Keeping the Grand Canyon open in the midst of a federal government shutdown and working to allocate more money to forest fire prevention highlighted Governor Doug Ducey’s keynote speech at the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce’s annual Athena Awards.

Ducey’s speech, which generally mirrored his State of the State address given in January, focused on keeping Arizona “open for business” and creating a healthy environment for businesses to grow.

After the speech, Ducey told reporters he was glad to be able to make the announcement that the Grand Canyon would again stay open during the government shutdown.

The governor, who previously severed as CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, emphasized entrepreneurs’ importance in keeping the economy healthy.

“Politicians don’t create any jobs,” Ducey said. “They create an environment in which jobs can be created.”

Ducey touted the state’s relationship with Mexico, and said he was the first Arizona governor to visit Mexico City in a decade.

“Mexico is our largest customer and trading partner,” Ducey said. “I believe no state has a better trade relationship with Mexico.”

The relationship, Ducey said, was at least in part due to the Arizona-Mexico Commission, which was created in 1959 by former Governor Paul Fannin.

Ducey announced at the award ceremony that Julie Pastrick, the President and CEO of the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, accepted an appointment to the Arizona-Mexico Commission that he had offered her yesterday.

Pastrick, who gave opening remarks at the awards ceremony, began by addressing what she called the “elephant in the room:” Flagstaff’s minimum wage.

“Our biggest challenge, which is not feeling good, is the minimum wage at $15.50,” Pastrick said. “This is a brand we cannot embrace and keep holding onto,”

Pastrick cited the increase minimum wage as the cause for lost jobs and underemployment after workers’ hours have been cut as a mechanism to save money.

She touted the Sustainable Wages act, which will be on the ballot in November 2018 and will tie Flagstaff’s minimum wage more closely to Arizona’s, as a way to “restore balance to our economy” and “bring the wage to a predictable and good level that businesses agree they can maintain.”

When asked about the minimum wage after the awards ceremony, Ducey maintained that Flagstaff’s minimum wage is a city-specific issue, and not one he plans to take any action about as governor.

Ducey said the onus would be on business leaders to advocate for their own causes, and said groups should focus on advocating locally instead of going to the state capitol when voters have spoken at the ballot box.

When asked whether he planned to allocate any extra funding to organizations that serve people with disabilities to make up for the difference in state and city minimum wage, Ducey did not give a specific answer.

“I want everyone in Arizona to get a raise,” Ducey said, adding that he thought the “responsiveness of the market” could be responsible for raises, rather than governments or initiatives raising the minimum wage.

In his speech at the ceremony, Ducey said he had a plan to allocate $2 million to fire prevention this year, and said “bad federal forest policy” on top of a dry winter could contribute to “an intense fire season.”

“This season has been drier than most, and our goal here is to be prepared,” he said to a group of reporters after the speech.

The reporter can be reached at or 556-2249.