August Bankruptcy Filings in Arizona Hit Highest Mark Of Year

August Bankruptcy Filings in Arizona Hit Highest Mark Of Year

By Terri Jo Neff |

Financial eyes are focused on data recently released by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona showing August had the highest number of new filings this year, while also being the first month of 2022 to have more new filings than the same month in 2021.

Bankruptcy filings are considered a lagging indicators of financial stress and economic health, and the number of new filings goes up and down from month to month. However, billions of dollars from various federal stimulus programs have ebbed in 2022, meaning no more Paycheck Protection Program, no CARES stimulus checks to individuals, and the end of the federal foreclosure moratorium.

Some Arizona families and businesses may no longer have a lifeboat, according to commercial debt collection company ABC/Aemga.

“Companies that have struggled throughout the pandemic, but were kept afloat by stimulus money and generous lenders, may face trouble during the rest of 2022 and into 2023 once those funds run out, as the Fed continues to tighten its ultra-loose monetary policy by reducing asset holdings and raising the Fed Funds Rate target, and credit conditions start to tighten,” the company warns.

Sectors such as retail, construction, health care, and certain manufacturers adversely affected by higher raw material and labor costs remain particularly vulnerable, while travel, hospitality, commercial real estate, consumer goods, entertainment, midstream oil and gas, and power and other energy infrastructure also face pressure and uncertainty, according to ABC/Amega.

For the first eight months this year, there were 5,879 new filings statewide, down from 6,765 for the same period in 2021. Slightly more than 12 percent of this year’s new cases were filed pro se, or without legal representation.

If the August pace continues for the rest of 2022 the total filings for the year in Arizona will come close to last year’s total of 9,353. By comparison, there were 12,903 filings in Arizona in 2020 and 16,237 in 2019.

The majority of new cases filed in the state as of Aug. 31 this year were under Chapter 7 (4,803) followed distantly by Chapter 13 (1,029) and Chapter 11 (46). There has also been a lone Chapter 12 filing.

While households and businesses in Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties lead in filings of as Aug. 31 at 3,887, 896, 439 respectively, Yavapai and Mohave counties have similar totals at 151 and 146 respectively.

The three border counties of Cochise, Santa Cruz, and Yuma have 80, 42, and 106, respectively. Meanwhile, Apache (4), Coconino (29), Gila (28), Graham (17), Greenlee (3), LaPaz (7), and Navajo (44) represent less than 2.3 percent of all filings in the state as of Aug. 31.

Sierra Vista Company Ranks In Top 5 Fastest Growing In State

Sierra Vista Company Ranks In Top 5 Fastest Growing In State

By Terri Jo Neff |

A Sierra Vista-based company which started with just one government contract in 2017 has been named to Inc. Magazine’s 5000 fastest growing private companies in America, ranking in the top five in Arizona and number 158 nationwide with more than 3,200 percent growth the last three years.

Nemean Solutions provides a variety of services to the U.S. military, as well as state and federal agencies in support of America’s Defense, Intelligence, and Aerospace sectors. It ranks #5 of the 154 honorees based in Arizona, with those companies accounting for $18.5 billion in total revenue and more than 12,000 jobs, according to the magazine.

The company’s three-year growth also ranked #4 of the 120 businesses nationwide in the Government Services industry to make the 5,000 list in 2022. They far outpaced their Arizona competitors MO Studio (ranked 2,088) and Vector Solutions (ranked 4,743).

Nemean Solutions was founded by Craig Mount and Simon Ortiz in Mount’s kitchen in Sierra Vista with plans to offer intelligence contracting at the U.S. Army’s Fort Huachuca. Today it employs nearly 80 full-timers and dozens of part-timers as a certified SBA 8a Native Hawaiian-Owned and veteran-operated company.

Mount, a former Sierra Vista city councilmember, told AZ Free News he and Ortiz started the company with $5,000. It then took six months for the two former U.S. Army members to get all the clearances necessary to work at secured military installations before receiving about $80,000 in contracts.

Two year later, Nemean Solutions had its SBA 8a certification which allows the company to receive sole source service contracts of up to $100 million per award. Today, Mount serves as president and Ortiz as CEO of the company which could end the year with more than $8 million in revenue.

“We want to thank our partners at Ho’okahua Hawaiian Foundation, our fantastic mentors at Trideum Corporation, our amazing banking team at Bank of America -Chris Patty, Christa Williams and Edward Spenceley- for putting the fuel into the machine, the ever patient Kelly McBride and her outstanding team at Global Dynamic Consulting, Inc. keeping the wheels on, and all our amazing industry teaming partners,” Mount said.

But most of all, he acknowledged “the Pride of Nemean” as he calls the company’s “incredible employees and their families who dedicate their professional time, energy, talent and experience to deliver Unbreakable Values and Superior Solutions to our nation’s military in fourteen states.”

Ortiz also gave credit to two Sierra Vista business development experts for their support over the years with Nemean Solutions’ growth.

“Mark Schmidt and his team at the Cochise College Small Business Development Center have been amazing in championing for Sierra Vista’s small business community and for us at Nemean,” Ortiz told AZ Free News. “Also, we would be remiss in not giving credit to Mignonne Hollis of the Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation for helping us establish our headquarters in Sierra Vista.”

Nemean Solutions is a key Cybersecurity services provider for U.S. Army 7th Signal Command (Theater), U.S. Army NETCOM, U.S. Army CSLA, and the U.S. Air Force, offering Risk Management Framework support services and Cyber Electromagnetic Activities Subject Matter Support and Emerging Threat for U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force commands.

It also employs expert Administrative and Project Management Professionals to support critical missions for the U.S. Army including the Intelligence Center or Excellence, U.S. Army Mission Command Center of Excellence, and Army Research Office.

Other Nemean Solutions employees are experts in Military Support, Military Intelligence and Intelligence Operations Support, providing critical mission support for the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, and U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command.

And the company currently provides vital Information Technology Services for U.S. Army CECOM, U.S. Army NETCOM, and the U.S. Navy through a leadership team which has over a decade of Department of Defense Joint Live, Virtual, and Constructive Modeling & Simulation and Experimentation Support.

In addition to the recent recognition by INC. Magazine, Nemean Solutions was the recipient of the 2022 SBA Arizona Small Business Development Center’s Success Award, the 2021 and 2020 HIRE VETS Platinum Medallion awards from the U.S. Department of Labor, and the 2021 SBA SBDC Arizona Veteran-Owned Congressional Business Economic Impact Success Story.

Tucson Prepares to Increase Costs by Requiring Electric Vehicle Charging Stations at New Buildings

Tucson Prepares to Increase Costs by Requiring Electric Vehicle Charging Stations at New Buildings

By Corinne Murdock |

Last Tuesday, the Tucson City Council mandated new multifamily residential, office, and commercial buildings increase their costs by requiring them to be outfitted with electric vehicle charging stations. The new requirement, Ordinance No. 11953, takes effect on December 1 (the council agreed to that date during last Tuesday’s meeting, not the one written into the ordinance linked).

The council also allowed builders to reduce regular parking by up to 30 percent in order to incentivize electric vehicle usage. 

This latest mandate is an expansion of an ongoing initiative by the council to make all of Tucson electric vehicle-friendly. Last summer, the council mandated that all new single and duplex homes have electric vehicle charging. As part of that mandate, the council launched planning efforts to draft this latest requirement. 

Mayor Regina Romero insisted during last Tuesday’s council meeting that the city needed to keep up with the federal government’s climate change initiatives. Romero alluded that electric vehicles were the answer to the historically high gas prices, which she acknowledged was hurting people. 

The resounding sentiment of the council was that climate change necessitated immediate action in the form of electric vehicle infrastructure expansion. 

However, some researchers report that the mining and production of electric vehicle batteries negate the environmental benefits of driving electric through carbon emissions and water depletion. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejects those observations, along with concerns that the electricity generated for charging creates other negative environmental impacts. 

Yang Shao-Horn, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineering professor, indicated that battery production processes aren’t environmentally friendly. 

“If we don’t change how we make materials, how we make chemicals, how we manufacture, everything will essentially stay the same,” stated Shao-Horn.

There’s also concern over the toxic waste of expired electric vehicle batteries. Apart from that issue, crashes or manufacturing mishaps may result in batteries emitting toxic fumes at best or fires and explosions at worst

Only 64 members of the public reportedly offered input to the city council; about 50 (80 percent) expressed support for the requirement, with 26 (40 percent) insisting that the requirement should go further.

Tucson’s electric vehicle initiative aligns with state goals. In June, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) announced the development of a statewide network of electric vehicle charging stations using over $76 million in federal funds. At present, ADOT is gathering public input.

ADOT last held a public meeting in mid-July to provide updates and gather public input. 

Watch the council’s decision to require electric vehicle charging at new buildings below:

The city plans to review the impact of their requirement after one year of its implementation. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Arizona Governor Lands In Taiwan To Kick Off 5 Day Trade Mission

Arizona Governor Lands In Taiwan To Kick Off 5 Day Trade Mission

By Terri Jo Neff |

Foreign trade missions are a tool for key industry and government leaders to develop international business opportunities by meeting face to face. And right now, Gov. Doug Ducey is in Taiwan for one such trip that will include time in the Republic of Korea.

Ducey’s office says his five-day trade mission will “focus on strengthening Arizona’s well-established partnerships with the two Asian partners,” including meetings with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaushieh Joseph Wu, and U.S. Ambassador Philip Seth Goldberg.

“Arizona has excellent relationships with Taiwan and the Republic of Korea,” Ducey said in announcing his arrival in Taipei on Tuesday. “The goal of this trade mission is to take these relationships to the next level – to strengthen them, expand them and ensure they remain mutually beneficial.”

Bilateral trade totaled $1.92 billion between Arizona and Taiwan last year along with $882 million between Arizona and the Republic of Korea, commonly known as South Korea. The governor’s itinerary includes delivering the keynote address to a group of American and Taiwanese business leaders as well as meeting with leaders of high-tech manufacturing companies.

“Arizona enjoys strong economic partnerships rooted in sectors such as technology and manufacturing – specifically within the semiconductor industry,” said Ducey, who is accompanied on the trip by Sandra Watson, who is the President and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, as well as Danny Seiden, the President of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Among those involved in the trade mission are officials with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) which plans to train nearly 750 Arizona employees in Taiwan as part of the company’s $12 billion semiconductor facility being built in Arizona. Chip production is expected to begin at the Arizona plant by 2024.

Another itinerary item has the governor celebrating the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the State of Arizona and the Taiwan Ministry of Education. The MOU is signed by the Arizona Board of Regents and its counterpart in Taiwan for the purpose of promoting collaboration in higher education and workforce training, according to Ducey’s office.

The state budget this year included legislation establishing Arizona’s first foreign trade offices in Taiwan and the Republic of Korea. Those offices are expected to launch later this year.

Ducey’s trip to Asia follows a five-day economic mission to Israel in May which focused on increasing trade and investment between Arizona and Israel, as well as addressing drought issues. It was the governor’s second official visit to the country.

MORE ABOUT GOVERNOR DUCEY’S ISRAEL TRIP

Arizona Republic’s Parent Company to Cut Salaries, Start Layoffs Following $54 Million Loss

Arizona Republic’s Parent Company to Cut Salaries, Start Layoffs Following $54 Million Loss

By Corinne Murdock|

Gannett, parent company to the Arizona Republic, will commence layoffs and diminish salaries following a poor second quarter last week.

Gannett, which also owns half of the Arizona Daily Star, said in a press release that this “significant cost reduction program” would help pay down $150 to $200 million of their debt. The media conglomerate reported a net loss of $53.7 million, or over 7 percent of its margin. Gannett also experienced a 7 percent decrease in revenues, despite digital revenues increasing 1.5 percent to make up 35 percent of total revenues.

The Tucson Sentinel said that its sources confirmed that Gannett tasked managers with layoffs. Poynter sources clarified that salary cuts will have a 10 percent minimum, and that layoffs begin on Friday. 

These layoffs will come, despite Gannett’s participation in initiatives like the Big Tech-funded program, Report for America, which supplied and covered portions of reporter salaries at 21 of its papers, including the Arizona Republic. The paper has hired three Report for America reporters so far. Report for America received an undisclosed sum of $5,000 to $50,000 from Gannett.

Report for America covers at least half of its reporters’ salaries the first year, a third of their salaries the second year, and just under a quarter of their salaries the third year, with the offer to cover the remainder of these salaries through fundraising.

The Arizona Republic subscriber base has declined over the years. According to their latest Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, their daily circulation was just over 109,000, with a Sunday circulation of over 320,200. That’s about 1.5 percent and 4 percent of the total Arizona population, respectively, and marks a decline of over 7,000 from 2020. 

In 2019, their circulation numbers fell below 100,000, marking the steepest decline among Gannett papers. 

The SEC filing reflected that the Arizona Republic is Gannett’s fourth-largest major news publication, with the third-largest daily and Sunday circulations. 

USA Today has a daily circulation of nearly 781,200 and a Sunday circulation of nearly 534,600; Detroit Free Press has a daily circulation of over 83,700 and a Sunday circulation of over 896,600; and the Columbus Dispatch has a daily circulation of nearly 137,800 and a Sunday circulation of over 134,700.  

Comparatively, the New York Times reported a $76 million profit for their second quarter despite being a smaller company than Gannett. 

Gannett’s report inspired new criticisms from its journalists and their unions across the country. The Media Guild of the West indicated that Gannett’s recent decline occurred because the conglomerate was more concerned with corporate lobbying than sustaining newsrooms. 

The guild cited Gannett’s network-wide advertising and editorial campaign in support of the Journalism Competition and Protection Act (JCPA) to remove antitrust restrictions preventing Gannett from being paid for content to appear on the platform feeds of social media giants like Google and Facebook.

The guild noted that Gannett authorized its CEO to buy more company stock rather than invest in retaining journalists.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Business Groups Decry Impact Of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act

Business Groups Decry Impact Of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act

By Terri Jo Neff |

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is hoping the U.S. House of Representatives takes a hard look at H.R. 5376, which was formerly known as the Build Back Better Act until being recently rechristened as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

“Arizona job creators oppose the vast majority of the provisions in this bill,” Chamber CEO Danny Seiden said Sunday after the U.S. Senate passed the legislation on party lines. “This bill will not reduce inflation and it will not make the U.S. economy more competitive. Renaming a massive tax and spending bill the Inflation Reduction Act does not improve it.”

Seiden says Sen. Kyrsten Sinema met with Arizona business stakeholders to hear their concerns and did help blunt some of the more harmful provisions, especially those which impact manufacturing businesses already doubly hit by inflation and supply chain disruptions

He also acknowledged there are a few beneficial elements of H.R. 5376 such as provisions which encourage continued business investment and provide significant drought resiliency funding to promote a water secure future.

But despite some of “positive aspects,” Seiden insists H.R. 5376 leaves much to be desired. Which is why he and other state business leaders are calling on Arizona’s nine Representatives to take a closer look at the bill in advance of an expected Aug. 12 vote.

“With the bill headed to the House, we would encourage the Arizona delegation to consider the legislation’s negative effect on Arizona jobs,” Seiden said, adding that that renaming the unpopular Build Back Better Act does not improve the fact the legislation is a massive tax and spending bill.

The legislation is estimated to raise $740 billion in additional revenue from new taxes as well as more enforcement of existing tax laws. It also authorizes $430 billion in new spending, although a more thorough analysis by the Congressional Budget Office has not been completed.

One thing the CBO already knows, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders said on the Senate Floor, is that what he labeled the “so-called” Inflation Reduction Act will have “a minimal impact on inflation.”

The CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers also expressed disappointment with H.R. 5376. According to Jay Timmons, the Inflation Reduction Act will stifle manufacturing investment in America, undermining the very businesses which kept America’s economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To be sure, (the bill) was worse before Sen. Sinema worked to protect some areas of manufacturing investment,” Timmons said. “But the final bill is still bad policy and will harm our ability to compete in a global economy.”

Also speaking out against H.R. 5376 is the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, whose members will be directly impacted by Medicare drug price controls included in the legislation.

“They say they’re fighting inflation, but the Biden administration’s own data show that prescription medicines are not fueling inflation,” said PhRMA CEO Stephen Ubl. “And they say the bill won’t harm innovation, but various experts, biotech investors and patient advocates agree that this bill will lead to fewer new cures and treatments for patients battling cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.”