LITCHFIELD PARK — Gov. Jan Brewer convened the first meeting of the Arizona Commerce Authority on Thursday, launching a push to increase private sector involvement in boosting the state’s economy.
The 35-member board, comprised of business leaders, educators and state officials, will advise the Arizona Department of Commerce.
“Now is the moment to begin work to ensure our commitment to the citizens of our state to create jobs — good quality, long-lasting jobs,” Brewer said. “We haven’t been sitting on our heels.”
Brewer asked the Legislature earlier this year to approve the new group to take over many of the functions of the commerce department, but lawmakers adjourned without acting on her request.
The governor issued an executive order in June creating the authority.
Brewer serves as the group’s chairwoman, alongside co-chair Jerry Colangelo, a longtime Phoenix business and sports executive.
Dissolving the Department of Commerce would require legislative approval, and the next session won’t begin until January.
Colangelo, former owner of the Phoenix Suns, said one of the group’s goals is bridging what he called a disconnect between lawmakers and the business community.
“If we have the cooperation of the Legislature, then we have a chance,” he said. “And if we have a chance to compete, that’s all you can really ask for.”
The authority’s agenda includes reforming taxes and regulations, attracting high-wage jobs, spurring innovation, encouraging travel to Arizona and stimulating the economy in rural areas.
“If you look at where we rank in so many categories, the middle of the pack is not satisfactory,” Colangelo said. “You have to separate yourself to be more than just competitive — you want to be the best.”
Don Cardon, the group’s president and CEO and director of the state Department of Commerce, said the authority will harness the power of collaboration between government officials, academia and top business leaders to advance the state’s economy and make Arizona more competitive on the global stage.
“This is a big deal,” he said. “This is about a plan that gets the governor actively involved in the business community.”
House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, said those in public office must rely on the private sector to guide the state toward creating jobs.
“We have this incredible opportunity to establish a new economic vision for our state,” he said.