Business Executive Warns Federal Budget Bill Will Stunt Arizona’s Economic Growth

Business Executive Warns Federal Budget Bill Will Stunt Arizona’s Economic Growth

By Terri Jo Neff |

On Monday, the CEO of Phoenix-based Ritoch-Powell and Associates warned of the impacts of the corporate tax increase and cuts to deductions currently included in the Biden Administration’s federal budget bill.

“These tax increases mean business owners will hire fewer workers – and pay them less for their labor,” Karl Obergh wrote in an op-ed published by the Arizona Republic. “Similarly, the bill contains a variety of other measures, including ones that will limit which interest expenses businesses can deduct from their taxable income.”

Obergh is principal and CEO at Ritoch-Powell and Associates, an award-winning civil engineering and surveying firm which specializes in transportation, public works, renewable energy, and private development projects. He noted that Arizona companies could pay a combined state and federal income tax rate of more than 30 percent under the Biden Administration’s proposed budget.

Only 4.69 percent of that goes to Arizona’s treasury.

But it is not only increased federal corporate tax rates which should have Arizonans concerned, Obergh wrote. He pointed out that increased utility costs triggered by other provisions of the federal budget bill would hit residents in the wallet as well.

And then there is the impact of tax changes proposed by the White House for companies that do business outside the United States.  

According to Obergh, Arizona State University’s Seidman Research Institute recently collaborated with Ernst & Young to study the likely effect of some of the international tax changes included in Biden’s budget bill.  

The study found that 266 firms based in Arizona with 100 or more employees would be impacted, putting up to 27,000 jobs at risk. Particularly vulnerable would be the state’s booming manufacturing industry which would be placed at an economic disadvantage in competing with companies outside the U.S. with far lower tax rates.

Obergh’s concerns are shared by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chaired by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida.  

“Joe Biden, Mark Kelly, and Senate Democrats are pushing a radical economic agenda that includes 40 tax hikes on Arizona families and job creators to pay for a reckless spending spree that will send our nation on the path towards socialism,” according to a statement released by NRSC on Monday.

Copper Mine From 1880s Set To Reopen In 2022 To Advantage Strong Pricing

Copper Mine From 1880s Set To Reopen In 2022 To Advantage Strong Pricing

By Terri Jo Neff |

Excitement is growing in northern Cochise County after the announcement that multiple jobs will be created in early 2022 when Excelsior Mining Corp. reactivates the historic Johnson Camp Copper Mine which was first opened in the 1880s about 65 miles east of Tucson.

Johnson Camp Mine has not produced copper ore in nearly a decade but reopening the mine will allow Excelsior to take advantage of copper’s strong price. In turn, the company will use those revenues to pay for a neutralization plant for its newly opened Gunnison Copper Project, which has produced far less copper cathode than it forecasted.   

Excelsior’s Gunnison Copper Project situated one mile from Johnson Camp Mine along Interstate 10 opened last year with limited operations. It is expected to produce 125 million pounds per annum of 99.99 percent copper cathode when fully operational, but this year’s goal was only 25 million pounds.

On Oct. 20, Senior VP Robert Winton said the company has produced less than 1 million pounds to date. The problem, according to Winton and CEO Stephen Twyerould, is that carbon dioxide (CO2) has shown up in Gunnison’s in-situ recovery wellfield.

The villain, they say, is calcite, a naturally-present mineral which creates CO2 when it reacts with the leaching solution injected into the wellfield.

Winton says a fix to the CO2 issue has been identified, but it will take months to update the current wells. In the meantime, company officials have decided to make improvements at the Johnson Camp Mine in order to generate higher revenues next year.

The comments by Twyerould and Winton were made during a webinar hosted by Amvest Capital, a New York-based specialist investment management and corporate finance firm focused solely on the natural resource sector.

Johnson Camp Mine and its existing SX-EW plant can provide up to five years of production from its Copper Chief Pit and the Burro Pit, which Winton says have “a lot of near surface copper.”  After construction of a new leach pad and issuance of amended state permits, Johnson Camp is expected to commence production in the second half of 2022.

That means Excelsior’s current staff of about 60 (employees and consultants) will need to be bolstered, bringing much needed fulltime jobs to the Benson and Willcox areas.  

According to Winton, the presence of calcite was known from geological studies, but the extent of its impact was not understood until production began at Gunnison last year. 

“Calcite was certainly understood in the prework, metallurgical costs, and certainly the feasibility study which is fundamentally an acid consumption discussion,” he said. “However, the negative impacts of CO2 and how they really impacted our flow rate was certainly not envisioned and certainly became the fundamental focus of our ramp up challenges.”

The good part, Winton said, is that the calcite reaction can be managed, which is why construction of a neutralization plant funded by Johnson Camp Mine revenues is Excelsior’s immediate focus.

In 2014, the Johnson Camp property was the main asset of Nord Resources, which was forced into court-ordered receivership by creditors after years of underperformance. Then in late 2015, Excelsior Mining obtained the blessing of a Pima County judge to buy out Nord Resources’ assets.

The company then purchased thousands of surrounding acres, including the site where Gunnison Copper Project’s North Star copper deposit is located. But Excelsior officials are not putting all of their eggs in the copper basket.

Last month Twyerould released a preliminary economic assessment of another company asset, the Strong and Harris copper-zinc-silver deposit located on the northside of I-10 a few miles from Johnson Camp.  

Twyerould said that if mining is undertaken at the Strong and Harris deposit it would be by traditional open pit, followed by high-grade underground mining of the remaining sulfides at the bottom of the pit. However, he cautioned that it is still too early to know if mining will be feasible.

“Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability,” he said.

Excelsior also has landholdings in the historic Turquoise Mining District, also referred to as the Courtland-Gleeson District, located approximately 30 miles southeast of the Johnson Camp Mine.

Excelsior Mining is using a six-step in-situ recovery process to produce 99.99 percent pure copper cathode sheets. The process starts with a leaching solution pumped through injection wells which have been sunk over the ore body. This is known as the wellfield.

The leaching solution then moves through naturally fractured rock and dissolves the copper. Multiple recovery wells surrounding each injection well then extract the copper-rich solution, also known as pregnant solution.

The fourth step is for the solution to be pumped to the surface for further processing during which copper is extracted from the solution and turned into copper cathode sheets. Finally, the mining solution is recycled back to the well field to be reused.

Throughout the leaching process, Excelsior Mining utilizes differential pumping and natural impermeable barriers to keep the fluids from migrating beyond the wellfield.

American Legion Preps For National Convention In Phoenix

American Legion Preps For National Convention In Phoenix

By Terri Jo Neff |

More than 7,500 members of the American Legion family are expected to converge at the Phoenix Convention Center later this month for the 102nd National Convention of the American Legion and the 100th Convention of the American Legion Auxiliary.

The event runs from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2, and estimates show Convention will contribute $10 to $15 million to the Phoenix economy through shopping, dining, and tourism expenditures. Attendees will utilize about 15,000 hotel room-nights.

Michael E. Walton, chairman of the American Legion National Convention Commission, says it is the third time in 20 years that Convention will be held in Phoenix.

“We are delighted to come back to Phoenix,” Walton said. “Many Legionnaires have fond memories of our previous conventions held there in 1991 and 2008.”

Walton noted Arizona is home to seven active military bases and about one-half million veterans. “The state is unquestionably patriotic,” Walton said, adding that organizers believe the event can be conducted safely despite COVID-19 concerns.

For the last several weeks, top American Legion officials have promoted a video about public health “ground rules” which will be in place at Convention. Those rules -which include face masks and social distancing- will be mandatory because the event is being held at a city-owned building. There is also the possibility of temperature checks to enter the building or meeting rooms.

“I know everyone in the American Legion family is familiar with the precautions we have taken during the pandemic, but different communities have different levels and stages,” according to James W. “Bill” Oxford, national commander of the American Legion. “Ahead of Convention, regardless of your state or community’s guidance and rules, we need to follow the rules of Phoenix, Arizona and remember the ground rules we’ve shared with you.”

The video also highlights Clint Bolt, national commander for the 367,000-member Sons of the American Legion, discussing greeting options at Convention.

“But instead of hugs, kisses, and handshakes, we need to choose greetings that don’t spread germs,” Bolt said. Some of the acceptable methods of greetings are elbow bumps, salutes, waves, and “nods – not to include nodding off,” he added.

“I want to thank our American Legion family for following guidance from the local, state, and federal healthcare authorities during the pandemic,” Bolt said. “We need to continue doing that in Phoenix.”

Nicole Clapp, president of the American Legion Auxiliary, warns in the video that protocols could change in advance of, or even, during Convention.

“We need to be flexible as conditions may change in Phoenix, hopefully for the better,” Clapp warns. “We need to follow and abide by all official guidance, precautions, and rules from our host city.”

The American Legion has a current membership of nearly 2 million wartime veterans. Membership -and admission to Convention- is open to veterans of all six armed forces branches who served in uniform anytime since Dec. 7, 1941 or who are currently serving.

Among the activities planned at this year’s Convention is a Salute to Servicewomen, presentation of the Legion’s Distinguished Service Medal, recognition of the 2021 National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year and National Firefighter of the Year awards, and presentation of the Auxiliary’s prestigious Public Spirit Award.

Special guests include racing champions Jimmie Johnson and Tony Kanaan, as well as country singer Craig Morgan, who is an Army Veteran.

Congressman Gosar Debuts ‘Gosar Minute’ News; Twitter Shadowbans As ‘Sensitive Content’

Congressman Gosar Debuts ‘Gosar Minute’ News; Twitter Shadowbans As ‘Sensitive Content’

By Corinne Murdock |

Representative Paul Gosar, DDS (R-AZ-04) debuted a new series on Sunday to keep his constituents in the loop: “The Gosar Minute.” The series offers fast-hitting facts, commentary, and solutions for current issues, presented by Gosar’s staffers in the style of traditional broadcast journalism.

Gosar’s latest series may be difficult to find, however. AZ Free News discovered that Twitter has hidden the tag #GosarMinute under its “Sensitive Content” setting. Any users searching for #GosarMinute on Twitter with their search settings hiding sensitive content won’t be able to find those Gosar Minute posts. However, users will be able to locate the Gosar Minute postings on Gosar’s congressional Twitter page.

Twitter says that “sensitive media” may fall into the following categories: graphic violence, adult content, violent sexual content, gratuitous gore, and hateful imagery.

The premiere episode featured Gosar’s intern, Faith Graham, discussing how Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney General Merrick Garland refused to meet with Gosar and Representatives Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA-14), and Matt Gaetz (R-FL-01) to discuss the mistreatment and physical abuse of those imprisoned for nonviolent offenses committed at the Capitol on January 6.

“Today I am launching ‘The Gosar Minute.’ My team will discuss current events in short one minute clips and my take or involvement in them,” wrote Gosar. “Today’s topic is my recent visit to the DOJ with @RepMTG @RepMattGaetz @replouiegohmert ENJOY!”


https://twitter.com/repgosar/status/1421939921070305284

Gosar’s affiliate, Beni Harmony, presented Wednesday’s Gosar Minute. The latest episode focused on President Joe Biden’s border crisis and Gosar’s proposed solution: a ten-year pause on all immigration at the southern border to stymie issues caused by the unchecked influx of illegal immigrants.

“#GosarMinute[:] We cannot have legal immigration when we are experiencing an invasion of rampant illegal immigration at our southern border. It’s a threat to our national security and economy. We must wrap our arms around this and press pause until we do. #10yearmoratorium[.]”


https://twitter.com/RepGosar/status/1422944588667494402

On his personal account, Gosar retweeted the debut episode of Gosar Minute with a clarification: this series is part of what he calls the “Gosar News Network.”

“The Gosar News Network back at it dropping truth bombs like it’s my business,” wrote Gosar. “#GNN #GosarNewsNetwork #GosarMinute.”

https://twitter.com/DrPaulGosar/status/1422950014754639877

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

State Still Below Average For Residents With Degrees While Universities Award Record Number Of Them

State Still Below Average For Residents With Degrees While Universities Award Record Number Of Them

By Terri Jo Neff |

Arizona’s three public universities produced more degrees in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020 than in any previous year, but the state continues to lag the national average for the number of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree, according to a report issued by the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR).

The ABOR’s recent College Completion Report shows graduates at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and University of Arizona earned a combined 47,531 degrees for FY2020. That represents a 29 percent increase over the last five years and includes 33,973 bachelor’s degrees, of which 21,425 were earned by Arizona resident students.

The report also shows all three universities significantly increased bachelor’s degrees in key STEM fields in FY2020, producing a combined 9,295 bachelor’s degrees, a 61.7 percent increase over the last five years. The universities also awarded substantially more bachelor’s degrees in health fields in 2020 – conferring 2,879 degrees, a 46.6 percent increase over the last five years.

At the same time, students earned 6,086 bachelor’s degrees in Business, far exceeding any other field of study. However, the ABOR report shows there was a decline in bachelor’s degrees awarded in Education by Arizona’s three public universities at only 1,586. There were also declines in the Agriculture & Agriculture Operations degree program as well as Foreign Languages & Linguistics program.

However, Architecture & Related Sciences saw an unexpectedly strong increase at a time when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting the job market for the industry is expected to grow only one percent from 2019 to 2029.

Despite the upbeat focus of the ABOR report, U.S. Census records show only 29 percent of Arizonans hold a bachelor’s degree or more, far short of the national average of 35 percent.

In response, the regents are kicking off the “New Economy Initiative” which seeks to raise Arizona’s competitiveness by increasing educational attainment, “leading to increased prosperity for individuals and Arizona.”

The business plan of the ABOR’s $120 million New Economy Initiative is designed, according to the regents’ website, “to enhance Arizona’s competitiveness with strategic investments in areas of strength at our three public universities. This targeted approach to workforce development in high-value industries will yield a positive return on state investment.”

The website shows the funding includes $46 million for ASU to be used in part to design and launch “the largest center for engineering education and research in the United States” and to grow enrollments to more than 25,000. It also seeks to make metro Phoenix “the leading center for engineer talent production in America.”

NAU has been allocated $22 million to “provide talent in high demand fields with an emphasis on health care programs in regional locations, including mental and behavioral health, to address the state’s needs as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Meanwhile, UofA would receive $32 million through the New Economy Initiative to enhance medical professional and researcher training, to enhance capacity for students’ careers in national security, space technology, and planetary defense; and to develop Arizona’s only School of Mining into “a world-class leader in mining for the 21st century.”

Other highlights from the ABOR’s FY2020 College Completion Report include the fact a combined 13,558 graduate degrees were conferred in the same period, which represented a record number of master’s (11,387) and doctoral (2,171) degrees.

The most master’s degrees were in the fields of business management, education, engineering, health professions, and public administration, while the greatest numbers of doctoral degrees were in the fields of education, engineering, health, legal professions, and physical sciences.

Businesses, Communities Which Depend On Tourism Not Waiting On State Initiative

Businesses, Communities Which Depend On Tourism Not Waiting On State Initiative

By Terri Jo Neff |

Last week Gov. Doug Ducey announced he was spending $101 million of federal funds to launch the Visit Arizona Initiative in order to increase tourism spending, bolster job creation, and accelerate economic recovery in the state through marketing, event and attraction support, and outdoor recreation revitalization.

“Tourism is essential for Arizona’s booming economy and job growth,” said Governor Ducey. “Thousands of Arizonans who work in the tourism industry were displaced due to the pandemic. Now that our economy is strong, jobs are readily available and visitors are coming to our beautiful state, we are making sure employment opportunities continue to grow for hard workers across Arizona,” the Governor said.

But many communities and businesses which heavily rely on tourism are not sitting back waiting on state officials. That is especially true in Tombstone located in central Cochise County.

Tombstone’s numerous small businesses were decimated by last year’s COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing requirements, and travel restrictions which prevented any semblance of a 2021 winter tourist season. As a result, business owners are ramping up event promotions and advertising, and have started collaborating on new events, including several not directly focused on the city’s Old West history.

“We certainly welcome any support Governor Ducey can provide, but those of us in Tombstone cannot wait weeks or months for state agencies to decide how to give out the money and who gets it,” said one longtime business owner. “It’s imperative we take steps now to ensure our survival.”

For years the big attractions in Tombstone have been Helldorado Days (first held in 1929), Vigilante Days, and Wyatt Earp Days. But after baby-boomers visit once, there’s not much to bring them back again. “And we see younger people are not all that keen on watching show, they want activity.”

So new events are being offered to garner not only traditional tourists, but also long-weekenders from New Mexico and California, day-trippers, and local residents.

One of those event coordinators is Sherry Rudd, co-owner of the Tombstone Mustachery. Rudd created Doc Holli-Days in August 2017 with movie star Val Kilmer (of the movie Tombstone) as grand marshal. More than 10,000 people descended on the city, known by locals as the Town To Tough To Die.

Actors Dennis Quaid was grand marshal in 2018 and Michael Biehn held the honor in 2019. COVID-19 tried to kill off Doc Holli-Days 2020 but Rudd held a scaled down event with westerns actors Buck Taylor and Peter Sherayko as featured guests, even though the parade activity has been dropped.

This year Rudd is bringing in country crooner Aaron Tippin for Doc Holli-Days on Aug. 14 and 15. Tippin will put on a concert at Old Tombstone Western Theme Park, and comedian Josh Pray is also making an appearance over the weekend.

Rudd, also known as Mrs. Tombstone 2020, is promoting other concerts at Old Tombstone Western Theme Park, including Dukes of Hazzard star Tom Wopat, the Bellamy Brothers, and John Anderson. She also organized a book-signing event earlier this year with Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb which drew hundreds of attendees from as far as Las Cruces, New Mexico.

But events require a lot of support. One of Tombstone’s biggest fans is the family which owns Arlene’s Gallery, an upscale jewelry and art store that opened on historic Allen Street more than four decades.

Over the years the business has grown to include Arlene’s Southwest Trading Company, Arlene’s Southwest Silver & Gold, and the Branding Iron, which sells authentic western wear. All of which have sponsored various events including Doc Holli-Days.

Store owner Adam Klein, whose mother founded the business, appeared on a Tucson news show to promote Vigilante Days, while also showcasing some of the store’s one-of-a-kind jewelry. Klein also produced a 15-second commercial that can be easily shared via social media to draw attention to both Tombstone’s Old West history and the stores’ offerings.

Klein has also launched an updated website which allows online sales and ensures tourists who come to Tombstone know what the stores offer.

“Many of the visitors who come to Arlene’s remark that they didn’t expect to find the Tombstone shopping district so vibrant—or to include artwork and jewelry,” according to the website. “We take this sentiment to heart, filling our shops with a diverse selection of unexpected items you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.”

Business owners, local politicians, and chambers of commerce in other southern Arizona communities are also recognizing the need to think outside the box.

In nearby Sierra Vista, a city councilwoman worked for several months with Rep. Gail Griffin to have the city declared the Hummingbird Capital of Arizona. The governor signed the legislation in May, triggering several national news mentions of the tourism opportunities in the area.

On July 24, the seven of the wineries and vineyards in the Sonoita-Elgin area are participating in a Harvestfest & Grape Stomp. The event, which has been heavily advertised in Maricopa County, has sold out of VIP tickets but still has about 200 general admission tickets available.

Meanwhile, the Tubac Chamber of Commerce is promoting the November 2021 Tubac Art & Wine Fiesta and is already publicizing the February 2022 Tubac Festival of the Arts, one of the southwest’s longest running art shows.  Advertisements for Tubac’s many events are hitting cities far from Santa Cruz County.