Phoenix is just emerging from the longest reception in history. Overall unemployment is down, real estate sales up, and new restaurants and shops are multiplying. But every time Phoenix seems headed towards the viability a beautiful, warm-weather, low-tax urban area should enjoy, some demographic-based controversy threatens its growth. On July 11, 2015, Arizonans are waiting to see how the television images Republican candidate Donald Trump’s visit, will reflect on Arizona.
The vacillation of Arizona’s economy can be correlated to socio-political controversies. Governor Evan Mecham’s rescission and voters’ rejection of the Martin Luther King Holiday led to a nationwide backlash, including cancelling the 1993 Super Bowl in Tempe. The campaign of the hospitality industry is generally credited with the voter passage of the Holiday in 1992.
More controversy followed Governor Jan Brewer’s 2010 signing of State Bill 1070, which dictated new state requirements, crimes and penalties re: immigration laws. By 2013, it was estimated that Phoenix had lost $132 million in direct spending, as boycotts, injunctions, and protests plagued the convention business. The business community had to spend scarce funds on campaigns, trying to restore Arizona’s attractiveness to corporations, vendors, tourists and others.
On July 10, 2015, at a Glendale Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Angela Hughey of One Community described how, again, the business community, ignited by “Our Business is Open to Everyone” signs developed by FastSigns’ Scott Koehler sought to stave of more negative publicity caused by SB 1062. Businesses persuaded Governor Jan Brewer to avoid another economy-killing tsunami by vetoing the bill, which would have allowed venues to discriminate against gay Americans.
Trump’s appearance in Phoenix highlights the schizoid image of Phoenix. The US’ sixth largest city is famous for its lack of gun control and toughest Sheriff in America: Maricopa County’s Joe Arpaio, who appeared with Trump. On the other hand, it has had Democratic mayors for 15 years. In 2006, Arizona was the first state to reject an anti-gay amendment. Hughey cited Northern Trust’s expansion here because of Phoenix’s 100% municipal equality rating.
In a global economy, where the competition for exports, corporate relocations, and young workers, the lingering image of Arizona as a hostile environment can impact tourism, sales, high-level job recruitment, corporate investment and new development. It will continue to be up to business people to promote the idea of Phoenix being a progressive city and a good place for everyone to do business.