PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer is touting a new facility for a major insurance company as proof her policies are working to boost the state economy, even though it appears most of the jobs being created require only a high school education.
Brewer spoke during what became a groundbreaking ceremony of sorts — minus the shovels and the dirt — for Marina Heights, a new office complex to be built on the banks of the Salt River in Tempe. The major tenant will be State Farm insurance which will use the space to provide claims, customer service and sales support.
Most immediately, State Farm will add 800 workers this year, said company publicist Angela Thorpe.
She would not provide a breakdown, saying that can be gleaned from looking at current openings online. That, however, showed 632 of the openings are for para-professional jobs, including customer service reps and staffers to take a customer's initial claim.
Another 66 are service representatives for the company's bank.
Brewer, in prepared remarks, called the State Farm decision to put its regional operations center at the site “is further validation that our policies have made Arizona the best place in the country to do business.”
“It's also further evidence that the Arizona comeback is in full swing and remains strong,” the governor said.
Brewer has signed a series of measures designed to attract more jobs to the state. That includes a comprehensive package that cuts corporate income taxes by 30 percent, reduces business property taxes and provides eligible firms with $3,000 tax credits for each new job created.
There is job growth, at the rate of about 50,000 a year. But the governor's own Department of Administration said three fourths of those which will be created through the end of 2014 will be jobs that do not require a high school education and, by extension, are at the low end of the pay scale.
Thorpe said State Farm is a “leading employer” among insurers in terms of salary and benefits, but said she cannot provide information on what the company is offering in pay.
More lower-paying jobs will not help the state turn the corner in its earnings ranking.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis puts Arizona's per capita personal income at $35,979. That is 84 percent of the national average.
It also ranks Arizona as 41st from the top. Five years before that the state was 32nd.
Brewer, however, said she is pleased with creating more jobs, at whatever level.
“I would think those thousands of people that are looking for work, that need a job, that's really going to help the economy,” she said.
“We're bringing all that salary into the state of Arizona,” Brewer continued. “This is a great day.”
The governor said that all of the incentives she has signed are not the end.
“We are not done making Arizona friendlier to job-creating businesses,” she said during Wednesday's ceremony. But when pressed for specific afterwards, she declined to elaborate.
“We are currently working on some other innovative kinds of things to encourage businesses to come here,” Brewer said. But the governor said she also wants “to encourage businesses to prosper that have been with us through the bad times and moving into the good times.”
Press aide Andrew Wilder said any details will have to wait until his boss unveils her legislative agenda in January.