Thursday, May 24, 2007

How will Arizona grow? That's up to all of us says UA economist

[Source: Ann Brown, Daily Star] -- Talking about growth is a stroll through a garden of flowers and weeds. The stunning prospects of prosperity fed by newcomers can be choked by misinterpreted data and lack of public policy. Economists and public officials exposed 57 Western-state journalists and association executives to the thorns of growth Friday during "Covering Growth in the West," an educational symposium held at the Star. Here are a few tidbits from the symposium that might spark community conversation:

  • Arizona has been one of the fastest-growing states in the nation for more than 100 years. No one forecasts a reversal in that trend. Population growth will be a constant — how our state grows is up to us through public policies.
  • The possibility of a better life is what has attracted new residents to the West since the wagons left St. Louis and will continue to drive population here, said University of Arizona economist Marshall Vest, director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the UA's Eller College of Management. A warm climate, few natural disasters, relatively inexpensive housing, job availability and low taxes draw new residents here. However, Arizona has a reputation as a state of "haves" and "have-nots," with a mediocre workforce, a troubled school system and a poor quality of life.
  • The state has a high rate of population churn — people moving in and out of the state. It is difficult to develop sensible, sustainable public policy when a quarter of the population wasn't here five years ago, said Vest. Many newcomers don't know the history and culture of the community and may not be fully engaged or invested. However, that churn also means there are fresh ideas. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]