Arizona Technology Council

The Voice and Face of Arizona’s Tech Industry

By April Bourie

On its website, Arizona Technology Council is defined as “Arizona’s premier networking and trade association for science and technology companies.”  

Steven G. Zylstra, the council’s president and CEO, explains it a little differently: “We really are the voice and the face of the technology industry in Arizona.”

Carol Stewart, VP of Tech Parks Arizona at The University of Arizona, offers another definition of the organization and its importance.  “The Arizona Technology Council serves as the catalyst propelling business forward, providing industry insights, invaluable resources, and unparalleled growth opportunities. Together, we advance technology to the leading edge, fostering groundbreaking inventions that make a colossal impact on the world stage.”

The council lives up to all these descriptions by offering its members more than 100 networking and educational events each year as well as a variety of valuable benefits. In addition, the organization works with public policy leaders in the state and federal government to further the interests of the technology industry’s many businesses, which range from small startups to large national and international corporate firms. 

It also works in schools to promote and advocate for STEM programs to develop the next generation of technology employees and innovators. The council’s programs are managed out of two offices—one in Phoenix and one in Tucson called the Southern Arizona Regional Office. 

Much of the impressive work is done through the council’s 13 standing committees, staffed by council members who address every aspect of the technology industry. More than 750 companies are members of the council, ranging in size from early-stage startups to larger corporations. 

“Approximately 80% of our membership consists of small businesses that have less than 50 employees,” said Karla Morales, VP of the Southern Arizona Regional Office. The other 20% are companies well-known to Arizonans, including Raytheon, Intel and Honeywell. The benefits the council offers are very valuable to all members, especially the smaller businesses.  

Member benefits include discounts for business services from various preferred partners, access to a health care and 401(k) plan for member employees, a technology jobs board and a tuition reduction plan at the UArizona, which is open to member employees and their children. Publications and podcasts produced by the council help keep its membership informed on industry trends and public policy, and the organization also plans 100 to 150 networking and educational events each year. 

Politically, the council is also very active, with the goal of supporting public policies friendly to the technology industry.  Its Public Policy Committee creates a Public Policy Guide each year that includes issues important to the technology sector.  Topics can range from workforce development and education to diversity, equity and inclusion to taxation and financial technology.  

The Public Policy Committee works to inform and educate state politicians about issues that impact the technology and manufacturing sectors.  “Members of this committee develop a relationship with legislators from the moment they take office to help them understand why certain policies are important and how they impact the technology sector,” explained Morales.  The council also hires lobbyists that work on behalf of the council, and Zylstra often writes opinion pieces on politically driven issues to communicate to the members and public about policies that affect the technology industry. 

“A lot of our greatest achievements have been at the state Legislature,” he said.

No matter the company’s size, workforce development is always an important issue. The council helps develop high-quality, tech-literate employees through its Foundation the SciTech Institute, a collaboration of the council, Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona Science Center, Arizona Board of Regents, Arizona State University, and UArizona.  This foundation attracts grants, resources and support from in- and out-of-state organizations to create STEM programs for Arizona’s students.  

SciTech’s Chief Science Officer program provides leadership training and allows students to plan STEM engagement opportunities for their peers. The program also engages technology companies to network and mentor the CSOs to help prepare them for careers in a technology field. “CSOs are taught how to advocate for the student voices in the community,” said Morales.  “They also receive training and even compete on a local, state, national and international level. This helps them to be prepared for college and for work beyond that.”

In the future, Zylstra would like to see the organization increase its membership to 1,000 companies as technology and manufacturing grows in Arizona.  

“We’ll continue to change our offerings as the market conditions change to provide the appropriate support necessary for our member companies,” he said.  “We exist for one reason: to help our members succeed in what they do.”


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