Small Businesses Continue To Struggle To Fill Job Openings

Small Businesses Continue To Struggle To Fill Job Openings

By Terri Jo Neff |

The struggle to fill job openings continues for mom-and-pop enterprises and other small businesses across the country, according to a report issued Thursday by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

“The labor shortage remains a challenging problem for small business owners,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said of the group’s Jobs Report for October. “Because of staffing shortages, small business owners are less able to take full advantage of current sales opportunities and continue to make business adjustments to compensate,”

The Jobs Report is a monthly, national snapshot of the small-business-owning membership of NFIB in 9 industries — agriculture, construction, finance, manufacturing, professional, retail, services, transportation, and wholesale.

The October 2022 report released Nov. 3 shows that:

  • 23 percent of owners report labor quality as their top business problem, second only to inflation;
  • 61 percent of owners reported hiring—or trying to hire—in October;
  • Of those hiring or trying to hire, 90 percent of owners reported few or no qualified applicants for the open positions;
  • 40 percent of owners have openings for skilled workers while 22 percent are seeking unskilled labor;
  • Transportation (68 percent) and Construction (63 percent) had the most difficulty in October filling job openings.

There are several programs available to Arizona small businesses to assist with hiring issues. One is the Arizona Small Business Development Center Network funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration. There are 10 SBDC Centers in Arizona served through the local community college districts.

Another is Arizona@Work sponsored by the Arizona Commerce Authority and Arizona Department of Economic Security.

Richer Digs In While Public Awaits Decision Of Complaint To Attorney General

Richer Digs In While Public Awaits Decision Of Complaint To Attorney General

By Terri Jo Neff |

AZ Free News has confirmed at least two of Arizona’s 15 county recorders did not put forth an “aye” vote when deciding whether to oppose Proposition 309, despite public assertions by Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer of a unanimous vote.

Prop 309 would tighten the identification requirements for in-person and early ballot voting. On Sept. 29, the Arizona Association of County Recorders (AACR) conducted a “aye or nay” voice vote on issuing a statement in opposition of what is often referred to as universal voter ID.

Many boards and associations make decisions and take positions on a majority-rule basis, but those votes are not publicized as representing the position of each individual member. There was no role call nor record kept of how any of the county recorders voted, yet Richer, who is AACR’s President, listed the names of all 15 recorders on the anti-Prop 309 statement.

As previously reported by AZ Free News, Cochise County Recorder David Stevens took issue with that, as he was out of the country at the time and had not given his chief deputy recorder authority to vote his proxy. In fact, Stevens is pro-Prop 309.

Public records obtained by AZ Free News also show at least one other recorder reported not expressing any vote on the AACR position but opted to not go public, given that the majority of members did vote “aye.”

AACR met on Sept. 29 and took the voice vote about Prop 309 despite nothing on the agenda indicating a vote would be taken. Then on Oct. 4, Richer used his Maricopa County email account to distribute a draft version of the AACR statement to a handful of members for review.

He also used the Maricopa County website and a staffer’s time on the AACR’s anti-Prop 309 letter.

Richer has acknowledged this was an improper use of public resources to influence a ballot measure, and has expressed hope his mea culpa is sufficient to stave off criminal charges in light of a complaint filed with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO).

The AGO has the authority to expand the investigation from Richer’s use of public resources into whether his refusal to correct the record about the AACR vote falls under Arizona’s criminal statutes related to a fraudulent scheme or artifice.

Other public records show the draft version of the anti-Prop 309 statement Richer sent, however, did not include the names of all the county recorders. That feature was added at the suggestion of Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cazares-Kelly.

Richer released a revised draft statement about Prop 309 to the full AACR membership on Oct. 10. The next day, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs received an email from Richer with an advance copy of the statement about 90 minutes before it was released to the public.

Stevens, who did not see the draft, immediately emailed Richer and the other recorders upon learning of the statement’s content. He made clear his position on Prop 309 (he supports it) as well as on the use of his name.

The email also requested Richer “remove my name from this list and issue a retraction immediately.” Richer ignored that request as well as subsequent requests by Stevens.

For now, Stevens is waiting for the outcome of the AGO investigation. There is also a possibility of civil liability under Arizona law for the use of Stevens’ name without his consent.

Phoenix Interim Chief Gets Sworn In With Restricted Peace Officer Certification

Phoenix Interim Chief Gets Sworn In With Restricted Peace Officer Certification

By Terri Jo Neff |

As the city of Phoenix prepares to navigate through a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation, there is a new chief at the helm.

Michael G. Sullivan was sworn-in last Friday as Interim Chief, several weeks after he officially began working for the city under a one year contract with a base pay of $232,000. His swearing-in ceremony came just days after the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training (AZPOST) board approved Sullivan’s application for a restricted certification

The restriction bars Sullivan from being assigned “any duty likely to result in the need to apply physical force.” His contract signed in September gives Sullivan six months to pass all AZPOST training requirements and “satisfactorily perform the practical demonstrations of proficiency in physical conditioning, vehicle operations, pursuit operations, and firearms, including firearms qualifications as required by AZPOST.”

In the meantime, city officials are planning to conduct a nationwide search for a permanent police chief, although no promises have been made to Sullivan if he wishes to stay longer.

Sullivan was hired by Phoenix PD from Baltimore PD where he has spent the last few years helping that agency deal with the fallout of a US DOJ investigation. He previously spent 20 years with Louisville PD in Kentucky.

In public comments, Sullivan has acknowledged there are many challenges facing the department beyond the US DOJ investigation. He has mentioned the agency’s understaffing problem, its lack of accountability and transparency to the community, and dwindling department morale as just some of the issues he needs to tackle while also trying to appease investigators with the US DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

In August 2021, the US DOJ announced it was undertaking a “comprehensive review” of Phoenix PD’s policies, training, supervision, and force investigations. Also under scrutiny will be the department’s “systems of accountability, including misconduct complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition, and discipline.”

The investigation is authorized under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibits state and local governments from engaging in “a pattern or practice of conduct” by law enforcement officers that is in violation of federal law or which deprives individuals of the constitutional rights. The Act allows the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to seek a number of remedies through civil litigation.

ADOT Launches Survey Ahead Of 2050 Transportation Plan

ADOT Launches Survey Ahead Of 2050 Transportation Plan

By Terri Jo Neff |

What will Arizona’s highways and other roadways look like 25 years from now, and what will the transportation needs be across the state?

Those are the key questions the Arizona Department of Transportation must answer as the agency begins updating its 2050 Long Range Transportation Plan, and state officials are turning to the public for help with the answers.

ADOT has launched a survey to seek the public’s input on what priorities should be included in the Long Range Transportation Plan for how ADOT should invest limited resources to meet future transportation needs across the state. The survey is available here and will be open through Dec. 21.

The Long Range Transportation Plan, which ADOT expects to be finalized in May 2023, is not project-specific. Instead, it establishes the strategic priorities, goals, and objectives which will guide ADOT’s transportation investments based on anticipated funding levels. The plan will also identify projected funding gaps to meet transportation system needs.

According to ADOT, the plan will include recommended investment choices, which will define how ADOT intends to allocate future resources across three major investment types:

  • Preservation: Activities to maintain the current state highway system, such as replacing, repairing, or maintaining pavement and repairing or replacing aging bridges.
  • Modernization: Activities to improve safety and operations of the existing state highway system, such as adding shoulders and implementing smart road technologies.
  • Expansion: Activities to add new highways, add lanes to existing highways, or add interchanges.

More information about the plan is available here. The website also includes an option for being added to the mailing list for future updates.

Higher Halloween Candy Prices Were Nothing Compared To Cost For Thanksgiving Dinner

Higher Halloween Candy Prices Were Nothing Compared To Cost For Thanksgiving Dinner

By Terri Jo Neff |

Anyone who bought Halloween candy likely noticed the higher prices and fewer sales. Yet it appears to be just a prelude of things to come heading into Thanksgiving.

Avian flu outbreaks across the country have led to the slaughter of more than 7 million turkeys, resulting in a shortage that has prompted souring supply and demand pricing (up 70 percent per pound from last year) that has been further worsened by inflation.

Turkeys are not the only Thanksgiving staple subject to significantly higher prices this year.

Baking pumpkins are also much more expensive, up 24 percent from last year’s holiday season. And anyone who buys butter or margarine—a must-have for those potatoes and rolls—knows the shortage of sunflower oil (due to the war in Ukraine) and canola oil (due to droughts in Canada) have seen prices creep up all summer along with milk costs.

Add all of that to the recent inflation report which shows most other foods have gone up 15 to 20 percent, and it equals a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner that is going to be costly this year.

Meanwhile, grocery stores and restaurants which typically sell take-home Thanksgiving dinner packages are advising customers to order early, as quantities are limited.

And those trying to escape the higher grocery prices—and cooking time—by dining out won’t see much relief, according to the National Restaurant Association. Restaurants are seeing the same price squeezes, which when added to higher labor costs will translate to higher prices on the menu.

The higher prices for Thanksgiving staples is also expected to squeeze nonprofits across Arizona who count on food donations to provide thousands of free meals to the homeless and low-income families.