Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 21, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

New GPEC Chairman


  • University of Phoenix President Bill Pepicello discusses his new role as chairman of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
Guests:
  • Bill Pepicello - Chairman, Greater Phoenix Economic Council
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
The greater Phoenix economic council works to attract high-quality businesses and jobs to Arizona. And now it has new leadership to help guide those activities. University of Phoenix president Bill Pepicello has been appointed chairman of GPEC's board of directors for fiscal year 2011. He takes over for Arizona cardinals' president Michael Bidwill, who served as chairman for the last two years. Here to talk about his new responsibilities, and his vision for economic developments in the valley is GPEC chair Bill Pepicello. Thanks for being here. Nice to meet you.

Bill Pepicello:
Same here. My pleasure.

Ted Simons:
We touched on a little bit in the intro, talk about GPEC. What is GPEC's role in the community?

Bill Pepicello:
I think GPEC has a couple of very central roles in the community. One, of course, is to help to recruit new business, and to retain those businesses we have. But it's also to bring the business community together as a force to help develop not just Phoenix, but the whole state.

Ted Simons:
And your role as chair, define that for us if you could.

Bill Pepicello:
Well, I hope that I'll be someone who can continue the good work that Michael Bidwell has done with the GPEC staff, Barry Broome and his folks have done marvelous work here in the past several years. Looking at diversifying the business base, looking at what kinds of new businesses we can bring in, how we can help retain those businesses that are here. And so what I'd like to do is build on the momentum that they have started over the past couple years, and continue that as we bring Arizona back.

Ted Simons:
How do you do that? The best approach, let's start with economic development and then work to diversification. Economic development, best approach of doing that? Of handling that…

Bill Pepicello:
I think one of the things that I have talked about with the staff is that as we bring the economy back, we need not to rely on the same things that we always have. We've been heavily reliant on construction, on retail, and real estate. And I think one of the great benefits of having Barry Broome here has been he has looked at that diversification, and he has had the foresight to say, as we rebuild, this is an opportunity for us to build a stronger base for our economy.

Ted Simons:
How do you do that, though, when the economy for so long has said, stick with construction, because construction is bringing in the bucks.

Bill Pepicello:
I think a large part of it goes to telling the story of Arizona. And it goes to rebranding efforts. It's letting businesses know why Arizona is a good place to come. We of course have always sold our climate, but the climate is just part of a much better quality of life issue that we really need to get out there to public and to businesses in general so they know this is a place that you do want to bring your business, you do you want to bring the families of the people who will be in those businesses, because it's a place where you do want to settle and prosper.

Ted Simons:
I want top get to rebranding, but let's say I'm a -- I own Ted's high-tech company back in Wisconsin or something along these lines. And I'm thinking of Arizona, I'm thinking of New Mexico, I'm thinking of other areas as well. What do you tell me? What's the pitch?

Bill Pepicello:
One of the things we need to look at are incentives for people to come here. Of course we know we have had the renewable energy incentive this year, and that has helped us to bring six new businesses into Arizona so far this year. And we probably have close to that many in the pipeline right now. So I think it's that and it's working with the legislature on perhaps restructuring our free enterprise zones, so that we can increase the incentives for those kinds of businesses who might want to come here.

Ted Simons:
There are critics of incentives, and they say it's not fair to focus on what industry, it's not economically sound to focus on one industry. How do you respond?

Bill Pepicello:
Well, I think the focus for us is not necessarily in one industry, but on any industry who's interested in coming here and providing high-quality jobs, health care for their employees, so we can build a broader base, not necessarily focusing on one particular industry.

Ted Simons:
So the job aspect, the income level would be a factor, you'd like that idea as a factor as far as incentives are concerned?

Bill Pepicello:
I think yes, we would like to see the companies bring what we call quality jobs, which is jobs that come in at the median salary in Arizona, which is in the mid 30s. And I think that's a part of rebuilding the base.

Ted Simons:
Let's go back to Ted's high-tech company, wherever it is, back East somewhere. I'm asking you, what's going on with this immigration issue, with 1070? I'm hearing a lot of stuff, I'm not -- I don't know if I want to go out there. How much are you hearing that, and how much is that a factor in attracting business?

Bill Pepicello:
Well, 1070 is on everyone's mind, and GPEC officially has a neutral stance on that. We're concerned with economic development as opposed to the political aspects of that, and of course that's now for the courts to decide. But as what we have seen so far is that any effect the 1070 has had has been primarily in the tourist and convention side, and as I said, we have already brought six new companies here who have not been deterred by 1070 this year.

Ted Simons:
So the governor says that rebranding, rebranding of Arizona is necessary. And obviously part of that is because of something like 1070, and other issues as well. Is a rebranding -- you touched on it earlier, is it necessary, and if so, what's the new brand?

Bill Pepicello:
Well, I think the new brand is telling the story of Arizona. The story that may have been lost in some of the noise recently, that we are a great place to live. And with the diversity that we can offer here, of lifestyle, we have arts, we have sports, in addition to the recreation, I think that that's how we want to rebrand. We want to rebrand it as the place where businesses and families want to come. And I really think since I came here myself in the mid 90s, and don't intend to leave any time soon, that I want to tell the story that drew me here, and that has drawn these six companies this year, and make that the story.

Ted Simons:
What did draw you here? What drew you to GPEC and being president of the University of Phoenix, how does that play into what you plan to do as chair of GPEC?

Bill Pepicello:
Very good question. I was -- I came here to work for University of Phoenix in the mid '90s. I believe in their mission I think they -- they're serving a real crucial part in attaining Obama's -- the Obama administration's 2020 education goals. And so in addition to that, I love the desert, I grew up in the snow belt, so I am enjoying the weather here right now. But what drew me to GPEC is that I think a crucial part of economic development is education, and by that I mean the -- we have a great education base here in the state. We have a great community college system, one of the best in the country, we have ASU, and UofA, and NAU, we have a variety of private institutions. And I think working together, we can help educate people who will populate some of those jobs that we want people to have here. So it's a cycle where we can educate people who then will stay here and share that expertise.

Ted Simons:
Last question -- maybe you just answered it with that response. But legislative session coming up, what would you like to see the legislature focus on, what should they address next session?

Bill Pepicello:
Well, I think from wearing my GPEC hat, certainly I'd like to see a jobs bill, a job training bill, certainly we'd like to see a restructuring of the free enterprise zone here that would provide some of those incentives that we talked about. Those would be major things we'd like to look at.

Ted Simons:
All right. Very good. Good to have you here.

Bill Pepicello:
My pleasure. Thank you.

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