Two days after delivering his sixth State of the State speech to launch the legislative year, Gov. Doug Ducey gave a West Valley version.
He spoke before 500 at a Phoenix Raceway lunch event. The Avondale setting was appropriate, as Ducey described a West Valley economy ready and roaring like a race car.
Avondale Mayor Kenn Weise kicked off the event, telling the crowd at the raceway’s Roll Bar the West Valley “is a region where the mayors and city council members work together.” He acknowledged representatives from Goodyear, Buckeye and Glendale.
Jennifer Jessep, director of public relations for Glendale’s Swire Coca-Cola, was seated to Ducey’s left. Sintra Hoffman, president and CEO of event sponsor WESTMARC, was on Ducey’s right. After both introduced the second-term governor, re-elected by a wide margin in 2018, Ducey gave his 45-minute speech.
“Thanks so much for the warm welcome. It’s a little different from the welcome I get at the State Capitol,” Ducey cracked, after a standing ovation died down.
Most of Ducey’s speech was an echo of his official State of the State speech, though he added some local flourishes.
“This is the racetrack that will host NASCAR’s championship weekend this year,” Ducey said, referring to the November event at the Phoenix Raceway (formerly ISM Raceway before a recent name change).
And, he added, “Sintra you always do a great job setting the table.”
Ducey, a former businessman, focused on the state as a business.
“I’m proud to report: the state of our state is strong. And the best part is, it’s only getting better,” he said.
“Look at all that’s happening around us. Our crime rate is dropping, and school test scores are rising. Our credit rating is up, and our debt is way down. Household incomes have hit a record high and our poverty rate has dropped faster than any other state in the nation.”.
He said the state economy has never been better, especially when compared to a decade ago.
“Today, Arizona’s economy is more diverse. We have more manufacturing jobs than construction jobs — and we’re top 10 in transportation, science, technology, and health care.”
His words echoing in the West Valley, where Buckeye and Goodyear are leaders in expansion, Ducey said, “I’m here to tell you, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
“Our population is surging but the size of our government is shrinking …
“The people don’t need the government’s permission, the government needs the people’s permission,” he stressed, drawing applause.
Ducey underscored West Valley economic growth, saying the state was creating 350,000 news jobs, “much of this growth right here in the West Valley. Mark Anthony Brewery (makers of White Claw) just announced plans for a state-of-the-art facility right here in Glendale.
“Red Bull, Microsoft, Fairlife, Andersen Windows all recently announced plans to establish or expand in the West Valley,” Ducey said.
After discussing the state’s powerful economy, Ducey turned to education. As he did two days before, Ducey highlighted a West Valley school district.
“Avondale Elementary School District serves more than 5,000 West Valley students. Nearly 70% of them residing in low-income areas.
“In 2015, Sup. Betsy Hargrove didn’t like what she saw on the report card. So she rolled up her sleeves to turn things around.
“And did she deliver. By 2018, through a targeted strategy, the district had double-digit growth in math and English — triple the average growth rate of other Arizona schools. Same deal in Deer Valley and Wickenburg (districts).”
Ducey then delivered another applause line: “No new taxes. Not in legislature, not at the ballot box— not on my watch.”
Ducey took a moment to “recognize and honor” veterans in attendance, then said he is for “eliminating all state income taxes on veterans’ military pensions, once and for all.
“You’ve put our country first. Now, with this budget, Arizona will put you first.”
After mentioning “the newly created Loop 202 into the West Valley” and discussing his plan to widen Interstate 10 from Phoenix to Tucson, Ducey returned to education, talking about the success of the Arizona Teachers Academy.
“This year, we plan to expand this with legislation sponsored by Sen. Paul Boyer (R-Glendale) allowing even more students to go through the academy,” Ducey said.
The governor said he wants more spending for “counselors and cops on campus.”
A few miles from Buckeye Elementary School, which recently received an “F” grade, Ducey vowed to help underachievers.
“We need to help struggling schools with tools, resources and expertise to produce better students…. We owe it to kids in these schools. They’re waiting and we won’t let them down.”
Ducey closed his speech as he had two days before: “Let’s get to work!”
One applauding in agreement was Jessep, of Swire Coca-Cola.
Earlier, she noted Swire Coca-Cola, which employs 2,000, is in the midst of its third expansion in Glendale.
“This is a great place to build a business,” she said.
Hoffman, of WESTMARC, wholeheartedly agreed the West Valley is happening.
She said “55% of growth in Maricopa County will be right here in the West Valley.
“We have our workforce, very talented. We have disposable income that continues to rise.”
And, she said, the February opening of Desert Diamond West Valley Casino in Glendale “will be taking entertainment to the next level.”