A little history: The Greater Phoenix Economic Council was formed in the aftermath of the 1990 recession. Fueled by savings-and-loan grifters and spec-building con artists (Charlie Keating combined both roles), it was the worst downturn the city had faced since the Depression.
Up to that point, of course.
It stung that the "infamous" and "negative" Barron's article calling out Phoenix was correct. But there were enough locally headquartered companies, civic stewards and sane political leaders remaining to be concerned about more than image. Phoenix and Arizona started a serious effort to diversify beyond real estate, to recapture the efforts of the late 1940s through the 1960s aimed at creating a robust, high-quality economy.
And for several years, GPEC was successful. The keys were the first president, Ioanna Morfessis, who had a sophisticated understanding of economic competitiveness and development; also, she was backed by a board of business titans who could knock heads and write checks. One other element helped: the city of Phoenix was still the unquestioned center of gravity.
Unfortunately, the decade saw 40 percent population growth and massive new sprawl. At the same time, most of the city's corporate crown jewels were either bought or significantly downsized and almost all the stewards died or retreated. The appetite to seriously build a quality economy, to sustain the cluster strategy, waned. In this "drunk on growth" atmosphere, Morfessis left.
She was followed by Rick Weddle and Barry Broome, both capable. But GPEC and the metropolitan area had changed dramatically.