By Kevin J. O’Shea, special for Inside Tucson Business
Published on Friday, September 10th, 2010
What does the future hold in Arizona for the young people we parent, mentor and teach? Will their future be bright with employment opportunities that will provide a good quality of life – or will they need to migrate to other states with greater promise? And if we experience that brain drain and attendant tax revenue loss, what does that mean for the future of Arizona’s dynamism and economy? And what does the future hold for Arizona businesses? Will they be competitive in an increasingly global environment?
We should be very concerned about these questions in light of recent studies. The Arizona Department of Commerce (ADOC) reported that many of Arizona’s future jobs are likely to be low-paying (with cashier expected to be the number one growing job at a median annual pay of $18,721). To avert this trend, ADOC wisely sees the need for Arizona to both attract and home-grow more business enterprises requiring higher paid and higher skilled workforces.
What kinds of jobs does Arizona require? In one of the most memorable lines in film history, a family friend tells Dustin Hoffman’s character in the 1967 film “The Graduate” that he wants to offer just one word of advice to the young man – plastics. What would his one-word advice be to graduates today and their potential employers? Exports The Arizona District Export Council (ADEC) in collaboration with ADOC and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Arizona Export Assistance Center (Arizona USEAC) are export evangelists. These aren’t the exports of good jobs to other countries; rather, these are the exports of American-made products
and services to other countries – even plastics!
What’s so special about exports? For starters, jobs related to exports pay more. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, workers employed in export-related activity earn 13-18 percent more than a worker employed in non-export activity. And a U.S.-only market for an Arizona company is 300 million consumers, while a global market for the export-minded Arizona company is 6.6 billion consumers – in other words, more than 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States. Exporting is the modern-day version of a business not putting all of its eggs in one basket – enhancing its opportunities to thrive in good
times and survive in bleaker times.
Exports and their job-creation and enhanced pay-level attributes are not a partisan issue. We all want more better-paying
jobs and a stronger, more resilient economy. Earlier this year, President Obama announced the National Export Initiative (NEI) – with the goal of doubling U.S. exports of goods and services over the next five years such that 2 million more high-paying jobs are created. This ambitious initiative will require the confluent success of many objectives, including enhanced trade advocacy, improved access to export financing, removal of trade barriers, and enforcement of trade rules. How is Arizona performing in this global export environment? A July 2010 Brookings Report on major Mountain West cities suggests that export jobs as a share of total jobs in both Tucson and Phoenix lag behind cities including Provo, Ogden, Salt Lake City and Boise. Meanwhile, Tucson and Phoenix
ranked ahead of Las Vegas, Denver, Colorado Springs and Albuquerque. In other words, Arizona is in the middle of the pack.
Arizona’s challenge is to get more of its small businesses into the international arena. Only 1 percent of this country’s small businesses export; and two-thirds of these few small business exporters are only selling to one foreign market – likely either Mexico or Canada. Meanwhile, major growth opportunities for exports of goods and services reside in large emerging markets such as Brazil, China and India. Fortunately, there are resources available to Arizona businesses to assist them to enter new international markets faster and more profitably and successfully export their goods and services. With five international trade specialists located in Tucson, Phoenix and Scottsdale, the Arizona USEAC last year helped 157 different customers generate 301 export transactions to 69 countries – transactions worth approximately $62.3 million. They counseled some 730 Arizona companies statewide about
developing sustained international sales. This concerted outreach and the resulting export sales are translating into more and better-paying jobs in Arizona. Indeed, the world has moved from the nostalgic laminated era of plastics to the compulsory epoch of exports – and there is no turning back. Those communities, employees, employers, economic development entities and governments that embrace proactive export policies will be those who flourish in this brave new competitive global marketplace.
Contact Kevin J. O’Shea, chair of the Trade Policy & Legislative Affairs Committee of the Arizona District Export Council (ADEC).