I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with former Go Daddy executive Christine Jones to discuss why she is running for governor. Christine was the executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary for Go Daddy, and negotiated the sale of Go Daddy for $2.25 billion in what was the single largest private transaction in the history of the Internet.
Mandy Purcell: Why are you running for Governor? What are your best qualifications?
Christine Jones: For more than a decade, I helped grow Go Daddy into a major Arizona employer; we created nearly 4,000 high paying jobs, contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the Arizona economy, and provided technology solutions to more than 10 million small businesses and entrepreneurs all over the world. Go Daddy is a perfect example of how technology-focused economic development deals will be negotiated and won when I’m governor. I will use my extensive professional experience and proven track record of getting things done to help seize the opportunities before us. Arizona has been good to me and this is my opportunity to give back to the people and the place that has afforded me so many wonderful opportunities.
MP: What do you consider the biggest issues facing Arizona’s future?
CJ: There are three significant issues facing the future of our state: advancing economic development, achieving excellence in education, and enforcing immigration laws particularly securing the border. In regards to economic development, we need to compete more aggressively to attract businesses from out of state, simplify our tax code, and shorten and streamline our regulatory approvals. For education, we need to establish state standards, implement them at the local level, and fund and repeat our top models of education. Finally, Arizona needs to lead the way in border security solutions by utilizing readily available technology solutions, deploying troops to the border and finishing the fence in strategic areas.
MP: Can you elaborate on how you plan to advance economic development? Specifically, what are your plans to attract high tech jobs and startups to Arizona?
CJ: First, we have to get government out of the way of small businesses. Job creation comes largely in the SMB arena and we have to set the stage for entrepreneurs and SMB owners to survive and thrive and stay in Arizona.
Second, we must attract new businesses to Arizona by approaching companies and having conversations with them about why Arizona is the best home for their business. Inviting businesses to establish roots in our state is one of the most important things the governor can do. Government sets the stage for businesses to create jobs and for businesses to thrive. I spent my career in the private sector, establishing a track record of getting things done, so I look at this a little bit differently than some of the other candidates.
The way I look at it, the governor should be the top recruiter for the state, particularly with CEOs in other states who are looking to expand or move their operations. Helping business leaders understand why Arizona is their wisest choice is among the most important thing the Governor can do to generate economic development opportunity. As it relates specifically technology jobs, I see no reason why every technology company doesn’t have a data center in Arizona. Building industry-specific concentrations of tech businesses can and should attract high-paying tech jobs to our state. I have crafted a detailed economic plan, which can be found at TheJonesPlan.com.
MP: I have two young children; what will you do to improve education in Arizona?
CJ: Education and economic development work hand in hand. Companies will not move their business here unless we have the talent to assist them in their growth. We have three of the top 10 schools in the country here in Arizona, so we know we have models that work. We need to fund and repeat these successful models into our failing schools. Currently in Arizona, only about 54 cents of every education dollar reaches the classroom, the national average is about 62 cents per dollar. If we could get our schools close to that national average we would put hundreds of millions back into the classroom. That will make an immediate difference.
Arizona also leads the country in school choice, which I absolutely support. Public, private, charter, and home schooling all offer the range of choices that parents can take advantage of. Also, let’s not forget that we have terrific choices for students who don’t want to go to a traditional college. Here in the Valley, EVIT and Westmec offer high school students an opportunity to start to learn a trade where they can make an excellent living. The Maricopa County Community Colleges are one of the top ranking systems in the country and offer a great choice for two-year degrees. Then of course we have excellent choices for higher education with ASU, University of Arizona, NAU, Grand Canyon, and more. We can and will meet the needs of employers and make sure our students are prepared to enter the workforce.
MP: No conversation would be complete without discussing border security and immigration. What are your thoughts? You were the first candidate to talk about these as separate issues.
CJ: First, we have to acknowledge that immigration policy is federal law and the most productive thing the governor can do is to engage diplomatically with our Congressional delegation to fix it. Border security, however, is a much different issue. Arizona can and should secure its border to provide safety and security to the citizens of the state. To that end, I gathered the collective wisdom of experts with whom I’ve talked and crafted a detailed plan to do just that (TheJonesPlan.com). As Arizona’s next governor, I am proposing to deploy 1,200 Arizona National Guard troops to the border and earmark direct funding to Arizona’s county sheriffs, county attorneys and the Arizona Attorney General to aggressively prosecute violations of state law that arise from border related crimes. My plan also calls for the use of readily available technology to ascertain who is crossing our border, as well as finishing the fence in strategic areas.
Arizona taxpayers spend about $2.8 billion annually on educating, incarcerating, and providing medical services to citizens of other countries. This presents a major strain on the Arizona budget. My plan calls for Arizona to spend approximately $270 million to gain control of the border and allow our citizens the safety and security they should expect from their government, while lowering the $2.8 billion number in the years ahead.
Please tell your readers to vote and, if possible, take two others with them to vote. Voting is so important, and yet less than 10 percent of Arizonans will decide who our next governor is. Our citizens need to exercise their voice over how they want Arizona to be run.