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From Arizona Five C's to Five T's
Guest Author: Ted Kraver, Ph.D.
When I arrived in Arizona just out of college for my first STEM job, the politicians, economists and business folks were pitching Arizona’s five C’s. All five were “in your face” industries in the early 60’s. As my wife and I came into Arizona for the first time we drove down through the Globe-Miami area. We saw the weirdest looking high hills that came right up to the roadway. Later I learned they were the tailings from COPPER mining and extracting. I bought my first home a few days after arriving in East Mesa. It had a north facing picture window with a view of farm land and the mountains. A few days later I heard the roar of a radial engine. I turned and my picture window was filled with a bi-plane coming right at me – shades of WWI. Before I could even duck it pulled up over my house and turned for its next dusting pass on the COTTON field. Every road we drove on in East Mesa seemed to be bordered by massive CITRUS orchards – oranges, grapefruit and lemons with an occasional Roadrunner darting in front of the car. We would attend meetings and someone was always trying to give away fruit from the citrus trees new home builders had left on their lots. When my mother first visited, she stepped out of the door of the plane onto the boarding stairs. A ghastly look came over her face and she turned to go back inside. She was hit by not only the 110 degree heat but the stench from the CATTLE stockyards, just north of Sky Harbor airport. The final C was our unique CLIMATE. The one main reason I was not tempted to leave Arizona is that I have never really gotten the chill out of my bones. I was reared in northern Ohio within the “lake-effect” blizzards south of Cleveland and the biting cold during college in Massachusetts.
The five C’s are still with us but new economic drivers are now touted as the five T’s by our governance folks. The T’s are less physically obvious compared to the C’s and are still being sorted out.
When a sophisticated economic or business presentation is made, it usually focuses on TECHNOLOGY. Technology is not only one of the core STEM themes, but well over a thousand Arizona technology based enterprises in aerospace, defense, telecommunication, electronics, computers, data, microchips, optics, biotech, energy, healthcare and software have grown to global prominence. Enhancing and filling the gaps in our TRANSPORTATION system of highway, rail, air, pipeline and broadband telecommunication is vital for our commerce and industry and pursuit of happiness by our citizens. The five C’s climate was mainly TOURISM which is still strong. With switch from evaporative coolers of the 1950’s to air conditioners of today, Arizona is now a year round attraction from the high country to our deserts. Our biggest five T’s challenge is TEACHING/TRAINING. We have exemplar schools, public and private universities, and training for our workforce. But exemplars don’t scale by themselves. Only with significant new investments in the $billions can we graduate 100,000 STEM savvy students each year and significantly shrink our high drop-out rates in all schools. A major investment in the transformation of our Arizona job training system to serve our 21st century five T system is also mandatory. Finally Arizona’s complex TAX and public investment system must be redesigned and transformed into a 21st century system. Only then can Arizona realize our potential as nation leading state.
I will miss the fun I have had with the five C’s. But I am looking for to a reprise of the aggressive collaboration that our ranch, farm, mine, power, road and canal folks had to bring Arizona into the economic main stream a century ago. It is up to the follow-on generations of governance, education, business and technology folks to work together for Arizona to benefit from the emerging five T’s.