by Evelyn Casuga, 2nd VP, Pinal Alliance for Economic Growth and Sr. Advisor-Community Relations, Office of the President, Central Arizona College

At the upcoming Pinal Alliance for Economic Growth Annual meeting in February, we have a unique opportunity to hear from our state and regional economic development neighbors, whose organizations are primary catalysts driving Arizona’s economy today. Sandra Watson, President & CEO of Arizona Commerce Authority; Chris Camacho, President & CEO of Greater Phoenix Economic Council and Joe Snell, President & CEO of Sun Corridor Inc., will share their insights and recommendations to propel Arizona into a world-class economic engine. The gathering of this panel should create quite the buzz.

To come prepared with an inquiring mindset to this event in February, let’s begin with how do Pinal County leaders and partners integrate not only into the conversation, but also identify desired outcomes that resonate and benefit current and future residents. We’ve been hearing about the thousands of potential employment opportunities to be located in the region over the next decade. Are we ready? Where are the gaps? Who will take on these issues? Where will resources come from to support business expansions and relocations? And one of the more persistent conundrums explored several times here – is our talent pool ready now and into the future to meet yet-to-be-defined skill sets for yet-to-be-developed jobs by existing, transforming and emerging companies?

Part of the answer lies in recognizing that we are full participants in one of the most promising mega-regions in the U.S. Perusing the websites of Arizona Commerce Authority (, Greater Phoenix Economic Council ( and Sun Corridor Inc. (, the excitement is palpable. How is Pinal County positioned?

As the county economy improves from the not-so-distant Great Recession (it took longer here to recover), challenges in this century are of a different nature, scale and speed. Technology, globalization, generational and cultural shifts dominate and only scratch the surface of rapid transformations. Ramping up time for Pinal County is not an option. Can we leap ahead?

Pinal County and this Central Arizona region do stand poised for greatness. We have an unprecedented opportunity to be part of shaping what is to become one of the top 10 economic regions in the United States, identified as the Sun Corridor.

We must recognize first, however, that the traditional, tactical approach to economic development is not enough to succeed in a global, highly competitive world with footloose companies and knowledge workers, who have choices of where to locate and live.

But we as a region have choices, too.

We can choose to collaborate with non-traditional partners in innovative ways. We’re already seeing an alignment of forward-thinking leadership emerging. We can choose to elevate our economic development efforts to a strategic regional approach that enhances our competitive positioning. Also, we can choose to link this region to the strengths of our northern and southern metro neighbors (i.e. technology, higher education and Mexico relations).

Many readers are very aware of efforts already underway to collaborate locally on transportation, education and workforce, health services and economic development. But parochialism has its limitations. Inspired combinations between new and traditional partners can set a course for the next 25-30 years and explore innovative approaches with more impactful results.

From the 2012 Focus on Success Strategic Plan for Economic Development Plan Vision for what is now the Pinal Alliance for Economic Growth, the 20-year aspirational statement states:

“The Pinal Sun Corridor has a diverse robust economy and is a principle hub within Arizona for global logistics. It is anchored by a superior multi-modal transpiration network, world-class educational systems, state-of-the art healthcare and a skilled workforce. A culture of collaboration enables community leaders and their business partners to work together effectively to champion regional competitiveness and create quality jobs.”

Do we have the desire and will to get there?

Join Pinal Alliance for Economic Growth at our February 2018 Annual Luncheon to hear more.