Senior Vice-President, Economic/Rural Development
Keith Watkins serves as the Senior Vice President for Economic and Rural Development for the Arizona Commerce Authority. In this capacity, Keith plays a vital role in advising the ACA and Governor’s office on rural economic development issues and opportunities. Under his leadership, the ACA has played a direct role in creating and executing more than $6 million in new rural investment grant programs, assisting more than 60 businesses expand or locate in Arizona’s rural communities, creating more than 6,000 jobs, and generating $542M in private capital investment.
Mr. Watkins also serves as Vice Chairman of the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA), a public bonding authority that works with Arizona communities and publicly regulated water and wastewater companies to develop, acquire and expand water related projects. With a bond portfolio of over $1 billion, WIFA serves as a vital financing arm for these core infrastructure needs.
Prior to his work at the Arizona Commerce Authority, Mr. Watkins was Vice President of JF Companies, a privately-held diversified real estate development and water resources firm with holdings in the Western United States. Mr. Watkins managed a real estate holdings portfolio worth nearly $100 million and was responsible for negotiations for property acquisitions, entitlements, public affairs, marketing, and dispositions.
A third generation Arizona native and University of Arizona graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Regional Development, Mr. Watkins has earned a national reputation for his work in economic development. He has extensive public and private-public economic development experience, having served in executive positions in many organizations.
Mr. Watkins spent nine successful years at the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), where he led the organization’s high performing business recruitment efforts, helping to land companies such as Vanguard, Charles Schwab, and Midwestern University. Playing a direct role in the retention and recruitment of more than 200 firms, Mr. Watkins leadership helped generate over 165,000 new private sector direct jobs and more than $2 billion in private capital investment. He also served as a founder of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, where he was recruited to startup this new private-public partnership that serves the City of Baltimore and five adjacent counties. While there, Mr. Watkins developed and executed the first region-wide business retention and attraction enterprise, helping to recruit more than 24 new employers during his tenure and helping to retain an existing General Motors plant. He also served as Economic Development Director for the Town of Buckeye where he initiated the airport master plan and aggressively marketed the Town.
Mr. Watkins also serves on many boards and commissions, representing the Arizona Commerce Authority and State of Arizona, including:
- Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA), Vice Chairman
- Maricopa County Economic Development Council, Member – this group advises the Maricopa County Government on economic development issues and opportunities
- Rural Business Development Advisory Council, Board Member – this group advises the Arizona Commerce Authority on rural policy and issues
- Arizona Association for Economic Development (AAED), Board Member
- Commission of Indian Affairs, ex-officio Board Member
- Greater Prescott Regional Economic Partnership, ex-officio Board Member
Mr. Watkins and his wife, Lisa, reside in Scottsdale, Arizona.