You’ve no doubt had your fill of conjecture and fear from media coverage of the coronavirus. And look what has happened: the economy is seesawing as investors and others hit the panic button, shoppers are cleaning out entire shelves of cleaning supplies and toilet paper that could last the rest of their lives.
C’mon! Yes, when it comes to the coronavirus, the subject is serious. But the power to get through this starts in our hands — literally. Wash your hands for 20 seconds. Wipe down your phones and surfaces. Don’t put the senior members of your family and friends at risk by taking them to crowded places just so they don’t feel isolated in this stressful time.
I’m a person who deals with facts, so allow me to share some with you in an effort to leave you enlightened and hopeful instead of frightened. From the Centers for Disease Control to our own Gov. Doug Ducey, we’re getting the latest news on the few who are affected and what the vast majority of us should be doing to take care of ourselves. And who still hasn’t come to know Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services?
All of this is helping us make decisions for our lives and businesses. For example, the Arizona Technology Council is known for its events that support and educate the state’s technology community. To this point, none have been cancelled, but we will carefully monitor the situation.
What gives me cause for confidence is knowing the solutions to this situation will come through innovation. Do you remember when uttering the word “ebola” made people shudder not too long ago? A drug called ZMapp eventually was developed to treat U.S. aid workers infected with that virus. This solution came about thanks to the pioneering work of Charles Arntzen, a scientist at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute. I was honored to congratulate Arntzen when his efforts were recognized as winner of the Judges Award at the 2015 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation hosted by the Council.
Fast forward to the work of another member organization of the council. Researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, better known as TGen, already have developed and are using a genetic-based test to help doctors quickly determine who is infected with the COVID-19 virus. Already being used to screen patient samples in our state, the test is being submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for rapid approval for use here and elsewhere.
Teamwork has brought these results. It also will help sustain us when we recover our collective focus. I’m referring to the existing supply chains that have been disrupted. Take China, for example. While the vast, faraway country is ground zero for the virus, we’ve all learned that it is a lot closer than many of us had thought.
China is well known to Arizona businesses that have ties through well-established trade routes. According to a report prepared by Trade Partnership Worldwide, there was a net of 132,600 jobs in Arizona in 2017 related to trade with China.
When it comes to exporting, China is Arizona’s No. 3 partner behind Mexico and Canada. China was the destination for 4.4% of Arizona products last year. Those exports were worth more than $1 billion, down slightly from more than $1.2 billion worth of goods shipped there 3 years earlier.
It’s not surprising that technology plays a big role in all this. Figures released by Washington, D.C.-based Trade Partnership revealed the top three categories of goods exported from Arizona to China in 2017 were semiconductors and components (valued at $525 million), aerospace products and products ($105 million), and navigational and measurement instruments ($70 million).
Yes, there no doubt will be a dip in these numbers when the results of 2020 are tallied. But when we return to business as usual — and we will — I expect our partnerships to resume and even grow.
In the meantime, let’s not give in to fearing the future. We’ve been through uncertainty before but always have risen to the occasion. And with the help of innovation, much more promise lies head.
Steve Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.