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Arizona is becoming a car capital for a new technology era: Gov. Doug Ducey

  • Arizona State University is rivaling storied East Coast institutions in innovation rankings.
  • An executive order in Arizona is allowing residents to ride in Google's self-driving Waymo cars.
  • Lucid Motors chose Arizona for its $700 million electric vehicle manufacturing plant.

Things move quickly in Arizona.

In July 2016, when I wrote an op-ed for the 10th anniversary of CNBC's America's Top States for Business series, I talked about how our state is slashing red tape and embracing the new economy.

What a difference a year makes.

Since then, Google began offering Arizonans rides in their own self-driving Waymo vehicles. Airbnb hosts in our state earned more than $50 million throughout the year. And an array of first-class companies — from Vector Space Systems to Orbital ATK and many others — have expanded their presence here.

A Google Waymo self-driving Lexus on the road in Arizona
A Google Waymo self-driving Lexus on the road in Arizona

Three-hundred days of sunshine per year certainly helps, but it's not just the beautiful weather and panoramic mountain views that convince companies to relocate. It's a combination of Arizona's top-shelf quality of life and the pro-growth environment we've fostered over the past few years to make our state a great place to do business.

Just to name three:

  • A highly trained workforce: We know what it takes to train the future. The newest rankings from U.S. News & World Report found that Arizona is home to the top three public high schools in the country. We're making major investments in our universities, too, including a $1 billion financing package that will allow them to make critical research infrastructure improvements to stay ahead of the competition.

    We also announced an initiative last year to equip
    at least 60 percent of adults in our state with a certificate or degree by the year 2030 so Arizonans they have the tools they need to succeed in our quickly-changing economy. With Arizona State University being ranked the most innovative university in the U.S. for two years in a row now (beating out MIT and Stanford), you know we're on the right track and moving forward fast.

  • A 21st-century government: Some states have a regulatory system that reacts to innovation; in Arizona, we anticipate and embrace it so that new technologies have to catch up with legislation instead of the other way around. Whether that's an executive order paving the way for research into self-driving technology or a revamp of our revenue system to make home-sharing easier, we're always looking forward so that entrepreneurs can do what they do best without running into an unnecessary bureaucratic speed bump. It also means eliminating burdensome and outdated regulations already on the books, which is why we unveiled "Regulation Rollback" in January with the goal of soliciting input about which regulations to cut and then eliminating 500 by the end of this year.

  • Strong international relationships: "Trade is not a problem to solve. It's an issue to focus on and expand." That was my closing remark to an audience in Washington, D.C., at a discussion about the U.S.–Mexico relationship. Since taking office, I have made it a priority to strengthen Arizona's relationship with elected officials and business leaders in Mexico, and other countries, in order to bring more jobs, manufacturing, and exporting power to our region.

    The relationship put our state over the top when Lucid Motors was deciding where to locate its new
    $700 million electric vehicle manufacturing facility a few months ago, with Lucid Motors specifically citing our "strong regional supply chain" and "proximity to rail, major interstates, ports, training facilities, [and] utility providers."

    Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich and I are also working together with the hope of creating a new cruise-ship port at Puerto Peñasco. International economic activity, and the relationships that foster it, can be a huge boost for businesses looking to expand, and Arizona is helping to make that happen.

You don't need to take my word that our state is the place to be. People are seeing our low-tax, commonsense regulatory environment, and they're voting with their feet.

Lucid Motors director of manufacturing, Brian Barron, speaking at the Arizona State Capitol about plans to build a $700 million electric vehicle manufacturing plant.
Lucid Motors director of manufacturing, Brian Barron, speaking at the Arizona State Capitol about plans to build a $700 million electric vehicle manufacturing plant.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, our own Maricopa County is the single fastest-growing county in the United States, adding more than 222 people per day in 2016. This year, Phoenix officially reclaimed the title of the fifth-largest city in the country, too.

Companies are doing the same. We've seen a number of major job announcements over the past few months alone, including Constant Aviation in May and Benchmark Electronics, which is relocating its corporate headquarters to Arizona from Texas. In fact, hiring for finance and insurance jobs grew faster in Arizona than in any other state in the country over the 12 months leading to March 2017.

That's no accident.

Arizona has been nationally recognized for its economic competitiveness, including recently in two prominent trade publications. We were given the 2017 Gold Shovel Award in Area Development's list of top states for economic development in the five- to eight-million population category, and we were named the No. 1 most competitive state in the mountain region in Site Selection's 2017 Prosperity Cup.

In other words, when entrepreneurs get sick of being overtaxed and overregulated in places like California, they pack up a U-Haul (another great company based here) and move to Arizona.

By Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who is also a YPO member

More from Top States:
Complete coverage of the states and the issues
10 best states in America to find a job
Governors take a stand for their states

Editor's note: This commentary was written before the release of the Top States 2017 data. The governor did not have knowledge of the rankings or the comprehensive data.

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