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September 9, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Retail Sales

  |   Video
  • Arizona retail sales clocked in at $4.47 billion in July, the highest level for the month since before the recession. Arizona State University Economist Dennis Hoffman will discuss what’s behind the increase in sales.
  • Dennis Hoffman - Economist, Arizona State University
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: arizona, retail, increase,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Arizona monthly retail sales are at their highest levels since just before the recession in 2007. Here to help crunch the numbers is ASU economist Dennis Hoffman, always a pleasure, what's going on with these retail sales?

Dennis Hoffman: Ted, great to be here and talking about good news, and it’s very good news on the retail front. The Arizona consumer, evidently, is not distracted by 110-degree temperatures, or whether or not we're going to bomb Syria. They are just going shopping.

Ted Simons: What's driving the increase here?

Dennis Hoffman: Well, you know, part of it is just, when we talk about high single digit, and it's month after month after month, high single digit growth, year over year, part of that is fueled by the fact that in 2009 and in 2010 folks just stopped buying consumer durables. So the the pace of automobile sales, I mean, if you can envision this, all of the automobiles sold in the state of Arizona, in say 2004 and by the way in 2007 the same number, about $8.4 billion sold. And at the bottom, that went down to $4.4 billion. So we lost almost half of it. And now, we're back to 6.4. And it's growing at a clip of 15 percent year on year, so we grow two more years and we'll be back to that 8.5 billion.

Ted Simons: Does that mean folks are buying the more expensive, the durable stuff? Are they going to the 99 Cents store? A little bit in between? What’s happening out there?

Dennis Hoffman: What we saw in the downturn, is that -- and this is very classic when confidence erodes, people just pulled in their horns. I'm not going to guy a car, I'm not going to invest in the house, I'm, you know, just going to hold off. And because of that dearth in sales during the downturn there is a pent-up demand for those durables now, and you have, with interest rates the way that they are, think about an automobile, if you can swing the lease, you can lease an incredibly fuel efficient automobile. Maybe twice the fuel efficiency of your existing car, for like $200 a month? You know, it's quite an amazing deal if you can swing a lease.

Ted Simons: What about things like, like construction, what about Government contracts? What are we seeing there?

Dennis Hoffman: Well, construction is coming back, nowhere near like it was. Again, before this downturn. In fact, you know there is kind of an interesting story, if you look at, at retail today, versus retail three years ago, it's a really great story. If you look at retail today versus 10, 20, or 30 years ago, it's a much different story. So, folks are spending a smaller share of their incomes on taxable retail items. And construction is a big piece of that. We're just not spending as much on construction as we have historically.

Ted Simons: Explain this to me, we have got retail sales the best in years, I mean, since before the great recession. And yet, the unemployment rate sits there stagnant at or near 8 percent.

Dennis Hoffman: We have lost 180,000 workers.

Ted Simons: Is that unusual to have those two?

Dennis Hoffman: It's really fascinating to me, so, and couple this with the statistic that everybody talks about that the employment per population ratio is declining, is that almost at historical or recent historical low. So, there are fewer people working out of the total population. But Ted, if you slice that by age, the older folks, 55 to 64, that older part of the population, and 64 actually, into the 70s. The employment to population ratio, in that cohort is actually going up. And it's going up pretty dramatically. So it's really ironic to me, we have got older people, baby boomer generations staying in their jobs longer than what they have historically. And that's really holding the younger folks back in terms of job opportunities. Now, the data suggests that with fewer workers, we have got aggregate incomes about the same as the peak, and we'll have individual income tax receipts this year at or above the peak level, and part of that is capital gains, by the way. So there is some spending. There’s some income being earned out there, and that's manifesting itself in these retail sales.

Ted Simons: So with unemployment rates stagnant and yet retail sales up so strong, it's not as if a small group of folks are buying everything in sight?

Dennis Hoffman: Well, it's hard to know who is doing all of the buying. I think that the well to do are certainly doing their share and more.

Ted Simons: They are doing well, yes.

Dennis Hoffman: So, that is absolutely true. But, the interesting thing to me is how spending and aggregate incomes can be at or near the peak levels, at least in some of the categories. We still have a ways to go in auto sales, but in many of the others, it's come back very nice, but we're still short 180,000 workers. That suggests that many of the workers back at the peak were lower wage, service providing, mobile, migrant construction workers at lower incomes.

Ted Simons: Last question, we have heard this criticism for years, that Arizona is too dependent on sales tax revenues.

Dennis Hoffman: Right.

Ted Simons: Are you buying that?

Dennis Hoffman: Well, it seems to be, and I followed this. This is year 35 now, geezer time for me. But, you know, it seems to be the only tax, if there is a palatable tax in Arizona, one that the voters will, at least, tolerate. It does seem to be the sales tax. And you see that in the way that they voted on various initiatives, be they transportation to the one cent temporary tax, they seem to have tolerated it, and if you had a broader base, and we have eroded ourselves tax base away, and we have got to get online in the mix, have a broader base, bring in some personal services and, and then, I think, the sales tax could be a real sustaining source of revenue.

Ted Simons: All right. Good stuff, thanks Dennis.

Dennis Hoffman: Thanks, Ted.

AZ Giving & Leading: Fresh Start Women’s Foundation

  |   Video
  • Fresh Start Women’s Foundation is a Phoenix organization formed in 1992 by two women as a tribute to the life of their grandmother, who faced financial and emotional hardships. The mission of the foundation is to empower women to transform their lives through engagement and education. Some of the programs offered include career services, self-esteem and mentoring programs, and education services. Fresh Start President and CEO Susan Berman and a former client, Coleen Rossi, will talk about the organization.
  • Susan Berman - President and CEO, Fresh Start Women’s Foundation
  • Coleen Rossi - Former Client, Fresh Start Women’s Foundation
Category: Giving/Leading   |   Keywords: phoenix, organization,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona Giving and Leading focuses on Fresh Start, a local foundation that works to empower women to transform their lives through engagement and education. Joining us now is Fresh Start President and CEO Susan Berman, and also with us is Coleen Rossi, a former client at Fresh Start. Good to have you both here.

Susan Berman: Thank you for having us.

Coleen Rossi: Thank you.

Ted Simons: You betcha, let's talk more about Fresh Start woman's foundation, what are we talking about?

Susan Berman: We're talking about an organization that's been around for 21 years in the Phoenix community. And it is a powerful organization that focuses on women and women's issues. We work with women every year to help empower her and bring her to a level of self-sufficiency. And that might be, mean something different with each woman, and last year we saw 5,000 women in our center, and we have made huge impacts in our community by, by addressing her issues.

Ted Simons: What kind of programs are available?

Susan Berman: Well, you know, a lot of organizations start and end with job placement, and we certainly do job readiness and job placement. But, what sets us apart is we pay attention to the entire woman. What will help her identify what her goals are, help her to overcome her barriers and her self-limitations, and help her to get excited about what is in front of her, no matter what her transition is in life.

Ted Simons: And let's talk about your experiences there at Fresh Start and how did you get started? How did you know about Fresh Start?

Coleen Rossi: I was part of a community volunteering for a long, long time. And when my transition began, and my world of my stability had, had fallen apart, it was when I realized that I kind of looked at the truth and I was living in a one-bedroom home, and I was -- I didn't have access to my funds anymore, and life had changed. And someone said, you know, you need to be at Fresh Started, and it was just one word, one person who said, “Go.” And I finally gave up that would have, could have, should have and I went.

Ted Simons: I want to get back to your story in a second there but I'm hearing something that I was going to ask you, about how important is it for folks, I mean, you can only do so much until they decide there is something to do.

Susan Berman: Well, actually, Fresh Start is there for the woman who has decided that she needs something different. Something has got to change, for whatever reason in her world. And we are there to help her learn how to fish. And we don't give to her, she does the work herself but we can motivate her and illuminate her path to move her forward to meet her goals, sometimes she walks in the door and thinks, I just need a resume or something. She does not know that she could set goals. And she could attain those goals moving forward. So, we're really there to help bolster her, move her along, give her some ideas, and mentor her on her process.

Ted Simons: Were you confident that this would work or did you go in saying, let's see what they got?

Coleen Rossi: No, I was really humbled and ashamed that I was there. I was signing under a different name entirely. I didn't want them to know that I was there. But, what was happening was they were building my team. And I didn't know that I needed to have a team. I started thinking about -- I was talking to them, about financials and personal and emotional and all areas and, and they became my team to rebuild me.

Ted Simons: Did they become your team quickly? Could you see that this was going to happen or was it something that the trust and relationship had to build over time?

Coleen Rossi: I could tell from the leaders. I could tell it from the moment that I would walk into a classroom, and the person, that was giving up her time as a volunteer to help me, and I realized that these leaders were generous. They were incredibly generous with their time and their talent, and I realized these were women that were extremely well connected in the valley, and that they were doing it out of their own compassion to help someone else.

Ted Simons: And how long did your transformation take?

Coleen Rossi: I was there for at least 18 months on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, three nights a week. And going in, taking every class that I possibly could.

Ted Simons: Could you feel the transformation happening over time? Could you feel yourself growing?

Coleen Rossi: I could feel that I was becoming stronger. I became confident again. I became no longer the victim and was willing to take the next step.

Ted Simons: And, and that word, empower, we have mentioned it a couple of times here, and I am hearing it, it sounds as though you have all this going for you, let's show you how you have it going for you.

Susan Berman: Exactly. Exactly. And for a woman to understand that she can do it. That she can make a difference in her own life, and therefore, in everybody's lives around her. But not only that she can, but she has an obligation to and there is a way to do it. None of us get anywhere in life without assistance and information and support from others. And our clients are no different. They simply need that guidance and that support, and they are off and running and making big differences. It is such a privilege to work for an organization that makes this kind of impact. Because I know that when we impact her we impact the community and her families, and we impact the fabric in which we live.

Ted Simons: The programs, I see this career services program, self-esteem programs, mentoring programs, education programs. Who is responsible for instructing or leading or guiding those programs?

Susan Berman: Well, we have first, a staff of phenomenal women, full-time staff who work in this arena. Constantly, we have social workers onboard, and a number of staff that do different things within this. And as Coleen Rossi mentioned also, a huge plethora of volunteers who come in, who have expertise in different fields, and they give of their time to come in and teach and instruct and coach our clients one-on-one, or in a classroom setting, and so they get the best of all worlds.

Ted Simons: Was there a program that influenced you the most, do you think?

Coleen Rossi: Absolutely, the finance.

Ted Simons: That's the one?

Coleen Rossi: Absolutely. It was the area where I could finally look at a budget and understand a budget and begin to not focus on -- I had to focus on my own but it was the first time that I really decided to grow up.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, was it the fact that you could now figure out debts and credits and columns or was it that fact that once you figured it out, you figured it out?

Coleen Rossi: I figured it out. Once I could speak the language, I understood what was going on.

Ted Simons: And the confidence therein had to be helpful?

Coleen Rossi: Incredibly helpful.

Ted Simons: Is that a factor? It's one thing to say, you can balance a checkbook and do the mortgage and all of that, but --

Coleen Rossi: It's more than that.

Ted Simons: Yeah, I’m sure it is. But it’s another thing to say that you can do it, you did it.

Susan Berman: That's the crux of it. It’s the confidence piece. It’s the confidence to know that there are things to do and I can do them and I can learn them. And there are people that are going to teach me and help me along the way. I think that is really the crux of what Fresh Start offers.

Ted Simons: So what do you tell people now about your life?

Coleen Rossi: I mean I love to tell the fact that a single mom with a special needs child in the middle of a recession, without any experience in wholesale or retail, I walk into a bank and I ask for a loan and they said yes, it only happened because I had the confidence that Fresh Start had given me. I understood what it was that I needed, so it's completely changed who I am, and how I can help to supported my family and change them, as well, their lives, as well.

Ted Simons: I am sure that you have had a number of those success stories.

Susan Berman: Every day, every day, and it, like I said, it's a privilege to be able to be part of that.

Ted Simons: It's great to have both on the program. Good luck and continued success. Thank you very much for being here.

Susan Berman: Thank you for having us.

Coleen Rossi: Thank you.

Mayo Clinic Stem Cell Lab

  |   Video
  • Mayo Clinic in Arizona will open its own stem cell laboratory next spring. The laboratory will be initially dedicated to storing and processing stem cells used for bone marrow transplants at Mayo Clinic Hospital and Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Dr. Ruben Mesa and Dr. Henry Tazelaar of the Mayo Clinic will talk about the stem cell lab.
  • Dr. Ruben Mesa - Mayo Clinic, Arizona
  • Dr. Henry Tazelaar - Mayo Clinic, Arizona
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: stem cell, research, mayo clinic,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The Mayo Clinic in Arizona will open its own stem cell laboratory next spring, and it will be dedicated to storing and processing stem cells used for bone marrow transplants at Mayo Clinic Hospital and Phoenix Children's Hospital. Here to tell us more is Dr. Ruben Mesa, head of the cancer center at Mayo, and Dr. Henry Tazelaar, who will run the lab. Good to have you both here and thanks for joining us.

Dr. Ruben Mesa: Thank you Ted.

Dr. Henry Tazelaar: Great to be here.

Ted Simons: A new stem cell lab. Explain, please.

Dr. Ruben Mesa: Stem cells are the earliest cells in our body, and they have variety of uses as we try to help patients heal from their diseases. So, the initial use is for individuals who require a bone marrow transplant. Those are areas in which individuals have a blood disease or a bone marrow disease such as leukemia. And we take cells from either them or from a donor. And we process those cells, and give them to the patient to help them to overcome their disease.

Ted Simons: I want to get back to bone marrow transplants in a second here but as far as the lab is concerned, processing and storing stem cells, what's involved here?

Dr. Henry Tazelaar: The laboratory will receive patients’ cells and so a patient will have right now, we do stem cell collection so the patient is in a unit, and they are hooked up to machine that takes off their blood, and we take out the stem cells and those are then frozen and when the patient is ready to get their stem cells back, as a bone marrow transplant, if you will, they are thawed and reinfused so the process of stem cell storage is labeling and making sure that they are properly stored so they are viable and they’re alive when they put them back into the patients.

Ted Simons: Is this something that is new, as far as research and treatment, or is this just a bigger storage facility?

Dr. Henry Tazelaar: This will be our own storage facility, we currently have an outside vendor, we're bringing this in the house because that will allow us to do a number of things related to research down the road and that could be harder to do without having our own lab.

Ted Simons: What goes into storing and processing stem cells? Does it have to a certain procedure involved or certain storage conditions involved? What happens here?

Dr. Ruben Mesa: Well, the lab is really very much at the vanguard of a new change in medicine. So, there is -- what the lab will do, day one, which is to take someone's cells and, and it is a very complex process to store them in such a safe way, so that they can be given back to the patient at the appropriate time. But the future state is very exciting. And it's really at the vanguard of a new area we call regenerative medicine where we take these earliest cells, and we take them from a patient, an individual and we use them to process them and to give them back to the patient in a way that they help to regenerate organs that have been injured from heart disease, or liver disease, or cancer and help to really restore organ function.

Ted Simons: Is this the kind of thing where someone younger in life can have stem cells stored for years and come back later in life, or is there, you know, some sort of shelf life as far as the stem cells are concerned?

Dr. Ruben Mesa: It's a very good question because it really is both. One, as many people are storing the core blood from their children these days, whether they develop the need for a bone marrow transplant in the future, it is possible in the future that these cells, some of which will be stored in facilities such as ours, may be modified or grown in the future to help the either the children or as they become adults, be able to receive a benefit from those cells.

Ted Simons: And back to the lab again here now, why is this lab necessary? Is it important to have your lab as opposed to -- how was it done before? And how is it done now?

Dr. Henry Tazelaar: Currently, we use an outside vendor so the cells leave our facility. They go to an outside vendor, and they are about, oh, 25 miles away. And so, there is a time delay, there is, you know, working with an outside vendor, they have been great to work with. But the -- working with our colleagues in Rochester and across the Mayo enterprise, with research protocols that we feel would be better to process our own stuff in-house, the cells in-house, and down the road, we'll be able to manipulate them so the laboratory is about a 6,000 square foot lab, 4,000 will be devoted to storage and processing, and another 2,000 will be devoted to research. And it's really the access to that research down the road that we're really excited, and it's one of the main reasons we're very excited about bringing this in-house, so they will be right next door to each other, the two laboratories in a way that would be very difficult for us to do if we had an outside processing facility.

Ted Simons: Talk about the state of stem cell research right now. It seems like in the past, we’ve had some bumps along the road here and some controversies here and there. Where do we stand right now?

Dr. Henry Tazelaar: There are a number of clinical trials that we are involved with at Mayo Clinic, cardiac disease, liver disease, other types of neurologic degenerative diseases. We have ongoing treatment trials, I would say that there's been some limited success with those, and I think a lot more work needs to be done and this is part of that work.

Ted Simons: Talk about bone marrow transplants, which you referred to earlier as obviously the major factor here. Again, I can remember years ago with folks, bone marrow transplants, very alternative, very out there. Not a lot of success. Talk about how successful those transplants are, and who benefits from those?

Dr. Ruben Mesa: Well, it's a very important therapy that really can offer a cure to people who suffer from blood cancers that otherwise wouldn't have a chance to be cured, diseases that we sometimes just cannot cure with chemotherapy alone. So, areas that are important, whether they be children who have leukemia, who receive a bone marrow transplant at Phoenix Children's, which is part our bone marrow transplant program, whether they be patients at our hospital at Mayo Clinic, who are overcoming acute leukemia or other bone marrow conditions, it offers an opportunity that they would not have otherwise. It's a very complex, difficult road, but we're very pleased with both the success and the dedication of our team as well as the outcomes that the patients are having.

Ted Simons: I asked because I'm old enough to remember when the bone marrow transplants were considered experimental. Are they still considered such?

Dr. Ruben Mesa: So, I think that, as therapy, they are not considered experimental. That being said, there are many experimental aspects to continue to try to push the envelope so that bone transplants can be safer and more effective. So a center that is a leading center, such as ours, the largest in the southwest, at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, the focus is on how do we make bone marrow transplant safer and more effective for patients today and tomorrow.

Ted Simons: And the future of that particular goal looks like this will, obviously, help, this storage facility.

Dr. Henry Tazelaar: Absolutely, yeah.

Ted Simons: As far as research is concerned, where do you see stem cell research going next? What is the next major hurdle or challenge?

Dr. Henry Tazelaar: I think there are, you know, there is a lot of organs in the body and different tissues, and I think each of the, the various organs and the diseases that we might choose to treat with this kind of regenerative medicine technology will vary, so the barriers will be different, just as an example, of the kinds of protocols that we might be able to put patients on in the not too distant future. One is to take a liver from a donor perhaps, a deceased donor, wash away their liver cells, be left with the scaffolding of the liver, and then give someone their own stem cells back and let that liver regenerate on that old scaffolding from another patient.

Ted Simons: My goodness.

Dr. Henry Tazelaar: So those are the kinds of things that we're hoping -- those trials are, are already existing.

Ted Simons: All right.

Dr. Henry Tazelaar: That's a bit out there, perhaps, but, I mean, those are the exciting things we're hoping to move towards.

Ted Simons: Exciting and encouraging, and this lab opens next spring?

Dr. Ruben Mesa: We're opening in the spring or summer.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Gentlemen, good luck and thank you both for joining us.

Dr. Ruben Mesa: Thank you very much.

Dr. Henry Tazelaar: Thank you.