Sunday, April 21

Is Arizona’s Brand Toxic to State Business Environment?

As Arizona Republic writer Laurie Roberts reminds us, it’s been eight months since Governor Doug Ducey announced a new plan to rebrand the Grand Canyon State.

Ducey wants to spend part of this $250,000 rebranding campaign on a new state motto (the current motto is Ditat Deus, latin for God Enriches).

When the Arizona Commerce Authority solicited submissions for a new Arizona state motto, the public obliged with a litany of possible new slogans: “Welcome to Mexico,” “Arizona…heat today, heat tomorrow,” “Arizona: Going backwards into the future since 1912,” “What federal government?,” “But it’s a dry hate,” “The Wingnut State,” and “Lower Taxes, Lower Test Scores.”

In short, Arizona has developed a reputation, particularly in the coastal regions of America, as a right-wing state with ambivalent attitudes to immigration and diversity, at least liberal-style diversity.

And as North Carolina’s recent debacle over religious freedom “bathroom bills” demonstrates, this perception — whether real or imagined — can have disastrous effects on attracting investment dollars and business to a state. Mississippi passed a similar religious freedom law, which led to an international backlash, while Georgia Governor Nathan Deal eventually vetoed a similar law giving certain organizations new rights to refuse services.

In a new editorial recently published in The Arizona Republic, the paper’s staff reminds Arizona residents about the state’s recent “flirtation” with religious freedom laws:

More déjà vu for Arizona.

Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed our state’s so-called “right to refuse service” bill, SB 1062, in 2014. The veto was a smart move that reflected the will of the business community.

The veto did not, however, erase the stigma attached to the state after Brewer signed the draconian immigration bill, SB 1070, in 2010. That law made international news as the “show me your papers” law. It remains a big reason Ducey needs to burnish the state’s brand.

The editorial urges Ducey to spend less time worrying about mottos and more time avoiding controversial legislation. In some ways, Ducey’s rebranding campaign is in line with a philosophy that says government should be run more like a business. And with 63% of businesses saying they’re focusing more on “customer experience,” it’s no wonder state governments are doing the same.

The $250,000 Arizona re-brand certainly sounds like a corporate-style re-brand: the “$250,000 effort will research out-of-state impressions of the Grand Canyon state, conduct focus groups, audit Arizona’s current image, and come up with messages that share the state’s story.”

The editorial concludes, “Ducey needs to be particularly careful about what he’s willing to support. Arizona’s brand doesn’t need any more challenges.”

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