Tangor outlet mall opened outside of the arena, that's a shopping mall where they sell clothes and stuff for cheap. That's doing really well, better than any city officials expected. Those are -- The other businesses are tied to the Coyotes crowd. My office, "Arizona Republic," we have an office down there and I'm there, and on game nights the parking lot is full. Obviously the Coyotes are driving business -- Those businesses would be tied to the team. If you get Taylor swift to come every night of the week --

Ted Simons: Paul, good to have you.