Gov. Ducey hosts 20 CEOs at Phoenix Open networking forum

By Eric Jay Toll  Phoenix Business Journal  Feb 3, 2016, 4:15pm MST

It’s been called the biggest networking event on grass.

More people attend the Waste Management Phoenix Open than any other golf tournament in the world.

Companies lay out tens of thousands of dollars for tickets, booths, cabanas and suites to bring in clients for golf, drinks, food and business. Sometimes not even for the golf.

For 20 select invitees, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, will be doing the networking in a private gathering for the second annual CEO forum.

The state invests dollars to bring top-level executives to town from companies that are scoping out sites in Arizona. The invites to final decision-makers from capital-intensive companies with high-value jobs lets economic developers take CEOs on area tours and build relationships.

At the inaugural CEO forum during the Super Bowl, 75 chief executives were invited to join the festivities at the Phoenix Open. Ducey asked Arizona Cardinals CEO Michael Bidwell to organize local CEOs, the Zanjeros, to provide peer-to-peer tour guides.

Arizona Commerce Authority President and CEO Sandra Watson said the group of invitees represent a number of targeted, high-value industries for Arizona, including aerospace and defense, advanced manufacturing, business services, and information technology.

The pipeline from prospect to done deal on an economic development project runs between 12 and 24 months, occasionally longer. CEOs typically don’t get closely involved until after the markets have been whittled down to the final or two finalists. The CEO forum brings the decision-makers to the Phoenix market much earlier in the process. The results are measured months, even a year or two later.

However, sometimes, decisions are made quickly.

Watson said three companies with CEOs attending the forum associated with the College Football National Championship already committed to market expansion in the greater Phoenix area. The trio will invest $17 million in capital and create nearly 500 jobs.

Results from last year’s Super Bowl CEO Forum are still pending with ACA reporting that several companies from that group are still in the hopper. ACA adds that all of the CEOs coming this weekend are new prospects for Arizona opportunities.

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