Thursday, January 23, 2014

Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Director Mike Sistak traveled to Denver last year for the Business of Water Summit, sponsored by the Colorado-based consortium Protect the Flows. We continue to be involved in Protect the Flows on behalf of the outdoor recreation industry and businesses of all types in our region who rely heavily on the Colorado River. 6.1 million jobs are associated with the river statewide and billions in state tax revenues are collected annually. We must protect every drop! 

View this great video
produced by Protect the Flows explaining what this group is and their mission:

Flagstaff Chamber Represents Area Businesses at ‘Business of Water’ Summit in Denver

Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Director Mike Sistak recently represented member businesses that rely on the Colorado River and traveled to Denver for the Business of Water Summit, sponsored by the Colorado-based group Protect The Flows.

Protect The Flows was founded in 2011 as a consortium of businesses dedicated to common sense solutions to the water challenges that face the entire southwest. The main driver of needed solutions is finding a way to protect the Colorado River Basin, which is vital to the economies and well being of the 7 state region that comprises the basin.

The group advocates for both business and public policy that will support and sustain the environment, business, recreation, and the overall quality of life that the Colorado River provides.

Throughout the entire basin region, the Colorado River supports over a quarter million jobs and generates over $26 billion in annual economic output. In Arizona alone, the river supports over 53,000 jobs and generates just under $6 billion a year in economic output.

Mike traveled to the summit on the heels of the sixteen day shutdown of the federal government. Northern Arizona bore witness to several million dollars in lost revenue due to the shutdown, closing Grand Canyon National Park and restricting access to the Colorado River.

“The message I wanted to bring to the summit was that in Flagstaff we caught a glimpse of what it would be like if suddenly the Colorado River wasn’t there,” Mike said. “We take the river for granted and if as a business community we don’t invest in sound policies to protect the river, the effects we felt during the shutdown could be that much more detrimental to a wide variety of local businesses.”

Also in attendance at the Denver summit was Mark Lamberson, owner and operator of Mountain Sports in downtown Flagstaff. “As a retailer for outdoor clothing and supplies, much of which ends up going with my customers to the Grand Canyon and Colorado River, I am directly affected by the sustainability of the river,” said Mark. “But no matter what your business or reason for living in Flagstaff is we are all, in some way affected by the river.” Mark and his daughter Lisa have been involved with Protect The Flows since its inception.

At the summit, over 30 individuals represented businesses and organizations that ranged from mega-hotels in Las Vegas that consume thousands of gallons of water a day, to small regional banks that provide startup loans to river runners. The common message among the group was that it is up to the business community to lead the charge of the sustainability of the river.

Mark Udall, the senior United States Senator for Colorado, gave the keynote address at the summit. He indicated that if the Southwestern United States is to meet the challenges of sustaining the river, that it first must be acknowledged that the current use and management of the river is unsustainable. He said that he has a close friendship with each senator that represents a Colorado River Basin state, and that when it comes to water policy there is no partisanship among them, it’s about working toward what is the best policy for future access to water.

The Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce is taking comments from member businesses directly impacted by our proximity to the Colorado River.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Exporters, Look South!

Northern Arizona companies looking to build overseas sales are wise to start by looking south to the United States’ eleven Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners in Latin America.

These 11 economies – Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru – all have a rapidly growing base of middle-class consumers and diversifying industries. Tariffs are low or nonexistent, which can mean a lower cost of doing business and lower barriers to entry in these markets.

A record number of American businesses are reaching international customers, but exporting companies are only taking advantage of one market. Expanding to additional export markets improves a business’ bottom line. Companies exporting to one market average roughly $375,000 in export sales. For a company exporting to two-to-four export markets, that average nearly triples to $1 million in sales.

Thanks to its network of offices in the Latin American FTA markets, the U.S. Commercial Service (CS) is well-placed to help Arizona exporters evaluate and prioritize market potential and implement a business development strategy for the region. CS services include

  • Identifying potential partners and clients; 
  • Sharing insights into legal and cultural environments; 
  • Arranging business-to-business meetings; and, 
  • Advocating for U.S. companies bidding on FTA partner government procurement contracts.

To learn more about how the Commercial Service can help, Northern Arizona companies are encouraged to contact Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce CEO Julie Pastrick.  Julie can put you in direct contact with U.S. Commercial Service resources in Arizona.

Flagstaff’s Julie Pastrick Appointed to Arizona District Export Council

In late December, the Arizona District Export Council announced that Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Julie Pastrick has been appointed by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to serve a four-year term.

The District Export Council recognizes that there is  great potential in Arizona for small and medium size business through exporting products and services. The focus of the Council includes the following activities:

  • Collaborating with Arizona business public and private sector groups to stimulate economic growth through trade and investment.
  • Regularly providing export training, readiness and advice to interested businesses.
  • Addressing local and regional trade issues.
  • Advocating for a well-informed public and political dialogue about global business in Arizona.
  • Preparing Arizona to be a “global ready” State.
  • Supporting the Arizona U.S. Export Assistance Center, a division of the U.S. Commercial Service.
At the Federal level, the DEC works in conjunction with Congressional and Senatorial offices to represent export-oriented Arizona businesses.  If you are interested in expanding your products or service into international markets please contact Julie Pastrick at

Monday, January 6, 2014

2013--Setting a New Standard for Business Advocacy

In 2013, we set a new standard for business advocacy at the Greater Flagstaff Chamber. Representing our member interests before government, we affected positive changes advancing the success of the Flagstaff business community and region.

Locally, we saw many successes that will help businesses grow and keep our community strong:
  • As an integral part of Mayor Jerry Nabours’ roundtable on zoning map amendments, we helped draft a new process that will relax some of the requirements for anyone wishing to rezone a parcel of land.
  • We also advocated for a more reasonable update to energy code standards for new homes built in our city. Instead of the proposed adoption of the 2012 International Energy Code, which would have added burdensome costs to new homes in a community that is already 56% above the national average for the housing costs. Instead, we advocated successfully for an amendment that is less stringent but still emphasizes our  commitment to energy efficiency.
  • We were very active in contributing to the city’s draft of the Regional Plan 2030 document, which has been developed over the last four years. Through our Community and Economic Development Committee, we combed through the plan and offered significant input to the city council, much of which was adopted. The most important changes approved were adding prefatory language stating that the goals and policies expressed throughout the document were not law, but guidelines, thereby softening much of the business-unfriendly obligations. Council also reversed the emphasis on compact housing developments, instead allowing for a variety of housing, most important of which is single family housing. Much of the economic development chapter was also changed at our suggestion, notably adding sections stressing the importance of Pulliam Airport and its business park as well as more emphasis on our robust tourism industry.
  • We supported the proposed expansion of the Little America hotel property as a welcome creator of hundreds of local jobs through both the construction and staffing once the build-out is completed. At City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission meetings, we advocated in favor of the project, which will also  make Little America a destination resort benefitting the entire city. Between additional jobs,  more sales for our local businesses and increased city revenues through the Bed, Board, and Beverage (BBB) tax, it is estimated the economic benefit of the expansion to Flagstaff will be $34 million annually.

During the 2013 state legislative session we advocated for, and helped win passage of, two issues that are vital to the continued success and future vibrancy of our community:
  • Restoration and expansion of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), or state Medicaid program. This legislation advanced by Gov. Jan Brewer (right) as part of her 2013-2014 budget, allowed the state to accept a temporary 10-to-1 federal funding match to provide health insurance to those living up to 133% of the federal poverty level. It also restored coverage to the more than 141,000 individuals who were cut from the program in 2011, a loss that caused significant problems in our hospitals and drove up private health insurance premiums by 8.8%.
  • Formal legislative adoption of the state’s new College and Career Ready Standards. The Greater Flagstaff Chamber has long made educational reforms one of its core initiatives and the 2013 legislative session provided an opportunity for a major overhaul of state standards, which will allow our students to compete on both national and international levels as they progress to college and the workforce. The standards were developed by a bipartisan coalition of governors from 46 states.
In 2013, we expanded the Greater Flagstaff Chamber’s profile with our national government by building on existing relationships, resulting in visits to our Chamber by highly influential government officials. In a 50-day period, we hosted before membership Sen. John McCain,  Sen. Jeff Flake as well as Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick.
  • On the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) we worked closely with our senators and Congressman Gosar to seek answers from the US Forest Service (USFS) on how they planned to protect the Northern Arizona region from a devastating fire when the project was dangerously behind schedule. Senator Flake was able to pass out of committee a reauthorization of the ability of the Forest Service to enter into stewardship contracts such as 4FRI that includes new language to make such contracts more workable and successful.
  • We held a forum on the federal Affordable Care Act to ensure that in 2013 our members knew all the necessary information regarding the new law and how it affected them. Our panel featured Herb Shultz (below left), President Obama’s appointee as Director of Region IX of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mr. Schultz joined us from San Francisco where he oversees health care law for several western states, territories, and tribal nations.
  • We remained heavily involved in the dispute over new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations for the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), advocating for a major economic engine to Northern Arizona that has created over 1,000 jobs and will pump over $20 billion into our state’s economy over the next 30 years. We have written several letters to our Congressional delegation, as well as directly to the EPA, expressing our support for NGS, and most recently we signed onto an amicus brief that has been filed with the United States Supreme Court which will highlight the devastating economic impact these new regulations will have nationwide.

2014--Our Legislative Agenda Is Based on Pro-Business Public Policy

Recently, the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce adopted a platform of state and federal legislative priorities for 2014 that it helped craft with other chambers in the state through the Arizona Chamber Executives. This legislative agenda provides  common goals on pro-business public policy for chambers to advocate for together and will build upon the successes we saw last year.

The agenda pushes for fiscal policies that will attract new investments and bring jobs to Arizona. Last year saw many businesses relocate to Arizona because of its conducive environment, a trend we continue to encourage in 2014. Advancing a successful business climate will also include advocating for policies that help make our state education system the most attractive by producing graduates who are career-ready and capable of competing on a global scale.

The chambers will oppose any legislation that would reduce rural economic development capacity and impair tourism dollars. We will also support legislation that explores more public-private partnerships that would increase industry productivity and reduce the dependency on state funds. Most importantly, Arizona chambers will advocate for a balanced budget to ensure there are no unjustified taxes imposed on our families and businesses that would hinder economic vitality.

We will also support legislation that will continue to highlight Arizona as an attractive place to invest federal and corporate research dollars. Our first-rate public universities have helped make Arizona a hub for vital study in areas such as national research. It is our goal to continue to attract these investments that will help grow our universities, educate our students, and infuse our economy with the outputs.

Building upon our successful restoration and expansion of our state Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), in 2014 we will advocate for legislation and policies that maximize the number of individuals receiving health insurance while also being fiscally responsible. We will also oppose any efforts by the federal government to reduce funding to AHCCCS that would cause a cost shift to the private sector.

At the federal level, we will continue in 2014 to push for a comprehensive immigration reform bill to be passed by the House of Representatives and signed by President Obama. Such legislation would provide for visa reform, reinforce education attainment and contribute to the overall economic vitality of the state of Arizona. It would also support policies to properly seal our porous borders, respond to the needs of the economy, and address the issue of illegal immigrants already in the United States. Legislation such as this passed the U.S. Senate in 2013 through the leadership of our Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake. We will call on our House delegation to do the same.

We will work to ensure that in 2014 any legislation that addresses climate change does so without transferring wealth out of our state or artificially increasing the costs for energy producers or consumers. For Flagstaff this means working to protect the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) from burdensome new regulations that threaten to eliminate over 1,000 jobs and drive up our utility costs.

Finally, with regards to the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), we will continue to work with Senators McCain and Flake and Arizona’s entire Congressional delegation to monitor the progress of this vitally important project. In 2013, we saw the 4FRI contract transfer to a new company, Good Earth Power. Our Senators also advanced legislation that will provide more tools to the U.S. Forest Service for fighting dangerous wildfires. It will be key in 2014 for Arizona’s forests to remain healthy so as to protect life and the economic output our forests provide.

These policies will form the basis for our advocacy efforts at the state and federal levels, but as always, we remain committed to all issues and advocate for any legislation that will be a benefit to our businesses, strengthen our educational system, and grow our communities.