Jeff Weninger
PHX Startup JW2 - Copy.jpg

My View: Arizona's tech 'sandbox' empowers cutting-edge innovation

My view: Arizona's tech 'sandbox' empowers cutting-edge innovation

I was proud to champion House Bill 2434, legislation that creates a “regulatory sandbox” to encourage development of the emerging financial technology, blockchain and cryptocurrency industries.

But what the heck is a financial technology sandbox? It’s a question I’ve gotten a lot this year.

Working with Attorney General Mark Brnovich, ex-PayPal executive Jack Selby and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, we developed a framework to allow companies to foster innovative products while simultaneously protecting consumers. This bill sends an important message to companies throughout the U.S. and internationally: Arizona is a trailblazer in advancing innovation and technology.

Why does this matter? The pace of technical change in financial services is head spinning. Our legacy regulations can’t keep up and often get in the way of companies looking to locate to, or expand in, Arizona. It’s important for us to encourage innovation that democratizes financial systems for consumers and creates efficiencies for business.

Fintech, or financial technology, is increasingly driving innovations in personal and commercial finance that once were the sole domain of branches, salesmen and women and desktops. Already, a third of consumers use at least two fintech services regularly, whether they know the term or not.

Blockchain, originally created to record bitcoin cryptocurrency transactions, is being explored by a variety of industries. Because it creates a digital, unalterable ledger of transactions with no need for a central authority, innovators are exploring ways to apply it to industries as varied as music, diamonds, insurance and medical records or to confirm ownership of antiquities. The sky is the limit, so of course we want to encourage these innovators in Arizona.

This year, we also were successful in reauthorizing the Arizona Commerce Authority for another six years. Unlike the fintech legislation, it didn’t get coverage from Forbes andBloomberg. But given its accomplishments — supporting $9.5 billion in private investment and the creation of 87,132 jobs during its first five years — the ACA continuation is critical to Arizona’s economy and small businesses.

The ACA generates headlines when it lands big-name employers bringing large numbers of jobs to Arizona. But that’s not all it does. More importantly, the ACA provides resources to small businesses throughout the state. Supporting the creation of a few jobs at a time, thousands of times over, truly builds a higher quality of life.

As a small-business owner myself, I know what it was like to struggle through the Great Recession. I know what drives business decisions and why a friendly regulatory framework is important to entrepreneurs, tech startups, business relocations and expanding companies. That’s why I was so proud the ACA was reauthorized and that the “fintech sandbox” bill will spur more innovation in Arizona.

Rep. Jeff Weninger represents Legislative Dist. 17. He is a small-business owner and former Chandler city councilman.