Sandra Watson

by Sandra Watson

What most notably stands out about your leadership style or what is an example of leadership success you can share with our readers?

I truly enjoy helping others grow and succeed! I would describe my servant-leadership style throughout my career and currently with our team at the ACA as both direct and inclusive. I believe people perform best when they clearly understand expectations, and that big ideas are a result of encouraging diverse opinions and collaboration. 

There is no question that productivity comes from highly engaged employees who feel their work is valued. We’ve implemented several initiatives at different scales to help ensure everyone at the ACA is connected and recognized. For example, as a small regular touchpoint, I send a daily email message to all our staff highlighting an important item: team accomplishments, birthdays, new colleagues, promotions and more. In addition, during our quarterly all-staff meetings, the ACA executive leadership team members provide updates on their department’s results. We’re careful to structure these presentations so that each person in the organization sees the impact of their work.

When the ACA team succeeds, this translates to economic success for our state — benefitting Arizonans with new resources and career opportunities. For me, that’s the most rewarding part of the job.

What impact has COVID-19 or the disruptions of the past 18 months had on you as a leader?

The pandemic emphasized the importance of community, connectivity and trust. I’ve been incredibly proud of how our team has remained focused and flexible through the challenges of the pandemic. As a result of their dedication, our clients and stakeholders have continued to experience the highly customized level of service the ACA is known for nationwide.

In many ways, despite difficult moments, the pandemic propelled us forward, rapidly accelerating digital and cultural transformations that were just in the early stages and forcing us to adapt. As leaders, it’s critical that we take the lessons of the last 18 months and continue to incorporate new approaches and best practices into our organizations. 

What do you feel we can be doing as a business community to empower economic growth here?

Collaboration is key. Innovators and companies of all sizes are seeking environments that inspire new ideas, generate beneficial connections and attract a strong pool of talent. 

Fortunately, Arizona is recognized for having one of the most collaborative economic development ecosystems in the nation, which creates a streamlined experience for clients. We also have one of the most welcoming business communities. Together, we can continue to increase our momentum and set Arizona apart for all the right reasons by fostering a collective viewpoint that the success of one is the success of all.

What is new and notable for your company’s near future that will impact our economy?

The ACA continues to fill our robust pipeline with companies seeking to relocate, to grow and start up in Arizona. Notably, our growth over the past year in advanced manufacturing sectors such as semiconductors, electric vehicles, battery and clean energy technologies, aerospace, and biopharma is remarkable. Likewise, Arizona has fast become an epicenter for next-gen innovations like optics, quantum computing, smart materials, automated vehicles, freshwater science, artificial intelligence and more. 

Ensuring Arizona’s workforce remains readily equipped to fill high-tech jobs in these rapidly evolving industries is a top priority for the ACA. To that end, we continue to foster close collaboration among Arizona’s world-class universities, community colleges and K–12 schools, as well as leaders from local government and the private sector. This comprehensive approach is designed to meet the needs of both job seekers and job creators — connecting skilled talent to opportunities and driving growth for all.

Name of Leader: Sandra Watson
Position of Leader: President & CEO
Company Name: Arizona Commerce Authority
No. of Years with Company: 10
Main Local Office Address: 100 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85007
Phone: (602) 845-1200
Number of offices in Greater Phoenix: 1
Year Established Locally: 2011
City Nationally Headquartered: Phoenix

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