Feature Story

Arizona legislators update business community on environmental policy, water legislation

After being sidelined by the pandemic last year, Arizona legislators are back in session and moving quickly this week to revive and enact bills to protect water and natural resources to provide for citizens and businesses for decades to come.

There is no time to waste. Arizona is now into its 21st year of a scorching drought that is depleting the most important water resource in the Southwest, the Colorado River.

Ground and surface water are now more important than ever. To that end, state lawmakers are rushing to revive and fast track critical bills that will help protect and conserve both.

“The name of the game this session is companion bills to move them,” state Sen. Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye, said about committee chairs in both houses working in tandem to push through “mirror” bills on water and natural resources that never made it to the finish line last year due to COVID-19.

Kerr, who is the chair of the Senate Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee, was one of several lawmakers and state officials who updated the business and manufacturing community last week on the bills they are working on during the virtual Environmental Issues Breakfast Legislative Kickoff hosted by the Arizona Manufacturers Council (AMC) and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Snell and Wilmer sponsored the event.

Other speakers included Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, chair of the House Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee, and Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, chair of the House Land, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee as well as officials from Governor Doug Ducey’s office and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ).

One of the measures that has been revived and is fast-tracked through committees is known as the “use it or lose” bill that is important to business and manufacturing.

“Use it or lose it” legislation  

The legislation, HB 2675, would create an important new step to conserve groundwater, the speakers said.

It would repair a quirk in current law that acts as a disincentive to conserve water. That’s because current state forfeiture law provides that a water right may be lost after five years of non-use.

That has done little to encourage water holders to conserve supplies, the speakers said.

HB 2675 would remove that barrier and ensure that water holders’ conservation efforts will not result in the loss of water rights. Under the proposal, a water right holder could file a Water Conservation Plan with the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR). Upon filing a plan, the holder’s water rights would be shielded from a claim of abandonment or forfeiture.

“If you have five acre feet of water and you only need to use three acre feet, we want you to save and not lose your right to it,” Griffin said. “Right now if you don’t use the allocation you stand the risk of losing that right.”

Surface water protection bill 

Another piece of legislation important to manufacturing and industry is a bill to protect surface water from contamination. It is needed to address changes to the federal Clean Water Act last year that removed federal jurisdiction over certain small bodies of water in states.

With that federal jurisdiction removed, Arizona needed to add some protections of its own, said Amanda Stone, intergovernmental and community affairs director for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), who spoke at the event.

If approved by the Legislature, the bill would provide surface water protections for water that is used for things like recreation, fishing and drinking, Stone said.

Other waters, called ephemeral waters, are excluded from protection unless they are connected to protected waterways. These are streams that flow only for a short time, usually after a large storm or snowmelt when there is an increase in water runoff.

The bill, HB 2456, would duplicate many of the former federal rules and place them under state jurisdiction. One rule would require that a permit must be obtained from the ADEQ before pollutants can be released into certain bodies of water.

It also provides steps to work with farmers, businesses and other organizations up front to prevent water contamination.

“It’s not only good for the environment, it’s good for the business community,” Stone said.

Wildfire prevention, removal of invasive species, nuisance lawsuits

Legislators also talked about a host of other bills the public can expect to see this session, including forest restoration and wildfire prevention to protect watersheds in the northern portions of the state.

Other measures include funding to remove invasive species like saltcedar that is sapping waters and streams and wildlife habitats across the state, continue a cleanup of contaminated groundwater wells in Tucson, and to enact “nuisance” lawsuit protection for farmers and the agriculture industry from frivolous lawsuits.

Corporation Commission overstepping its role?

Another issue that is expected to come under debate this session is the role of the Arizona Corporation Commission. Among its many duties is the regulation of public utilities including setting renewable energy requirements and goals for utilities.

Governor Doug Ducey and others are concerned that the commission is overstepping its authority in that area, said Chuck Podolak, the governor’s natural resources policy adviser, who spoke at the event.

Last summer, the Arizona Supreme Court opened the door to allow state lawmakers to overrule the commission on renewable energy standards.

“The Governor is essentially in agreement with the Supreme Court,” Podolak said. “When it comes to energy, there’s a role for the ACC and there’s a role for the legislature.”

About the Arizona Manufacturers Council

The AMC is the official state affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers. AMC acts as the voice for Arizona’s manufacturing industry, which has been a major contributor in keeping Arizona’s economy afloat during the pandemic. Currently, the industry employs about 177,000 workers statewide and pumps about $30 billion annually into the economy.

The Council holds regular meetings to bring together environmental policy experts, industry stakeholders and state legislators to discuss Arizona’s most pressing environmental issues. These events often are free to the public. For more information, visit: AMC events.

 

 

 

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Help for Arizona manufacturers hurt by pandemic

The Arizona Commerce Authority is putting out a call to Arizona manufacturers hurt by the pandemic. It has a program to help.

Companies hit hard by disruptions, layoffs, furloughs, loss of business and other setbacks due to Covid-19 are encouraged to apply for emergency assistance through the agency’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

Through the partnership, companies can receive subsidized or reduced rates for assistance in areas like rebuilding customer demand, overcoming supply chain disruptions, reassembling their workforce, and identifying new markets.

“There’s close to 5,000 manufacturers in Arizona and a lot of them need help but most of them don’t know that this kind of help is available to them so they don’t seek outside resources, especially the small companies that need it most,” said David Garafano, executive director of the program.

Many small manufacturers suffering setback 

Garafano said small manufacturers have been hardest hit. The goal is to bring them back to their pre-pandemic levels.

“In some cases we’ve seen companies that have seen their demand completely dry up. For example, when all of the airlines stopped flying, a lot of the aerospace work in the manufacturing supply chains stopped,” he said. “We saw furniture companies where 80 percent of their demand just evaporated. It was gone.”

Among the services MEP can assist companies with are:

  • Strategic planning and identification of new markets
  • Rebuilding customer demand
  • Overcoming supply chain disruptions
  • Financial and cash flow management
  • Lean manufacturing and continuous improvement
  • Staffing, training and workforce development
  • Maintaining a safe workplace in a COVID-19 world
  • Cybersecurity risk assessment and compliance planning

Bargain rates for top level expertise and analysis 

Through the MEP program, companies pay reduced rates for top level expertise to help them improve their business and operational performance. Customized solutions and hands-on assistance are provided by a network of third party service providers and the program’s team of seasoned manufacturing and professionals.

“The one thing that’s so much fun about the AZ MEP is that we’re just here to help,” said Garafano, who has more than 30 years experience in manufacturing and business in leadership positions with companies such as AT&T, Lucent Technologies, Celiant, Andrew and ON Semiconductor.

This emergency assistance is being made possible through the federal CARES Act. Arizona is receiving $730,000 to help these struggling companies get back on their feet. So far, $350,000 has been approved for 118 companies.

Why manufacturing is so important to Arizona 

Arizona has seen steady uphill growth in the sector since 2013. One of the biggest benefits of that growth has been higher paying jobs.

In 2019, there were an average 177,000 manufacturing employees with an average annual compensation of $87,387, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

Manufacturing is also a revenue producer for the state. Manufacturers produced $20.93 billion in manufactured goods exports in 2019. Of that, $9.84 billion was from free trade agreement partners like Mexico and Canada. Small businesses comprised 88 percent of all exporters.

The bulk of manufacturing output in Arizona comes from three sectors: computer and electronics, aerospace and other transportation equipment, and fabricated metal products.

Pandemic changed landscape for manufacturing 

Many sectors have seen dramatic disruptions including Arizona’s most profitable, aerospace and defense.

So far, companies seeking assistance have needed a variety of services including rebuilding their workforces and finding new uses for their operations and equipment as demand has dried up, Garafano said.

“Probably one of biggest things we’re doing with these companies is a lot have been hurt financially by the pandemic and they don’t always have a CFO or a higher level finance person, so we’re bringing in CFO people to do analysis on the company and help them understand their cash flow,” he said. “They were healthy and the pandemic made them unhealthy, so we can help them build a plan to get healthy again.”

Relief needed to make it through the new year    

Allison Gilbreath, executive director of the Arizona Manufacturers Council, said there is a great need for aid for the industry right now. Not only are many industries flailing but other federal covid relief programs are about to dry up.

“The manufacturing industry in Arizona was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Gilbreath said. “Our members were faced with tough choices in 2020 and most manufacturers anticipate pandemic-related challenges well into 2021.”

For more information or to apply for assistance through the MEP program, go to: Arizona MEP emergency assistance program. 

Original Chamber Business News article here.

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Arizona Manufacturers Council welcomes Allison Gilbreath as new executive director

Allison Gilbreath

Gilbreath will serve as Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice president of strategic initiatives in new role

PHOENIX (March 16, 2018) The Arizona Manufacturers Council has named Allison Gilbreath as its new executive director. Gilbreath will also serve as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s vice president of strategic initiatives.
 
The Arizona Manufacturers Council is the official Arizona affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers and works to promote a positive business climate for manufacturing and related industries in the state. In addition to advocating for pro-manufacturing public policy, the AMC also produces the annual Manufacturer of the Year Awards and Summit, and the annual Environmental and Sustainability Summit.
 
“Allison’s breadth of experience and understanding of the issues that are important to job creators in the manufacturing sector will serve the Arizona Manufacturers Council incredibly well,” AMC Chair Dawn Grove said. “I am encouraged to have Allison on board and am confident that she will amplify the voice of our manufacturers, helping them compete in the global economy and create more high-paying jobs in Arizona.”
 
Gilbreath joins the Chamber from the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, where she was vice president of business development and where she worked with companies across multiple industries looking to establish a presence in Greater Phoenix. Prior to GPEC, she spent nearly 10 years at the Arizona Commerce Authority, most recently serving as vice president of business attraction.
 
In addition to overseeing manufacturing issues, Gilbreath will work on legislative issues and initiatives relating to the Chamber’s technology and infrastructure priorities.
 
“We are thrilled to welcome Allison to the Chamber,” Arizona Chamber President and CEO Glenn Hamer said. “She knows what it takes to create jobs, and she has earned an outstanding reputation among business leaders and government officials across the state. I know she is going to do great things for the Arizona Manufacturers Council and the Chamber and will be an effective voice at the state Capitol, before state agencies, and regulatory bodies.”
 
In her career, Gilbreath has been involved in the attraction of tens of thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in new capital investment to Arizona.
 
“I’m excited to get started,” Gilbreath said. “Arizona’s manufacturers represent some of the most innovative and creative leaders in the state’s business community. I am looking forward to advancing the AMC agenda and taking a leadership role advocating for tech and transportation infrastructure priorities.”
 
Gilbreath is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University. She resides in Phoenix with her husband, Matt, and their two dogs, Stella and Tucker.
 
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The mission of the Arizona Manufacturers Council is to promote and enhance a positive business climate for manufacturing and related industries that operate within Arizona.
 
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.
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