Guest Editorial: Welcome to Phoenix, A City of Innovation and Entrepreneurs Now Hail a Taxi

By Recker McDowell —

Phoenix and the state of Arizona have worked hard to craft images of being pro-business, pro-innovation and pro-entrepreneur especially compared to higher cost and higher tax competitors such as California, Seattle and Chicago.

So, it is disconcerting to see the city of Phoenix’s fight with Uber and Lyft over higher rideshare fees at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Both Uber and Lyft have promised to end curbside service at Sky Harbor over the higher fees.

Regardless of the merits of city’s arguments in favor of higher fees, not having Lyft or Uber at Sky Harbor is not the kind of message metro Phoenix and the state of Arizona should send to tourists, innovators, entrepreneurs and site selectors who might be here on business travel or vacation.

Phoenix has not always been front of mind when it comes to innovation and technology despite the region’s past and recent history with semiconductors, cyber security and medical technology.

The region’s economic developers and elected officials (including Gov. Doug Ducey and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego) have worked hard to roll out the welcome mat to innovators and the new sharing economy.

This spat works against that big time. The city of Phoenix argues the higher fees are needed to keep financing Sky Harbor’s operations and transportation infrastructure and Lyft and Uber need to pay their fair share.

Unfortunately, the higher rates and the threats by Lyft and Uber to end rides at Sky Harbor create some negative optics for the city and state that work against narratives of economic development and innovation.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has asked the Arizona Supreme Court to rule on Phoenix’s rideshare fees. He argues the fees go against a voter approved proposition restricting Arizona cities from imposing new and higher fees on business services.

The courts may be the saving grace in this dust up. Otherwise, the Phoenix region and the state might be left explaining to economic development prospects, creative professionals and entrepreneurs why they couldn’t get a Lyft or Uber at Sky Harbor.

And when you are explaining you tend to be losing.