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Oh, the Places You’ll Go

It never ends but it’s never dull.

Like many of you, I start my day by scanning the emails, texts and hot news that seemingly fill my phone overnight and I end my day doing the same checks after attending the last meeting or event of the evening. But it’s what happens in between that makes getting out of bed in the morning worthwhile.

In my role as CEO of the Arizona Technology Council, I’m constantly connecting with the some of the most interesting people you can ever imagine: leaders in their field, innovators working on the next big thing, people who shape public policy that affects my industry if not the lives of all of us. It all certainly helps fulfill my desire to be a lifelong learner.

I’d like to take you along as I make some of my rounds. My travels take me throughout the state, to our nation’s capital and at times outside the United States. I obviously can’t give you a debrief of everything that I do but I can share the highlights as I take you behind the scenes and at times behind the headlines.

So, stick with me and let’s see what’s out there.


First, a quick history lesson for the newcomers: Arizona Gov. Paul Fannin took office in 1959 and quickly set out to formalize our state’s ties with our neighbors south of our border. Joining with former Sonora Gov. Álvaro Obregón, they launched what were then known as Arizona-Mexico West Coast Trade Commission and its sister organization, the Comité de Promoción Económica y Social de Sonora-Arizona.

What has transpired between the two states and two countries since then in commerce is phenomenal. Mexico now accounts for about 30% of all Arizona exports to foreign markets, making it our state’s No. 1 trade partner. For 2018, the value of Arizona exports to Mexico exceeded $7.6 billion. Beyond the dollars are the relations—both business and personal—that have evolved.

All of this is what brought me recently to the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix as I joined the crowd attending the Arizona-Mexico Commission 60th Anniversary Summit. It really was a Who’s Who of today’s politicians from both sides of the border. Of course, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey was there as was Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich. Even Arizona Sen. Martha McSally made it a point to attend.

As I made my way through the room, I stopped to trade notes and ideas with people who have become critical to the Council through their ongoing support. Rep. Greg Stanton, who served as Phoenix’s mayor for six years and now represents Arizona’s 9th District, discussed with me the $4.6 billion border aid bill that Congress recently passed. Having voted to support the Senate version of the measure, Stanton agreed with me that the emergency legislation was necessary to provide the resources for addressing the many issues arising in the mass migration from the south.

Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona’s 8th District shared with me how much she is enjoying being one of the newest members of Congress. She mentioned she had to run four times last year—a special election before claiming her own full two-year term—and was happy that was over! I complimented her on staying to network after she speaking at the Summit and was glad to hear her mention that she loves talking with people.

You know how you have those certain friends who like to tease you by giving you a hard time? For me, that’s Rep. David Schweikert, who serves Arizona’s 6th District. Man, with friends like that … Still, I always enjoy—kinda—when our paths cross.

I had a great time talking with Jeff Trent, president and research director of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), about our recent trip to Mexico City as part of the City of Phoenix trade mission. After meeting with a professional colleague, there may be a collaboration in the works with TGen and Trent’s equivalent in Mexico City. Stay tuned.

On a personal note, I shared tickets to the Phoenix Art Museum and Desert Botanical Garden—I’m a member of both—to Antonio Proto and Ana Maria Araque de Proto, the couple who run the City of Phoenix trade office in Hermosillo. They brought their 8-year-old daughter with them and had asked for advice on where to take her.

In all, it seemed like I chatted up 100 people who were there. Like Lesko, I also love talking with people. So, look to this column space next month to see who I connect with along the way.

Steven G. Zylstra, President & CEO, Arizona Technology Council  

Zylstra is a champion of the value technology can provide in raising social and economic standards, and was named “Leader of the Year, Technology” by the Arizona Capitol Times and “Most Admired Leader” by the Phoenix Business Journal. Besides serving as chairman emeritus of the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), he also is a member of numerous councils, committees and boards.




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