New Economy Opens Opportunities For Rural Arizona

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Whether you live in Phoenix or Chinle, the New Economy will have an impact on your life. Rural communities, in particular, face great challenges and opportunities in managing the pace of change inherent in this new era.

The New Economy is not about dominance by the Internet, high-tech industries and the products or services they offer. Although the New Economy is clearly driven by these things, they are merely tools.

The New Economy is about creativity in using the high-tech tools like the Internet to do the traditional work of business and government, in producing goods, providing services and interacting with each other.

In many cases, meeting the needs of Arizona's rural communities will require innovative thinking. Addressing these unique needs and identifying creative opportunities for these communities is part of the challenge I presented to the Arizona Partnership for the New Economy in 1999.

APNE has organized Five "Hot Teams" each with a specific focus to consider the issues and create action plans that maximize Arizona's potential for both urban and rural locations. Following are the five Hot Teams and examples of initiatives taken by rural communities nationwide that may have promise for greater Arizona:

Building Connections to Opportunity: For rural communities, gaining access to the Internet is primarily what the New Economy is all about. The residents of one Midwestern community population 1,400 approved bonding to establish a locally-owned, advanced communications infrastructure offering cable, high-speed access to the Internet. By taking the initiative to fully connect to the Internet, this community is developing a thriving e-business culture where people want to live.

E-Learning Hot Team: Distance learning can help level the playing field for rural communities by providing access to higher education without regard to location. For example, Northern Arizona University's "NAUnet" reaches more than 30 classroom locations throughout Arizona, including communities like Tuba City, Chinle and Whiteriver.

E-Government Hot Team: State, county and local governments must commit to applying new tools to improve customer service, speed up transactions and increase productivity. Kentucky's "One-Stop Business Licensing" http://www.sos.state.ky.us/onestop.htm helps reduce burdens of regulation and licensing for rural businesses. They can access most government services and reduce regulatory cost by going on-line.

Knowledge, Entrepreneurship and Capital Hot Team: Technology and innovation can be applied to a wide range of industries through entrepreneurship and venture capital. Speeding up the process of "idea to result" requires a fundamental long-term commitment by private and public sector leaders. The Central Valley of California has recognized this commitment and is promoting an initiative that supports innovation in agriculture, food processing, irrigation and manufacturing by working with local universities and industry networks.

Commerce and Creative Communities Hot Team: One of the most exciting aspects of the New Economy is that entrepreneurs and knowledge workers are attracted to creative communities both large and small. Often, rural areas may actually have an advantage to use their unique quality of life to attract and grow these types of firms.

The "Hot Team" will work with communities, businesses and individuals in creating long-term action, to be presented at the end of 2000. Proposals that require legislative action will be introduced in the 2001 legislative session.

In addition, APNE will be engaging thousands of Arizonans via the Internet to stimulate creative thinking and develop actions to help Arizona realize the promise of the New Economy. Visit APNE on the Web at http://www.azcommerce.com/neweconomy/APNE.htm to join the circulation list and get involved.

Arizona has a great opportunity to prosper in the New Economy, and rural communities are a vital component of that prosperity. Through APNE, they can gain knowledge and develop creative alliances while preserving their unique heritage and quality of life. I encourage all local leaders to join in this important conversation.

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