Solar energy urged by Yuma legislators
With all the sunshine in the Yuma area, local business leaders hope a bill in the Arizona Legislature could help bring renewable energy companies to the area and stimulate the economy.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Barbara Leff of the Phoenix area and currently in the Senate is designed to add incentives for renewable energy producers, such as companies that produce solar energy, to come to Arizona.
Julie Engel, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp., which helped provide research for the bill, said she hopes the legislators act now - before they've "missed the boat" - because companies are quickly choosing to locate in other states, such as Oregon and New Mexico, that already have great incentives in place.
"This is the right time to do this. We don't want to lose the opportunity to bring companies right now that are looking at different states," said state Sen. Amanda Aguirre of Yuma, who said she supports the bill.
State Rep. Lynne Pancrazi of Yuma said she'll also support the bill if and when it makes its way to the House. She agrees the Legislature needs to act now, before Arizona loses more business to rival states.
Engel said every aspect of the renewable energy industry, such as manufacturing the parts, harvesting the energy and even the consumer base, has the potential to impact rural areas such as Yuma.
Language in the bill provides that companies pay workers at least 125 percent of the state's median wage, according to a study by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, which means bringing companies to Arizona won't just create jobs - it will create good-paying jobs.
The companies that come to Arizona will get incentives such as property tax credits and income tax credits, that Engel said are competitive with states such as Oregon and New Mexico.
Engel said the state should recover any revenue lost in the long run.
State Rep. Russ Jones of Yuma agrees.
"It's a balancing act," Jones said, talking about providing enough incentives to bring in companies but still creating revenue for the state.
"You're giving out tax revenue to get them in here," Jones said. But, he said, the state will receive revenue such as taxes from the newly created jobs, and sales tax when the workers spend money.
Engel said there's a potential to create jobs at "every leg" and "every branch" of the process.
"The potential of job creation from renewable energy will be the biggest thing the United States has seen since the auto industry," Engel said.
It's resources that the Yuma area already has such as land and an available work force that make it good for the area, said Ken Rosevear, executive director of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce.
With a portion of the federal stimulus bill going toward training for workers in the renewable energy industry, Engel said, bringing the companies to the area is also a win-win for local military personnel because there will be opportunities for servicemen and women with the GI Bill to enter into the renewable energy work force.
Aguirre said she hopes the bill goes through. Currently, the Senate is not hearing bills until the Legislature finalizes the 2010 budget.
Stephanie A. Wilken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6857.