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Takeaways from the Inaugural GIC Southwest Economic Summit

February 28, 2014

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GIC’s first program in the Southwest, held at the Phoenix Convention Center, was rich in content and thoughtful dialogue, addressing the economic vibrancy and challenges of the region, the impact of NAFTA and how the Phoenix area is increasingly positioned as an international city. Some of the great takeaways are highlighted next.

Scott Smith, Mesa’s mayor and chair of U.S. Conference of Mayors brought the H.E.A.T. (healthcare, education, aerospace, tourism and technology) initiative. Paul Thomas from Intel and Ellen Hughes Cromwick from Ford doused it – or certainly cooled it down by observing that the increase in auto sales is derived from replacement sales (not discretionary spending) and that trends show consumers no longer buying PCs at historic levels. Further, we cannot expect increases in productivity to come from computer related technology – simply put, the computer market is saturated and the human brain is too slow to keep up with next generation of computers. Alas, human factors!

Arnie Maltz (ASU), Catherine Mann (Brandeis) and Tim Lloyd (Intel) transported us over the supply chain of what looks like healthy trade in the Americas – highlighting that some roadblocks at the border prevent trade from being an even stronger fuel of US Southwest and western hemisphere economies.

Glenn Williamson confirms – and has the stats to prove it – that Canada is a strong trading partner of the US, as is Mexico. Factoring in NAFTA, Vice Governor of the Central Bank of Mexico Manuel Sanchez Gonzales expects that Mexico’s economy will grow about 3 percent a year. Congressman Matt Salmon, chair of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, is working to help US companies, consumers and Mexico leverage the move to privatize the Mexican oil industry through assistance with off shore drilling technologies.

Barry Broome, GPEC leader, and Kevin Sullivan of the Arizona Commerce Authority confirm that Arizona is gaining as an international economic hub, but it takes a lot of effort and work. Improvements in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education would give them and others in the state more arrows in the armory they have to drive further economic expansion. Companies with strong job growth prospects domiciled in California and Mexico will be targets of the Ariz. economy hunters.

Wells Fargo economist Eugenio Aleman presented a mixed bag on trade flows in the Americas, but concluded on a positive note looking for growth. Wells Fargo’s Ana Ramirez offered an overview of the Bank’s consultative approach to trade solutions.

The Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, in particular, Assistant Vice President Roberto Coronado and his colleagues, are also looking at trade in the Americas and conducting useful research which can be analyzed to show future directions and inform decisions and decision makers about the deployment of capital.

We all made strong new connections to the Southwest and learned key insights from our speakers, partners and attendees. As conference chair, I thank all for contributing to an important and successful Summit.

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