Arizonans continue to lose ground in the bid to at least keep pace with national income trends, and that is even more true for Yumans.
New figures released Monday show that the year-over-year gain in per capita personal income in Arizona's six metropolitan areas was no more than 4 percent. And in some cases it was even less.
In Yuma, it was the least of all. With only a 2.8 percent increase from 2010 to 2011, the per capita personal income (personal income divided by population) in Yuma rose from $26,351 to $27,091. Yuma ranked 360 among 366 metro areas in the U.S. for 2011.
Only one city in Arizona ranked lower. Lake Havasu City was ranked 362, and while its per capital personal income lagged behind Yuma, it also saw a larger increase last year of 3.9 percent.
By contrast, the national change between 2010 and 2011 was 4.4 percent according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
It was the first time since 2007 that personal income rose in 2011 in all of the nation's 366 metropolitan statistical areas, according to the agency's estimates. Per capita personal income in the metro areas in 2011 ranged from $78,504 in Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn., to $21,620 in McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas. Per capita personal income for the nation was $41,560.
What makes Arizona's numbers even more bleak is that per capita incomes here are already far below the U.S. average.
Education is critical to turning that around, said Julie Engel, president and CEO of Greater Yuma Economic Development Corporation. Efforts are already under way in Yuma, she said, with the adoption of the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, agriculture, math) curriculum by Yuma Union High School District.
“What we have now are low- and semi-skilled jobs,” Engel said. “The more engineering training, the greater opportunity to attract the industries that pay those higher wages. What we're doing is raising the skill level of the workforce.”
She also would like to see more focus on research and development into solar energy started by Arizona Western College.
Engel is encouraged as well by a campaign, California 50, by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council to convince the CEOs of California companies to move their headquarters to Arizona, promising 40 percent lower operating costs among other incentives.
It's unlikely any of those companies would choose Yuma for their headquarters, but their move to the Phoenix area would benefit the entire state, Engel said. And any relocations probably would attract the interests of other businesses that potentially could consider Yuma.
Gov. Jan Brewer, who has been in office since the beginning of 2009, said she had not seen the report and could not comment Monday on whether it indicates weakness in her economic development policies.
“But I believe that we've been very successful, and we feel comfortable moving forward with what we have done,'' she said.
Engel agreed with the governor, noting that the state's new policies are a long-term investment that will take time to make an impact.
However, she said, “from Yuma's perspective, Brewer's policies are working great. We've gotten several rural grants ... the impact has been felt in Yuma immediately with expansions and relocations of manufacturers.”
Those have led to hundreds of construction and permanent jobs.
Engel also noted that leads she has received from the state have increased 100 percent. And she is excited about a new program where the state will identify, certify and help promote sites in the rural areas for prospective development.
“We're seeing the implementation of programs that support rural Arizona,” she said. “Those have never existed before. We're leveraging local resources with the state's help.”
Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.