Business improving locally but growth will be slow, experts say at Prescott Chamber of Commerce annual meeting
PRESCOTT - We all wanted economic recovery like a sports car. What we got was a Model T.
That was the message from speakers at the Prescott Chamber of Commerce's annual membership meeting and luncheon Friday at the Prescott Resort.
Keynote speaker Elliott Pollack, an economist with Elliott D. Pollack & Co., said economic growth has been and will be slow.
"The economy has been slow and federal incentives perverse," he said. "The boom will not be in 2013. Growth in 2013 will be better than that of 2012, 2014 will improve on 2013... 2015 will be the boom year we've been wanting.
"We have to be patient."
Pollack said the uncertainty of the fiscal cliff and the unknown costs of Obamacare continue to keep investors wary and growth at a snail's pace.
Evidence of the federal government's disconnect is seen in the American Tax Relief Act, approved on Dec. 31. It will save $737 billion over the next 10 years. Pollack said the country needs to save $4 trillion to $6 trillion to affect the deficit and national debt.
"Only 12 to 15 percent of savings there," he said. "That's not enough."
Two bright spots, he said, are that zero chance exists that the country will default on its debt. "We must admit there is a problem," he said, "and deal with it." Pollack said everyone will feel it, though the "significant cuts" will need to be phased in gradually.
Secondly, while job growth nationally also is slow, Arizona is well on its way toward recovery. Pollack said that in 2006 the state ranked No. 2 in the nation for job growth. While it fell to No. 49 in 2009, Arizona bounced back to No. 5 on the list in 2012.
Work remains, however, Arizona Speaker of the House Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, said. Of the 300,000 jobs lost in this state from the peak, Arizonans have seen about one-third of them come back.
"We're at a structural deficit," Tobin said, adding that the state needs to include economic development in its plans. He said work is under way to ease regulations and put money back into the hands of small business owners.
"Arizona has put forward significant legislation and cuts, something the federal government has not learned yet," Tobin said, likening the problem to the federal government sitting on Arizona's chest.
"The goal is to continue arm in arm ... we're starting to rise," he said. "California is raising taxes, Arizona is cutting them. We will bring jobs back."
U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-District 4, who is a dentist, compared government to a doctor's creed to "do no harm," adding that the feds have overregulated business.
"Rural gets it," he said, adding the message is getting out that "rural Arizona is open for business."
The federal government just needs to "get out of your way," he said, which will come with changes and overhaul in the tax code.
Other speakers included Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall and Yavapai County Supervisor Rowle Simmons, R-District 1.
Kuykendall pointed to the airport as where people will see change and the future of economic development locally. "We're already at 5,000 feet, so the sky's the limit," he quipped.
Simmons, a former mayor of Prescott who now is vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors, echoed the road plan put forward last month by the Arizona Department of Transportation. "With HURF (Highway User Revenue Fund) money down from the state, we will focus on repairing and maintaining roads in the area."
He believes the county needs also to stay the course, adding that he thinks a proposed jail on Prescott Lakes Parkway - near the new juvenile justice center - and its funding mechanism would go to the voters.
The chamber's annual meeting also included a passing of the board's leadership from Hector Riojas of Unisource to the 2013 Chamber Board chairman, Matt Holdsworth, a CPA with Holdsworth & Co.