Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 20, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

AZ Town Hall - Jobs and the Economy


  • Just days before members of the 96th Arizona Town Hall met in Tucson to develop ideas for growing jobs and improving Arizona’s economy, Governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law. Amid the ensuing drama and debate surrounding Arizona’s tough new immigration law, town hall participants drafted a report of recommendations for building a more economically stable Arizona. Find out what the recommendations say about immigration and the challenges facing rural Arizona. Guests include the following Arizona Town Hall participants: Mignonne Hollis, director of the Small Business Development Center for Cochise County in Sierra Vista; Andy Groseta, a rancher from Cottonwood; and Wayne Benesch a Yuma attorney.
Guests:
  • Mignonne Hollis - Director, Small Business Development Center for Cochise County in Sierra Vista
  • Andy Groseta - Rancher from Cottonwood
  • Wayne Benesch,Yuma attorney
Category: Immigration   |   Keywords: sb 1070,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon," an Arizona town hall report on jobs and the economy. What it says about Arizona's new immigration law, and what the state is failing to do for rural Arizona. That's coming up next on "Horizon." Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A new survey shows Governor Jan Brewer with a big lead on her rivals in the GOP gubernatorial primary. The Rasmussen Poll released today shows the governor ahead in the primary with 45% of the vote. The governor was at 26% just a month ago. Since then she sign add controversial immigration law, though the new poll was taken before Tuesday's election on a tax increase. Trailing in the governor -- trailing the governor in this latest survey are Buz Mills and Dean Martin with 18%, and John Munger at 3%. Arizona gained nearly 20,000 jobs in April, the highest gain for the month since 2005. That's good enough to drop the unemployment rate from 9.6% to 9.5% in April. The Arizona department of commerce reports leisure and hospitality added more workers gas construction. Another bit of good news -- year-to-year job losses are down again, for the eighth straight month. About 140 Arizonans recently gathered in Tucson for the 96th Arizona town hall. For several days, they developed recommendations for growing jobs and improving Arizona's economy. To some extent, their work was overshadowed by Arizona's new immigration law. Governor Brewer signed senate bill 1070 just baste days benefit start of the town hall. As David Majure reports, the governor made an appearance at the event just days later, and was asked how her decision would impact the states’ economy.

Jan Brewer:
A necessary part of Arizona's advancement in the global economy is sustaining and further developing high-skilled, high-valued jobs.

David Majure:
In her speech at town hall, Governor Jan Brewer talked about economic development.

Jan Brewer:
Grave concern about the negative impact on our economic development with the enactment of senate bill 1070.

David Majure:
People wanted to hear if she thought Arizona's new immigration law would hurt the state's economy.

Jan Brewer:
I believe that it's not going to have the kind of economic impact that some people think that it might.

David Majure:
This town hall was all about addressing the economic challenges facing the state. A background report said little about illegal immigration and border issues, but one small paragraph in the final report of recommendations says plenty. It states that Arizona should recognize Mexico's importance as a trading partner and source of labor. That trade with Mexico should be facilitated, a guest worker program instituted. And a federal solution to illegal immigration should be sought. Recent legislation that appears to be detrimental to the continued development of our state should be reexamined, and relations between Arizona and Mexico must be repaired.

Ted Simons:
Town hall made a variety of other recommendations related to jobs and the economy. One theme throughout its report was the need for more economic development resources for rural Arizona. Joining me now are three town hall participants from rural parts of the state. Mignonne Hollis director of the small business development center for Cochise College in Sierra Vista and Andy Groseta, a rancher from Cottonwood, and Wayne Benesch, an attorney from Yuma. Thank you all for joining us on "Horizon." Let's start with you, the immigration law, was it a distraction, was it an opportunity maybe to open up new avenues of communication? How did it play down there?

Mignonne Hollis:
It was absolutely an opportunity for us to discuss our concerns, what happens in rural Arizona, what happens throughout the state of Arizona. And so it's definitely an opportunity. It wasn't a distraction at all. We stayed on track, on focus, we knew that we were at the town hall to discuss creating jobs, and the impact that we could have on Arizona and how to make that better, and we stayed on track the entire time.

Ted Simons:
Did you find that maybe a bit after distraction, though?

Andy Groseta:
Yes, it created a lot of discussion, no question about that. It created a lot of anxiety, a lot of passion, a lot of emotion. There's no question it's a lightning rod issue. But I'm very proud of what came out of town hall, because we're there, we had good fruitful discussion, but yet we were there to figure out solutions, and so what you shared with the audience at the start of the program are some things that we as all of us collective group of leaders from throughout the entire state really put on the table for recommendations, for the leaders of this state to consider.

Ted Simons:
1070, distraction, opportunity, how did it change the dynamic?

Wayne Benesch:
Well, when they brought the bomb-sniffing dogs through the conference room it was a little bit of a distraction. Other than that, I think it illustrated the nature of town hall and the ability to arrive at consensus no matter how difficult the issue. There were very strong feelings on both sides, or on all sides of this issue, and what the act meant. Most of us hadn't read the law at the time we were at town hall, and at that time we were able to not focus on the disagreements that we had together, we were able to come together and arrive at a consensus statement which you have before you. And I think that's the beauty of town hall, and what it enables the participants to do and generate that benefit for the state.

Mignonne Hollis:
We were able to take the emotion out, which was what I think was so remarkable about that, because as Wayne mentioned, the emotion were high on either side, but we were able to leave the emotions behind and just say focus -- stay focused on the issue. How does this impact Arizona? Whether you're for it or against it wasn't the question. The question was how does it impact us and how can we move forward to make this the great state that it can be?

Ted Simons:
Is that how you saw it as well, achieving consensus, even with this particular paragraph that got a lot of attention, was it maybe as difficult as some might imagined?

Andy Groseta:
Yes, it was a compromise to reach consensus, and the two recommendations that came out, number one, we all recognize the fact that Mexico's our -- one of our chief trading partners, and we need to recognize that, not only as Arizonans, but as citizens of the United States. And also that they have a pool of labor that we need in this country for several industries in the economy, not only in this state, but in the country. Specifically agriculture, being a rancher myself, it's extremely difficult to find laborers to work on a ranch, it's hard work, whether you're a farmer, rancher, or dairyman, if you're in the construction industry, if you're in the hospitality industry, manufacturing, these are all industries that need a large supply of labor if we want to continue to feed ourselves in Arizona and the nation, we do need a supply of workers. Case in point from where Wayne is from, the Yuma valley. In the winter time, Yuma is known as the salad bowl of the United States. The majority of all the lettuce in this country is grown in the Yuma valley in the winter. And the labor that's required to harvest that lettuce is -- ranges from 20-30,000 people at one time to harvest that crop. So we do need a supply of labor and we -- Mexico is our neighbor, they have that, and we need to recognize that and create a system, a method that we can utilize that labor in a legal fashion.

Ted Simons:
When I hear that, I hear ranchers talking, I hear folks in rural parts of Arizona talking, I don't necessarily hear parts of Maricopa County speaking, and perhaps parts of Pima County as well and perhaps even Flagstaff. Is there a disconnect between those out there who need these workers and those perhaps in the urban areas who say, there should be more than enough in the way of Americans that can do these jobs?

Wayne Benesch:
I think there's a very serious disconnect, Ted. And that's part of the reaction to this built-in 70. We don't have issues along the border, and in most rural areas with profiling. I mean, our population is 60-70% Hispanic. You -- if you profiled Hispanics in any one of our counties, you couldn't get your job done. So it's not really an issue there. Apparently there's some concerns in Maricopa County, I don't think as much in Pima County, about profiling, because you have a law enforcement agency that may be working against the norms in administering justice. But that applies to all the law, not just 1070. If somebody is going to profile, they're profiling with all kinds of felony statutes and everything else. I hate to see so much emphasis is placed on it.

Ted Simons:
As far as developing that particular paragraph and the language in that paragraph, what went into that?

Mignonne Hollis:
A lot. There was a lot of discussion. There was a lot of thought that went into it there. Were a lot of emotions that started, and we were able to move beyond that. For me, I come from a small business development side of it, and so as I look at this bill and what happens is whether you agree witness or not, the economic impact, again, that it has, many of my clients are down in Douglas that I serve as the businesses, and they depend great deal on the shoppers from Mexico. And of course now we know some of the numbers that are coming through, and haven't had a chance to analyze those, but I can go back to 9-11 and at 9-11 I know everyone felt economic impact at that time, but specifically in the border towns because the borders shut down. And then those small businesses suffered as there wasn't anybody to come over and do the shopping. So we started to work on our small businesses on how they could scale back, what they should do at those times. So when this came out, it was another, OK, guys, there's protests on the border, shoppers aren't coming across. What are you going to do for your business? I'm looking at it from the side of the business owners, and that's their livelihood.

Ted Simons:
Another perhaps potential for disconnect might be the concern right now on the negative perception of Arizona around the country. Lots of big business, lots of industry, very concerned about that. I'm wondering about rural Arizona, small business, ranchers, are you concerned. At least as concerned regarding the perception of Arizona right now?

Andy Groseta:
It's not good for Arizona. All of the negative perception and publicity we're getting over 1070, let me say this. 1070 was precipitated from the federal government not doing their role in securing their border. And to protect our citizens. And so the leaders in Arizona, the political leaders did what they did to help protect our citizens. And this law mirrors the federal law, it Mitt Romney yours the law in our sister state of California that's been on the books very similar, and so the federal government has failed to protect the citizens and secure the border. With this comes all of this publicity that elevates it to a national level. If there's anything good that comes out of all of this publicity, positive and negative, hopefully Washington will get the message that the problem needs to be resolved, and it's elevated to that level both in our country and in our national -- and initially, and it's a problem that the federal government needs to resolve. So, yes, we are concerned, it's not good for the state for negative publicity, but I'm an eternal optimist. There's a lot of great things in this state, a lot of great people. We have people resources, we have natural beauty, blue sky, and sunshine, and a lot of great talent in this state, so we need to use that to our advantage where we're -- we hear so much of this negative publicity, but I think we need to be proactive in selling our state, selling ourselves, to attract new businesses to jump-start the economy.

Mignonne Hollis:
And to repair those relationships with Mexico. And again, just on May 14th, the executive board of the southeastern Arizona governor's association organization, excuse me, they met are and they have announced that they're shutting down the -- not moving forward on the plans for the Newport of entry in Douglas. And because we need Sonora's permission as well, and the two agencies must work together, all of that has been put on hold. So there's this whole thing along the boarder of, everything is on hold, the work that's been done with -- I believe you served on that commission, the Arizona-mix co-commission, they were to have a conference come over who and they've put that on hold as well. In the community college world and in the business world we do a lot of work with our neighbors. From where I live, it's an hour into Mexico; it's half an hour if you go throughout mountains. But it's so close, and there's such an important and vital part of our community as well, and we need to work on those relationships regardless of the SB 1070. We need to repair and let them know they are our neighbors and they're vital to our community.

Ted Simons:
And Wayne, there's so much concern regarding Arizona's perception and reputation now around the country and around the world. Talk about the reputation between Arizona or Arizona's reputation with the folks in Mexico. How are they seeing us, what are you hearing?

Wayne Benesch:
Well, what I'm hearing is what's on the national media and it's not good. I don't see a great deal of difference in perception from those communities right across the border. People are still coming and shopping, people are coming and using -- they come to school, they come to work, they come to shop. I just feel that this thing has gotten blown way out of proportion. It will continue to be a negative impact, but I think as Andy has pointed out, we need to work diligently, and I think that's what town hall came to the conclusion of. We need to work diligently to present a positive message and sell that message nationwide, and internationally if necessary. That Arizona is still a great place to be.

Ted Simons:
To that end, do you still believe that the law should be reexamined?

Wayne Benesch:
The law, along with a lot of other laws in this state, need to be reexamined. You bet. It needs to be reexamined. But I don't think we should focus as much attention and effort on that law. Its way out of proportion to the rest of the things that need to be done, Ted. We need to reexamine our support for education, or lack thereof. We need to reexamine our fractured tax structure; we need to reexamine our deficit that's built in to our state. Those are things that we ought to be dedicating our time to, not worrying about how a particular act is going to be administered by our law enforcement personnel in this state who I have a great deal of confidence in.

Ted Simons:
Andy, that's a lot of reexamining there. That's a lot of concerns there. It sounds as though in the report a lack of a strong visionary political leadership was mentioned. Is that part of what was mentioned right here in the terms of lots of stuff needs fixing, not just 1070 or not just another look at 1070, but there's a lot going on that needs to be reexamined. Political leadership not hanging in there? What's going on?

Andy Groseta:
Well, there's no perfect solution. And as Wayne has shared with us, there are a lot of laws that are on the books that we need to reexamine and take a hard look at, and I think that our legislators, this is my own personal opinion, did the best they could to take care of a problem that is a federal government problem. So that's what precipitated out of all of this. Number one, the federal government has -- needs to secure the border and needs to protect our citizens. And so the people of Arizona along the border, I have good friends that ranch along the border, the gentleman that was just murdered, Mr. Krentz was close family friend. It's a war zone down there. And when you live in Tucson or Phoenix, when it's out of sight, out of mind, it doesn't really come home to you. But when you live it every day, ranchers can't leave their families, and their wives at home. Daytime or nighttime. It's that bad. So that's why this law came about, is Arizona was trying to do something to fix a problem that is really a federal issue. Leadership, you know, Arizona has always had some great statesmen over the years, and to be in the legislature and make these tough decisions, it's easy for us arm chair quarterbacks to be very critical of whatever the legislation and what happens at the capitol. So we do need strong leadership, and we do need strong leadership to get us over this -- all of this publicity on 1070. As Wayne shared with us, there's a lot of other issues that we need to be working on, and that's where we need strong leadership to get us there so that we can jump-start our economy, bring more jobs to the state, increase the tax base, and make it a better place for all Arizonans to live.

Ted Simons:
To that end, I want to quote something from the report regarding Arizona developing an economic strategy. The quote is a key barrier to Arizona developing a vibrant and competitive statewide economy is the lack of sustained implementation of a statewide vision for economic development. What does that mean?

Mignonne Hollis:
It means that in each community we're doing our own thing. In a nutshell. We're all herding cats if you will from our economic development standpoint, rural Arizona is doing one thing, Maricopa County is doing another, and so then as you look at the existing department of commerce, what are they supposed to do? They're supposed to represent all of Arizona; it has to be one message. One of the things that came out in one of our session assist someone said we don't want anymore call centers in Tucson. And I'm thinking we take them down in Douglas. We take them in Sierra Vista; we take them in the rural areas because they fill a need. We have a base nearby, the spouses can work, they're only there for a short period of time anyway, it's a perfect fit for the students that are going to class and need a job. So those call centers work. So we need to have one vision that fits the state or that all the components fit that we're not just saying, the state of Arizona don't want any call centers, and it don't like this, that it fits our state and it actually will be a statement, an economic plan that fits into everybody.

Ted Simons:
Do you agree with that?

Wayne Benesch:
Well, absolutely. There is not one economy for the state of Arizona. Phoenix’s economy is not the same as Greenly County's economy. Cottonwood's economy is not the same as Sierra Vista's. We all have different needs and different capabilities and things to offer. The plan, the strategic plan needs -- it's been developed over a period of time, they haven't been implemented. They haven't been adequately funded. And here we are cutting funding for the department of commerce again. At this most desperate hour. We need to have a master plan, a strategic plan and this is what the outcome of the town hall was, that addresses the various needs and resources of the different areas of the state and welcomes call centers in Yuma or Sierra Vista. That's not what you want here next to the Universities, you want the knowledge jobs. And that's fine. You have the resources. But let's also enhance things like broad band capability statewide, which enables entrepreneurs and small boutique knowledge based industries to go out into the rural areas and -- we're talking about rural areas, we're talking about a lot of different things in the state of Arizona.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk more about rural areas. Andy, I want you to comment on this quote from the report. This one says a role of the state's commerce and economic development entity must be clarified and its focus expanded to address both the urban and rural areas of the state. Again, what does that mean?

Andy Groseta:
It means there needs to be coordination. We need to have a strategic plan that fits all. There's more to Arizona than Maricopa County or Pima county, and I -- I'm a member of a board, a regional economic board, Verde Valley regional economic organization, and because the limited resource in rural areas, we have in the VERDE valley have developed this organization to represent all of the communities in the valley to be more cost effective to attract jobs coming in, but we not only need a plan, a strategic plan, it needs to be implemented. And that's the word that just falls off by the wayside. I think the department of commerce has had several strategic plans, but as far as implementation of the plan, and how encompassing is it, does it include all of Arizona, that's what this language means, is we need to include both rural and urban, and have a plan and also implement the plan. In other words, we've got to have the resources to do that. And we don't have that.

Ted Simons:
Do we -- are we going to get the resources, any indication that is going to happen? Or are these great plans that will sit on the shelf?

Mignonne Hollis:
We don't want any of this to sit on the shelf. I think one thing we were very clear about in town hall was that if this -- if we're just here to write another plan and put some recommendations together and just leave it, that's not going to work. That's not good enough for this group. It's not good enough for the work we do. We want this to be out there. We want it implemented. We've made the commitment to go back into our communities and do what we have to do to move things forward.

Ted Simons:
What did you learn from town hall and did it change your view on things?

Wayne Benesch:
Absolutely. It does every time I go. You always learn app great deal at town hall. I learned about the diverse economies throughout the state. I learned about the deficits in education that this state, this lack of support for education, and that not only makes us unable to develop the workers for the types of industries we are seeking to bring in, when you're 50th or 51st in the United States in funding education, what does that say to a company that's considering coming to your state? Do you think you want that executive wants his children going to a school that's the worst funded school? Funding isn't always the answer, but really, 51st out of 51?

Ted Simons:
We have very little time left, yet or -- yes or no. Are you optimistic?

Wayne Benesch:
Absolutely.

Ted Simons:
Do I even have to ask you? OK.

Mignonne Hollis:
I'm optimistic. I really am. Especially after Arizona town hall.

Andy Groseta:
Very optimistic. Let me say that Arizona is a great state to live in, we have great people, a lot of talent, we need to be positive and proactive. We have a great state, let's go out and tell the world we have a great state and sell our state to bring in new businesses so that we can have a better quality of life in this state.

Ted Simons:
Thank you all for joining us. Great discussion. Good to have you.

Andy Groseta:
Thank you.


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