Guest Editorial: Spreading The Wealth And Jobs

By Recker McDowell

Arizona is projected to add 159,000 new jobs over the next two years. That comes after the state has added 350,000 new private sector jobs since 2015.

Most of Arizona’s job gains happen in metro Phoenix with its large labor pool and friendly business climate and costs, especially compared to cities in California and the Pacific Northwest.

The challenge for the state and its economy will be how to bring jobs and economic development beyond metro Phoenix.

It means figuring out how to bring employers to the rest of Arizona which doesn’t have the critical mass of population and sometimes the necessary infrastructure for growth.

But the economy and how we work are changing. A growing number of jobs in the technology, creative, business services and even health care fields can be done remotely. Whether, it is a home office or working out of a Starbucks or local coffee shop workers don’t have to be chained to an office desk.

Those 21st Century workers also don’t have be necessarily tethered to a big city or sprawling metropolis.  Students don’t have to be tied to a physical campus. They can take classes and get job skills also at home or at their local coffee shop.

The dynamic opens the door to job gains where Arizona needs it most — in places such as La Paz County, Yuma, Kingman and the northern reaches of the state.

Gov. Doug Ducey has proposed investing in new broadband, technology and internet infrastructure in ‘rural’ Arizona. That is an excellent first step.

But Arizona’s small towns and rural areas also need local economic development and land-use policies that encourage business to invest there and for workers to live there.

It can take a leap of faith for a business to invest in a small town versus landing in more populous places such as Phoenix. Economic developers and elected officials should look for creative and innovative ways to make the path for jobs easier.

There are plenty of professional, technology and creative workers who ponder life outside a big city. They see the quality of life, a different pace and making their own path. It’s just there are not opportunities.

Arizona can look for the right moments, the right jobs and investments to change that and become a national leader in bringing jobs to smaller and rural communities.