Register for WGA’s 2024 Western Prosperity Forum

Day one of the 2024 Western Prosperity Forum was chock-full of in-depth policy discussions about everything from digital equity and community planning to modern workforce demands.

Especially noteworthy was the ‘fireside chat’ between Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves.

Together they spoke about how states can leverage investments from the federal government to support the development of a modern workforce.

“The world is at an inflection point as we deal with the vast changes that we see going on in technology and industrial development all around the globe,” Deputy Secretary Graves said. “It's changing jobs and the direction of economies everywhere.”

To take advantage of this swing, Governor Hobbs suggested that states continue to strengthen their relationship with the federal government.

“Last June, I launched future 48 workforce accelerators, which are partnerships with industry and our community colleges, really scaling talent in these high-tech sectors… and most of them are in rural communities,” Governor Hobbs said. “They're connecting people in those communities with the new jobs that are coming to their communities so they can stay in their communities. That's economic development for these small rural areas.”  

Thanks to these efforts, Arizona is first in the nation for new semiconductor investments, the state has also secured nine battery projects representing more than $8 billion in investments, along with several significant investments in renewable energy and advanced manufacturing.

“These are all because of our strategic intention,” Governor Hobbs said. “All over our state we have launched accelerators focused on semiconductors, battery and automotive assembly, as well as Advanced Micro Devices… and there is absolutely a snowball effect... For me, collaboration is key to everything.”  

Register here to watch a FREE livestream of Day Two of the Western Prosperity Roundtable Forum, which includes another fireside chat with Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs and Dr. Homer Wilkes, the USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, as well as panel discussions with regional thought leaders about forest management, extreme heat, and emerging energy opportunities for rural communities.   

Day Two (April 24)

8:00 a.m.: A Conversation with USDA and Governor Hobbs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a critical partner in managing the wildfire crisis through its efforts to improve forest health and reduce threats to infrastructure and communities.  Governor Hobbs will sit down with Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Homer Wilkes to discuss USDA’s collaboration with states on wildfire risk mitigation and forest restoration in the West. 

  • The Honorable Katie Hobbs, Governor of Arizona 

  • The Honorable Homer Wilkes, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture 

  • Moderator: Jack Waldorf, Executive Director, Western Governors’ Association 

8:50 a.m.: Panel 4: Integrating Community Health and Forest Management 

As poor forest health continues to drive wildfires across the West, smoke poses a growing public health threat to communities.  Amid new federal action to improve coordination between agencies on wildland fire-related priorities, speakers will assess strategies to prevent uncharacteristic wildfires, alleviate community smoke exposure, and align public health and forest management objectives.  

  • Panelists: Yulia Carroll, Associate Director for Science, Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Thomas Torres, State Forester, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management; Woody Cline, District 3 Supervisor, Gila County Board of Supervisors; and Jonathan Martin, Director of Native American Forest and Rangeland Management Programming, Ecological Restoration Institute, Northern Arizona University. Moderator: Claire Schollaert, Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles.

10:00 a.m.: Panel 5: Addressing the Effects of Extreme Heat

Extreme heat events, which are becoming increasingly frequent and severe, have devastating socioeconomic consequences.  In addition to being a significant cause of mortality, extreme heat can result in widespread economic losses, dangerous working conditions, and poor health and wellbeing.  This panel will examine the implications of extreme heat across the West and state and federal efforts to develop standards and programs to confront this issue and assist communities in planning for a new reality. 

  • Panelists: John Balbus, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and Health Equity, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Eugene Livar, Chief Heat Officer and Assistant Director of Public Health Preparedness, Arizona Department of Health Services; Rad Cunningham, Senior Epidemiologist, Washington State Department of Health; and David Hondula, Director of Heat Response and Mitigation, City of Phoenix; Moderator: V. Kelly Turner, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Geography and Associate Director, Luskin Center for Innovation, University of California, Los Angeles  

11:10 a.m.: Remarks 

  • The Honorable Stephen Roe Lewis, Governor of the Gila River Indian Community 

11:25 a.m.: Panel 6: Emerging Energy Opportunities for Rural Communities

Federal incentives and a shift towards diversified and distributed energy production present exciting possibilities for rural communities.  In addition to cost-saving and revenue generating benefits, these investments can spur regional energy solutions and improve rural energy systems' resilience.  For this session, panelists will analyze the tools available for farms, ranches, and rural businesses to capitalize on emerging energy opportunities. 

  • Panelists: The Honorable Stephen Roe Lewis, Governor of the Gila River Indian Community; Toniqua Hay, Stakeholder Engagement Lead for Energy Improvement for Rural or Remote Areas, Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, U.S. Department of Energy; Lucas Ingvoldstad, State Director for Nevada, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development; and Kara Heckert, Resilient Agriculture West Advisor, American Farmland Trust; Moderator: Reg Rudolph, Chief Energy Innovations Officer, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. 

12:30 p.m..: Recap and Adjourn

  • Lauren Cloward, Senior Policy Advisor, Western Governors’ Association

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