Below is a transcription of the interview above:
Jaime Molera: Welcome! My name is Jaime Molera, and I am here with the famous Glenn Hamer. Now, many of you know Glenn as the President and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, but just recently Glenn was tapped to become the President and CEO of the Texas Association of Business. First, I would like to express my condolences for having to move to Texas, but congratulations Glenn, they are very fortunate to have you.
Glenn Hamer: Jaime I am looking forward to it, moving from one top-five state to another top-five state. Both just great states.
Molera: Well, I think losing you is going to be a big loss. But now that you are leaving, I think you can be very candid about what you think about the Arizona legislature. So, I would like to get some dirty details, but one of the things, honestly, Glenn is that you have had a very stellar career as head of the Chamber. What would you say is your proudest accomplishment over your 14 years?
Hamer: Well, wow 14 years is a long time, and first I would like to just say how much I appreciate Jaime and how much you and Molera Alvarez have done over the years. When we talk about all the big things that the Chamber has done, you personally have been involved in, I believe, every single one of them.
I would say we got involved in all the big-ticket items that mattered to the state. Whether it was economic development, tax policy, health care via Medicaid, immigration issues, or trade (my personal favorite, USMCA. I have a framed Wall Street Journal piece on the USMCA being signed by Larry Kudlow). The Chamber tackled these big-ticket items, and I believe we helped make a difference.
Molera: One of the big things you started with when you took over the helm at the Arizona Chamber were some significant issues that revolved around SB 1070, and the relationships that unfortunately soured with Mexico and the Latino community. You were against 1070 and testified against it, as well as all the offshoots of SB 1070 that some tried to put into place. It seems to me, Glenn, that not only was the Arizona Chamber helpful in reversing that image, but you personally felt strongly about why the business community needed to take the lead in getting that rectified.
Hamer: Talking to the former State Superintendent of Public Instruction, I am very proud of what we have accomplished over the years in terms of resources and reforms, including the extension of Prop 301, which you were one of the architects of, but also university bonding, community college CTE [career and technical education] results-based funding, all these things are important. I am proud that today we can say that, with federal funding, we are at the highest per-pupil funding point in our state’s history (adjusted for inflation). We have more to do, but it is not a bad place to be in.
So, on immigration, if you had to look at the 14 years, I have probably put as much time into that issue as to any other issue. Even before SB 1070, it is important to remember that it really all started (with my tenure) with the Legal Arizona Workers Act, a bill that then-Governor Napolitano pushed. She (Gov. Napolitano) got that bill after basically taunting Republican members of the legislature around 2005 to send her what she called an employee amnesty bill. So, we got something that went well beyond E-verify to all sorts of sanctions on employers, even if they were acting in good faith. Fortunately, the way the law was implemented in some future changes did not create the problems we were concerned about. When we got to SB 1070, the Chamber fought against the original version of the bill that included all of the enhanced employer sanctions and successfully removed all of those provisions from the bill. Now, at that point, it is fair to say we did not support the bill, but we were not going to the capital saying that the bill should be stopped.
Molera: But you did modify it to the point where it took most of the egregious pieces out of it, as I recall?
Hamer: Correct, but what we missed and something we learned after SB 1070 is that we have to band together as a business community. If we are going to do immigration reform, we need to do it at the federal level. Jaime, we have been waiting since 1986 for wholesale immigration reform. Fast forward to today, I believe we need to at least get a very meaningful down payment. That means getting the DREAMERs situation resolved, full legalization. The Arizona Chamber’s position has always been with a path to citizenship, but that needs to happen in the calendar year 2021. We need that done at the federal level.
But getting back to some immigration battles at the state level—what we learned is that for our state’s tourism industry (an industry we both love and is led by a great leader in Kim Sabow) reputationally we have to make sure our policies match the true spirit of Arizona as an exceptionally welcoming state.
Molera: Glenn, one of the things that you also helped to lead the charge on was getting Arizona out of the Great Recession. Arizona did not have a very diversified economy, we relied essentially on growth. What are some of the things that you believed to be helpful from an economic growth standpoint for Arizona to create that diversification?
Hamer: So, the jobs bill 1 and 2. The first one happened about 10 years ago and included the creation of the Arizona Commerce Authority, which has been expertly run by Sandra Watson. What we did there, with the help of the entire business community coming together (I know Jaime you played a role as well) was to make sure we had competitive tax rates for companies looking to put a lot of jobs into the state. So, we dramatically reduced (over time, and in a fiscally responsible way)some of our different corporate and business taxes. Our corporate tax rate now is one of the most competitive in the country. We have a very competitive capital gains tax rate that is very helpful for entrepreneurial businesses. We have something called sales factor, which means if you are producing goods and services and you are exporting out of the state, then your tax burden will be very low. So, you flash forward to today, we have more manufacturing jobs in Arizona than construction jobs, and that was not an accident. That was leadership, and it has diversified our economy to the point where our kids have a chance to work in any industry that their talents and desires will take them. That was not the case when I came here in the early 1990s.
Molera: Moving forward, what are some key policies that we should still be looking at as a business community, and also for state leadership trying to tackle some of the issues that will continue to move Arizona forward?
Hamer: We have some work to do on infrastructure. We have made some real progress there on some of the roads, such as the key trade roads. For example, in one of my favorite places, Nogales.
Molera: The construction there is amazing. I was just in Nogales to visit my mom and it is amazing—through the opening of that port of entry, you can see the amount of goods that are going to flow from Mexico to the United States and vice versa.
Hamer: Part of that is going to be to make sure I-17, I-10, and eventually we get resources into I-11 so that the two most populated cities, Vegas and Phoenix, without a real interstate connecting them can have that feature.
Regarding the education front, we are in the renaissance of the digital age. Imagine if this pandemic happened 15 or 20 years ago, I don’t know what we would have done to communicate so effectively. We have much to do on STEM education, and research and development. I love what the universities are doing when it comes to the New Economy Initiative, but we have to have much more of a focus on the K-12 side on results. We have got some very innovative education experts in the state that are going to help deliver on that, including you Jaime.
Molera: You have talked a lot about leadership, and what it took to get us in the position. You have had the privilege of working with some tremendous leaders nationally, but specifically here in Arizona. Can you tell us about your experience with those leaders and some of the people that stand out for you?
Hamer: I am certainly going to, unfortunately, leave some people out, so for that, I apologize. I really appreciated working with Governor Brewer and her team. After we got hit by the Great Recession, and in speaking about diversification, she was the one that came together and said we really need a good plan for the state(alongside the leadership of Eileen Klein, Richard Bark, Michael Hunter, Sandra Watson, and others). At the time we had great leadership in the state legislature. The tandem of Kirk Adams and Andy Tobin created a one-two punch for the ages. They really drove things to make clear the importance of diversification. To take a quick detour, both Kirk and Andy also saw the value of the relationship with Mexico. It was under Speaker Tobin that he was able to get something to open up in the budget to open up a trade office in Mexico that has since expanded to a couple of other offices. I think the current Senate President is fantastic. Karen Fann is a great leader. Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers is as steady as it gets. He is a renaissance man and one of the great artists in the state. I think the state is extremely lucky to have one of the best business people in our state’s history, Governor Doug Ducey, at the helm. We have never had anyone that can sell the state like Doug Ducey, and the results speak for themselves.
Molera: You also left out two individuals that have had an amazing national presence, and you worked with them very closely – Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl.
Hamer: I hope everyone will forgive me. I wanted to get the federal side and thank you for prompting me on that. We both share the blessings of having worked with and for great United States Senators. I worked for Senator Kyl in D.C. for many years, and when I call you Arizona’s youngest statesman, it is not an accident. It is some of the training that you have had along the way. With Senator McCain, the thing I probably enjoyed the most during my time with him was going to events with him and him saying that I worked for him in his personal office during his tenure. Mind you, I did not but, I never corrected him because I’m not correcting John McCain. In fairness, he also said I was the worst employee he ever hired and asked the Chamber to give me a chance, but I will really just miss Senator McCain’s incredible leadership. I think he will go down in history as one of the top 10 United States senators. I believe Senator Kyl is on that same list, and to have both of them working for Arizona for so many years is amazing.
Molera: What is disappointing is that people forget they were extremely partisan, they were very conservative and loved the Republican party, but it seems they had enough confidence in their ideas they would not mind talking to Ted Kennedy on how they needed to persuade him. I believe that is the difference.
Hamer: Governing, governing, governing. All the things that I worked on for Senator Kyl in the 90s are still the law. Why is that? It is because they had bi-partisan support. On some things that Senator Feinstein or Senator Leahy worked on, both Senators Kyl and McCain understood the concept of getting 60 or 70% of the loaf, and having buy-in from the other side is a good thing. Also, I would be remiss to not thank Congressman Matt Salmon whom I worked for on two occasions. He is a great leader in trade. It all started with an internship in D.C. with Congressman Jim Kolbe. My first substantive thing was helping draft a one-minute speech for him on NAFTA in 1992.
Molera: So, now you are headed to Texas. You are going to be starting your new role in the next couple of weeks. What do you think is going to be your biggest challenge there?
Hamer: We have built a great team here, and I have been very lucky with Garrick Taylor. So, building out a great team there will be important. I think for Texas, their economy is five times larger than Arizona. It has 36 congressional seats. It is an export powerhouse, with Texas’s exports being more than California and New York combined. In Texas now, you have an administration on the federal side that is pretty hostile to the oil and gas industry so that will be a challenge. The setup of the 2017 federal tax law, which has been very good for both Arizona and Texas in terms of people moving into our states, is going to be under attack by the new administration likely at some point. So, I think it is going to be a lot of defense on the federal side. Immigration may provide an opportunity, getting more good people into the state is good for the economy. On the state level, liability reform and protections from frivolous COVID lawsuits are probably going to be the top item that we will be working on, which is something we are currently working on in Arizona.
Molera: Well Glenn as you get set-up in Texas, you will always be an Arizonan in my heart. I feel extremely fortunate to have worked with you on so many important things, and also just to be able to call you a friend, so thank you very much.
Hamer: Jaime, it has been a lot of fun along the way, but I would like to stress the Molera Alvarez team’s influence on trade issues. A big reason I have had these opportunities in Arizona, and now in Texas, is because of the things I have learned from you. And it all culminated in Arizona playing the leading role in the passage of the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, which is a boon for all 50 states, but particularly border states. We had some fun along the way, but I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and it’s a great blessing to able to call you a dear friend.