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The 2017 CompTIA State Tech Summit kicked off in Scottsdale, AZ with a great presentation from Randy Gustafson, vice president of innovation at the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA). He began by describing the organization’s mission to grow and strengthen Arizona’s economy. The ACA is using a three-pronged approach to advance the state’s overall economy: recruit, grow, and create. Specifically, recruit out-of-state companies to expand their operations in Arizona; work with existing companies to grow their businesses in Arizona and beyond; and partner with entrepreneurs and companies large and small to create new jobs and businesses in targeted industries.
Gustafson also discussed Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey’s ACA 2.0 legislation which consolidates government offices by establishing the Governor’s Economic Opportunity Office (GEOO). The GEOO is a one-stop economic development shop focused on providing a direct link between the business community and the workers and capital they need to be successful, cutting down on government overlap to make taxpayer dollars go farther, and creating a more unified and effective approach to job attraction and marketing of Arizona.
ACA has strategically chosen to focus on developing six established industries including aerospace and defense; business and healthcare; business and financial services; manufacturing; technology and innovation and new to the list is the film and digital industry.
Operating under a five-year plan focused on strengthening Arizona’s economy, ACA has had positive results, including almost $119 billion in economic output and $3 billion in tax revenue. “Our new five-year goal is focused on job creation, wage growth, capital investment, increased exports, entrepreneurial vitality including elevating Arizona as a top five state as measured by entrepreneurial density, funding and connectivity,” he said.
“We are committed to advancing innovation and building the entrepreneurial ecosystem which focuses on building the social fabric. This means establishing partnerships with key organizations including investors, bioindustry organizations, economic development organizations, universities, community colleges and other state associations,” he said.
ACA is committed to growing the entrepreneurial community. Twice a year it holds the Arizona Innovation Challenge and awards $3 million ($1.5 million twice yearly) to the world’s most promising technology ventures. Awards range from $100,000 to $250,000 per company. “A majority of companies that apply are software and biometric companies. We have 70 judges and companies are anonymously judged. Every company that applies gets feedback through a heatmap that they often apply to improve their business model.”
Gustafson also described some of Arizona’s other programs that help in the start-up ecosystem including angel tax credits, small business innovation research programs which connect university faculty with the surrounding community to commercialize groundbreaking technologies developed at the university; and Venture Ready which is ACA’s business mentor program that connects Arizona talent with resources.
“We have great momentum going forward – the Arizona economy is growing and unemployment is falling,” said Gustafson.