The Arizona Association for Economic Development was founded 40 years ago by 11 forward-thinking business and economic development leaders. What started out as a marketing and networking group with an education component is still very much the same and effective force today.
The association was originally formed as the Arizona Association for Industrial Development (AAID) in 1974 by a small group of economic development professionals and business leaders dedicated to expanding the industrial and economic base of Arizona. This group came together to discuss issues affecting Arizona’s economic development, to promote economic development in the state of Arizona through an interchange of information and educational opportunities among its members, to act as a liaison with outside groups having the same objectives, to influence legislation affecting economic development and to continually improve working relationships among its diverse membership.
“Probably our singular biggest event in those early years was our trip to New York in the winter of 1978,” said Rick Ireland, an early member of AAED. “More than 100 business executives were hosted for lunch at the Plaza Hotel where with the help of Gov. Raul Castro we explained to those in attendance that Arizona was more than sunshine, cactus and cowboys. We were a small group with the single mission of recruiting industry to Arizona.”
The organization has also had a leading role in the establishment of enterprise zones throughout the state and the Arizona Commerce Department, now the Arizona Commerce Authority. The group was also instrumental in helping Arizona State University understand the significance of higher education in economic development.
“We emphasized to ASU how critically important it was for schools, such as engineering, to maintain the highest levels of excellence in its graduates,” Ireland said. “Because without a superior, available workforce, companies such as Honeywell, Digital, IBM or Raytheon would be less-interested in having a presence here.”
Today, the strategic vision of AAED is to be the leading advocate of responsible economic development for all of Arizona by leading the facilitation of public/private cooperation and fostering teamwork to address the growth and quality of life issues that face Arizona.
Over the last four decades, AAED has been able to accomplish many things. In fact, AAED is credited with helping in the location of several corporations, such as Motorola, American Express, Honeywell, Intel and General Motors, to Arizona.
“We are today what we were 40 years ago, an organization that through regularly scheduled meetings serves as a clearinghouse for the exchange of information and ideas that will assist us in promoting job growth opportunities,” said Ireland.
AAED is a blend of both public and private sector members who focus on improving the quality of life and strengthening the business climate in all urban, rural and Native American communities of Arizona. For more information on AAED, visit www.aaed.com or call (602) 240-2233.