Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Will a 5C Arizona Centennial Museum be Relevant in 2012?

Arizona House Bill 2251 recently established the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum which is to be constructed in the building currently occupied by the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum. The museum will celebrate the 5Cs (citrus, climate, cattle, cotton, & copper) which presumably were the origin of Arizona’s economy, and are claimed to be depicted on the state seal.

In fact, Section 20 of Article 22 of the Arizona Constitution states the following:

The seal of the State shall be of the following design: In the background shall be a range of mountains, with the sun rising behind the peaks thereof, and at the right side of the range of mountains there shall be a storage reservoir and a dam, below which in the middle distance are irrigated fields and orchards reaching into the foreground, at the right of which are cattle grazing. To the left in the middle distance on a mountain side is a quartz mill in front of which and in the foreground is a miner standing with pick and shovel. Above this device shall be the motto: "Ditat Deus." In a circular band surrounding the whole device shall be inscribed: "Great Seal of The State of Arizona", with the year of admission of the State into the Union.

Therefore, the seal artist was clearly depicting mining, cattle, and citrus (orchards). Since he drew a quartz mill behind the miner, he was obviously drawing a gold mine rather than a copper mine. Hence, the argument that the 5Cs are in the seal is flawed, although copper did eventually overtake gold as the primary mining product. Irrigated fields could indicate cotton, among other crops. But where is climate depicted? Are we to think the artist intended the sun over the mountains to signify climate, rather than the beautiful sunsets that Arizona is famous for?

Climate is also a difficult thing to quantify. The economic value of cattle, citrus, cotton, and copper is easily measured. How, however, do you measure the economic value of climate? Do visitors come here for the climate or for the scenery (ex: Grand Canyon). What about the people that come to live here because of the climate? What is the annual value of that? In 1912, when Arizona became a state, was the climate and asset or was the heat an obstacle to be overcome? Was the seal artist thinking of the heat, or the beauty of the sunset?

In fact, books on Arizona do not universally recognize the 5Cs. Some refer to the 4Cs, and do not include climate. Climate looks suspiciously like something added in long after the State seal was designed, and the sun in the seal was probably reinterpreted.

Looking then at the 4Cs that are readily measurable economic entities, how significant are they now? Going back to more representative years such as 2006 and 2007 (before the prolonged recession) shows that the 4Cs now represent but a small fraction of Arizona’s economy, and some of them have become absolutely insignificant.. ADMMR Circular 129 shows that 2007 mining production was 7.5 billion dollars (copper was 5.5 billion). Therefore, mining accounted for 3% of Arizona’s 250 billion dollar economy in 2007.

The website for the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association reports annual cattle production (ranches & feeder lots) of 437 million dollars. Therefore cattle represent 0.17% of the Arizona economy. The website shows that Arizona’s annual cotton production is 140 million dollars, or 0.056% of the states economy. Finally, AgMRC (U. of California) reports that Arizona citrus production is but 23 million, or 0.009% of the state economy.

The only one of the 4Cs that accounts for a percentage of the economy that can be measured in whole numbers is mining. Mining is also a recognizable key attribute of Arizona because Arizona is 1st in the nation in both non-fuel mineral production and in copper production. By contract, Arizona produces only 1% of the nations citrus and citrus production is declining even further. The Arizona Republic recently reported that the last Maricopa County citrus packing plant, in Mesa, closed this year. Citrus growers can no longer compete in the citrus market because of high land prices in the Valley. Meanwhile, mine production increases because of demand for Arizona’s unique natural resources. Mine production would even be increasing more rapidly if it were not for prolonged environmental studies that are preventing new mines (with tremendous reserves) from going into production.

In conclusion, mining is the only one of the 4Cs that is distinct to Arizona, and it is the only one that is still a significant portion of the state economy. The logical thing to do for the centennial would be to install special displays in the existing and top rated Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum. That could be done for a very modest cost. Converting the building into an irrelevant 5C museum makes no sense, especially when it will cost tens of millions of dollars to do so.

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