Sandra Watson
CEO – Arizona Commerce Authority


As I write this, a fifth-generation wireless network, known as 5G, is making its worldwide debut at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. By 2020, an estimated 50 billion Internet of Things (IOT) devices will be globally connected. And the ability to sequence a person’s genome for a mere $100 is already on the horizon.

The speed and scale at which transformation is occurring in today’s marketplace is truly unprecedented.

Arizona recognizes this presents an incredible opportunity, and we are perfectly positioned to capitalize on these transformations and advance our state as a global leader in innovation.

The Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) launched our new five-year business plan in September, guided by Governor Doug Ducey and the ACA’s public-private Board of Directors.

Titled “Leveraging Next-Gen Trends to Grow Arizona’s Economy,” our plan not only continues to focus on growing high-value targeted industries, it also includes 10 next-gen tech trends that represent emerging growth sectors and jobs of the future:


Autonomous Vehicles

Internet of Things

Renewable Energy

Education Technology

Fresh Water Science

Agricultural Technology

Personalized Medicine


Smart Materials



The business plan also outlines the following ACA goals for the next five years:

Lead efforts to create 80,000 projected new jobs in high-wage industries

Increase average wage of jobs created to 150 percent of the state’s median wage

Attract $7 billion in capital investment

Expand export revenues by 25 percent

Elevate Arizona to a Top 5 state as measured by entrepreneurial density, funding and connectivity.

If you’ve been reading the headlines, you know we are already off to a great start. Governor Ducey’s entrepreneurial mindset has encouraged smart, savvy innovators to come to Arizona – and in doing so – they are finding a welcoming place to test, launch and scale new business models.

For example, Arizona is widely known for developing the blueprint for autonomous vehicle testing in the country, evidenced by this headline in the New York Times just a few short months ago: “Where Self-Driving Cars Go To Learn.” Uber, GM, Ford, Cruise and Waymo (formerly Google’s self-driving vehicle project) all test autonomous vehicles here. And Local Motors developed “Ollie,” the self-driving bus, right here in Arizona.

When we make predictions about emerging high-growth industries, it’s important to look at the seeds being planted today that are representative of our innovation economy.

Just last month, Governor Ducey and Nikola Motor Company announced the company’s selection of Buckeye for its hydrogen-electric semi-truck manufacturing headquarters and research & development operations. The project is expected to create more than 2,000 projected new jobs and more than $1 billion in capital investment by 2024.

That followed Lucid Motor’s announcement to locate its luxury electric vehicle manufacturing operation in Casa Grande, a plan that is projected to create 2,000 new jobs and $700 million in capital investment.

In addition, Belmont partners recently unveiled plans to invest $80 million in developing a “smart city” from scratch west of Phoenix. The community will be designed around high-speed networks, self-driving cars, data centers and other digital-centric features. In addition, many existing Arizona municipalities are advancing connected cities initiatives.

These 21st century pioneers have chosen Arizona because we embrace and encourage new business models, and also because of Arizona’s tried and true value proposition: We are a place with exceptional talent, a great quality of life, affordability, limited regulation, and access to capital.

In short, it boils down to the perfect combination of “people, place and policy.”

We’re a Top 10 state for qualified talent (people); our geographic location is adjacent to some of the world’s largest economies and trucks carrying goods can reach 70 million consumers in a day’s drive (place); and our elected and business leaders are committed to strategies that enhance growth and innovation (policy).

As the state’s economic development agency, we’ll continue to work closely with our partners in the private sector and academia to continually enhance our capabilities and leverage Arizona’s status as a hub for new and emerging industries.

With this momentum, I am confident that the next five years – and beyond – will be ones of great success for Arizona!