Tag Archives: Greater Phoenix Economic Council

JLL’s Bill Honsaker named to GPEC Board of Directors

GetFileAttachment-7JLL Managing Director Bill Honsaker is one of eight new members just named to the Greater Phoenix Economic Council’s (GPEC) 2015-2016 Board of Directors. An award-winning broker in the Phoenix office of JLL, Honsaker has 25 years of experience in the commercial real estate industry. In that time, he has served as an active GPEC Certified Ambassador for five years and is a current member of the Ambassador program steering committee.

At JLL, Honsaker is part of a veteran team assigned with representing both multi-national and local industrial users with lease and purchase negotiations. He is also responsible for lease and sale marketing of industrial properties on behalf of major owner clients, including land sales.

“Bill is a trusted source for clients and a knowledgeable spokesperson for our market – both characteristics that make him a tremendous representative for JLL and Phoenix at large,” said JLL Senior Managing Director Dennis Desmond. “We congratulate him, and all of the new board members, on this recognition.”

“The representation from business and elected leaders on the GPEC Board is emblematic of the mission of GPEC in being a truly public-private partnership,” said Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “The addition of these new leaders to GPEC’s Board will further enhance the dialogue on advancing the region’s economy, leading to an aggressive, strategic pathway for positive community impact.”

In addition to Honsaker, the newest members of the GPEC Board include Jennifer Anderson, Senior Vice President and Regional Manager, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.; Mike Arnold, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Freeport-McMorRan Inc.; Danielle Casey, Economic Development Director, City of Scottsdale; Pamela A. Higdon, Senior Vice President, The Northern Trust Company; the Honorable Michael Farrar, Councilmember, Town of Carefree; the Honorable Adolfo Gamez, Mayor, City of Tolleson; and Richmond J. Vincent, Jr., Senior Vice President of Workforce Development, Goodwill of Central Arizona.

The GPEC Board is led by Chairman Don Smith, President and CEO of CopperPoint Mutual, with Chris Zaharis, Executive Vice President of Empire Southwest, serving as Vice Chairman. Tammy McLeod, Vice President of Energy Resource Management with Arizona Public Service serves as Secretary and R. Neil Irwin, Partner with Bryan Cave, LLP as Treasurer.

Icefields Parkway, Banff; Jasper National Parks, Alberta, Canada

Canadians help heat up Arizona economy

Canadians love escaping the cold and traveling south to soak up the Arizona sun, but Arizona is becoming more than just a vacation destination for Canadians.

Arizona’s economic climate offers Canadian companies a great place to enter the U.S. market, and Canadian companies are taking advantage of Arizona’s favorable business climate.

More than 350 Canadian companies have opened enterprises in Arizona, making Canada the leader in the number of foreign businesses operating in the state. Arizona has a $6 billion bilateral footprint with Canada, which includes foreign direct investment, trade and tourism, according to Canada Arizona Business Council (CABC). Additionally, Canada is the foreign leader in the number of residential home ownership and commercial property ownership in Arizona. These numbers are substantial for a country whose ties with Arizona are defined by airports and financial institutions.


Arizona’s thriving and profitable business relationship started 60 to 70 years ago, according to Glenn Williamson, CEO and founder of the CABC. That was when western Canadians were first lured to Arizona to escape the cold. The attraction has only grown, and Arizona welcomed almost 900,000 Canadian visitors in 2013, setting a record for the number of Canadians selecting Arizona for travel.

But Williams said the game changer for Arizona’s business relationship with Canada came when the U.S. military began building up the aerospace industry in Arizona.

“Canada has always been a significant player in that supply chain,” Williamson said.

In the 1970s, Canadians began entering Arizona on the commercial real estate level and bought up huge chunks of property, Williamson said. The number of Canadians visiting the state and doing business in Arizona was on a steady growth trajectory before the recession hit. However, unlike how the recession negatively impacted most factors in the economy, Canadians poured into Arizona during the recession and bought very expensive houses, Williamson said.


Fast forward to the present and there are more than 350 business operating in Arizona, employing approximately 50,000 people, Williamson said. The biggest Canadian companies in Arizona include Bombardier Aerospace, which employs 1,000 Arizonans, and Bank of Montreal, which has 400 Arizona employees, according to the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA).

Trade and investment with Canada accounts for 146,800 jobs in Arizona, meaning 1 in 20 jobs depends on trade and investment from Canada, said Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the ACA.

“Each Canadian company that establishes a presence in Arizona creates jobs and capital investment in our state, generating a positive economic impact,” Watson said.  “Increased activity between Canada and Arizona brings new business opportunities, innovations and solutions to both markets.”

Additionally, Canada as a foreign direct investor is very favorable for Arizona’s economy because it helps insulate the state by providing diversification in the market, said Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC.) Moreover, these jobs generally carry 15 to 20 percent higher wages, he said.


Arizona’s pro-business environment and low operating costs make the state very attractive to Canadian companies.

“Arizona is an open-for-business type of state, which we saw as very attractive,” said Joe Gysel, president of EPCOR Water USA Inc., an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canadian company EPCOR Utilities. EPCOR began operating in Arizona in 2010 and is now responsible for providing water and wastewater service to 22 communities and seven counties in Arizona and New Mexico, making it the largest privately regulated water utility in both states. Arizona was EPCOR’s entry point into the United States, with its U.S. headquarters in Phoenix. Choosing Arizona was a decision based purely on economics, Gysel said.

Regulatory assets, a competitive tax structure, talented labor pool and strategic location were all characteristics that attracted EPCOR and are continuing to draw other Canadian companies looking for corporate expansion, growth and start up in the U.S. market.

The low cost of operating a business in Arizona is key, experts said. Critical to this is Arizona’s Competitiveness Package. Adopted in 2011, this legislation modernized the state’s tax system, streamlined the regulatory structure and promoted a focus on business recruitment, retention and high-value job creation, according to the CABC.

Arizona’s simplified tax system is also a huge draw for Canadian companies. The state and local tax burden on Arizona’s citizens is the 14th lowest in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation. The tax-friendly environment is comprised of no franchise tax, no business inventory tax and no estate tax. The corporate and individual income tax rates in Arizona are also among the lowest in the nation. Additionally, the state provides companies low workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance rates.


Another major benefit Arizona offers Canadian companies is the access to the growing consumer market. The state’s strategic geographic location offers business unique access to major world markets.

“The most apparent reason you see a lot of Canadian companies out of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal is because they can get access to the California marketplace from a market that is more favorable from the cost side,” Camacho said.

Arizona is one of the only states within a day’s drive of California, the ninth largest economy; Texas, the 13th largest economy; and Mexico, the 14th largest. Canadian companies can reach 65 million consumers per day in Arizona by truck, Watson said.

“Arizona becomes Canadian beachfront property to South America,” Williamson said.

Arizona’s strenghtening workforce is also continuously fed by the state’s higher education system. The workforce in metro Phoenix offers a rich talent pool, Camacho said. The quality of the labor resources in Arizona was a compelling factor in EPCOR’s decision to locate it’s U.S. headquarters in Phoenix, according to the company. Arizona offers a number of top-quality universities, technical and trade schools that companies such as EPCOR are looking at during site selection. High-level education and training are key to companies growing in the utility space, experts said.

Arizona’s high quality of life, low cost of living and the low cost of commercial real estate are other huge draws for Canadian companies.

“One in five homes in Arizona is owned by a Canadian and that made coming to Arizona quite easy,” Gysel said.


In 2014, Matt Behmer’s Flagstaff-based Traditional Roofing Inc. was acquired by Canada’s Flynn Group of Companies. The Flynn Group of Companies is made up of seven companies and employs more than 4,000 people in 26 locations across North America.

“A lot of it had to do with the fact they saw growth opportunity here,” said Behmer, now director of operations in the Southwest for Flynn. He attributes the opportunity to grow, climate and logistics as the three main factors that brought Flynn to Arizona. According to Flynn, it saw Traditional Roofing as a perfect fit culturally and strategically to become a springboard for the company’s growth in the region.

In addition to the robust suite of advantages designed to help attract foreign businesses, Arizona-based economic development groups have laid the groundwork to facilitate the attraction of these companies. They accomplished this by engaging company decision makers in Canada and showing them Arizona’s many attributes and opportunities. The recruitment of Canadian companies has been a collaboration of economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, cities, towns, academic institutions and the business community.

“The ACA works closely with companies to educate them on Arizona’s value proposition and programs, which can help advance their corporate success,” Watson said. The ACA leads targeted sales missions every 30 to 60 days to select Canadian markets. In the past year, the ACA has led six such missions, Watson said.

GPEC is also on the front end of attracting Canadian firms.

“We take mayors on hosted road shows in Canadian markets to sell the advantages of operating in Metro Phoenix over other places,” Camacho said.

Despite all the success, Canada still doesn’t receive the same attention as other foreign countries, such as Mexico, when it comes to discussions on trade, investment and future growth. Mexico has a significant footprint in the state, but the business relationship between Mexico and Arizona has a huge way to grow compared with the state’s relationship with Canada, Williamson said. The benefits of Canadian companies doing business in Arizona and the impact on the state’s economy far exceeds the attention it receives.

Despite the lack of attention, experts agree that Arizona’s colossal business relationship with Canada will continue to grow and strengthen.

“Since 2009, Arizona’s exports to Canada have increased nearly 25 percent,” Watson said. “We expect to see trade and investment between Canada and Arizona increase exponentially moving forward.”

GPEC Board of Directors named for 2015-2016

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) announces eight new members to join the Board of Directors for the 2016 fiscal year. The new members were approved by the full Board of Director’s at this morning’s Annual Meeting.

The GPEC Board is led by Chairman Don Smith, President and CEO of CopperPoint Mutual, with Chris Zaharis, Executive Vice President of Empire Southwest, serving as Vice Chairman. Tammy McLeod, Vice President of Energy Resource Management with Arizona Public Service serves as Secretary and R. Neil Irwin, Partner with Bryan Cave, LLP as Treasurer.

The newest members of the Board includes Jennifer Anderson, Senior Vice President and Regional Manager, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.; Mike Arnold, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Freeport-McMorRan Inc.; Danielle Casey, Economic Development Director, City of Scottsdale; Pamela A. Higdon, Senior Vice President, The Northern Trust Company; Bill Honsaker, Managing Director, JLL; the Honorable Michael Farrar, Councilmember, Town of Carefree; the Honorable Adolfo Gamez, Mayor, City of Tolleson; and Richmond J. Vincent, Jr., Senior Vice President of Workforce Development, Goodwill of Central Arizona.

“The representation from business and elected leaders on the GPEC Board is emblematic of the mission of GPEC in being a truly public-private partnership,” said Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “The addition of these new leaders to GPEC’s Board will further enhance the dialogue on advancing the region’s economy, leading to an aggressive, strategic pathway for positive community impact.”


Phoenix healthcare growth outpacing national average

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) unveiled a new website around the emerging healthcare industry in the Phoenix metro, designed to showcase the innovation capacity and robust ecosystems of the Greater Phoenix healthcare and bioscience sectors.

“The GPEC Healthcare Leadership Council, led by Linda Hunt and Dr. Stuart Flynn, gathers the who’s who of healthcare and biosciences in the Greater Phoenix region,” said Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “The council’s forward thinking idea to centralize the assets and resources around the region allows us to further promote our growth in these industries.”

The healthcare and bioscience sectors in Greater Phoenix is projected to grow 31.9% over the next 10 years, which outpaces the projected national average growth of 19.5%. This growth complements the HLC mission in positioning the region as a healthcare investment and research destination, and the new site will provide an inventory showcasing that growth within the region and within the healthcare and biosciences industries.

“The new site will highlight the partnerships and resources available to people seeking care, as well as medical professionals wanting to learn more about the healthcare ecosystem in the Greater Phoenix region,” said Linda Hunt, CEO of Dignity Health. “There is an abundance of movement in the healthcare industry in Phoenix metro, and this new site will provide the opportunity to showcase that growth.”

The new site contains a profile of the healthcare and biosciences leadership within the region; collaborations in research, care delivery and education; an interactive ecosystem asset map with the ability to filter by hospitals, academic institutions, incubators, accelerators and more; operating environment data; and outcomes in health, personalized medicine, quality job growth and community and economic impact.

Dr. Stuart Flynn, Dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix stated, “We are proud to be part of the growing healthcare industry in Greater Phoenix and we are glad to see this resource coming online. It is crucial that companies have a place to see the critical mass of clinical, education and research-oriented efforts in the downtown Phoenix Biomedical Campus and beyond. This new microsite will be that resource.”

The site also features demonstrated value—answering the question, “why Greater Phoenix,” and why the region is the best place to live, work, collaborate and heal, along with testimonials from healthcare leaders and practitioners, and news and resources related to healthcare in Greater Phoenix.

To learn more about the vibrant healthcare and biosciences ecosystem in Greater Phoenix, visit http://greaterphoenixhealth.com/.

Chris Camacho

GPEC CEO will participate in White House Panel

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) President & CEO, Chris Camacho, will be speaking at the White House today during the 4th annual White House Forum on Economic Development, hosted by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and SelectUSA.

More than 50 economic developers from around the nation will attend the one-day event, where they will meet with senior White House and Administration officials. Remarks will be provided by Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, and Bruce Andrews, Deputy Secretary for the Department of Commerce.

“This event hosted by the IEDC and SelectUSA provides an incredible platform for interacting with fellow economic development leaders and the exchange of innovative ideas and best practices from around the country,” said Camacho. “I look forward to participating in today’s event and sharing insights on what GPEC is doing to attract international companies.”


GPEC attracted 6,200 jobs during last fiscal year

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) saw another record-breaking year for the Greater Phoenix region as GPEC worked with its 22 member communities with the location and expansion of 32 companies over the course of the fiscal year ending June 30th.   

Those companies will add more than 6,200 jobs across Greater Phoenix during the first year of operations, more than half of which are high-wage jobs with an average salary of nearly $70,000. The payroll generated from the new positions is anticipated to be over $330 million, in addition to a nearly $900 million capital investment to the region.   

“This year we saw an increase in the number of high-quality, high-wage jobs GPEC is bringing to the region,” said Chris Camacho, president & CEO of GPEC. “Our communities’ mayors and their economic development teams do a tremendous job showcasing the business-friendly climate and deep talent pool that makes Greater Phoenix a top choice among leading companies to grow their operations.”

New companies to the region spanned across various industry sectors as new tech companies expanded their footprint outside Silicon Valley, financial centers began construction on new operating centers, and regional headquarters for advanced manufacturing broke ground.

Since 1989, GPEC has been responsible for assisting in the location of bringing more than 630 companies to the region, adding more than $12 billion in capital investment and over 110,000 jobs. For more information on doing business in Greater Phoenix, visit gpec.org.


Zenefits continues rapid growth with new Tempe office building

Zenefits, the free, cloud-based human resources technology company that automates and eliminates HR administrative work for businesses, has announced that due to its rapid growth and hiring it has signed a 10-year lease for a large, new office in Tempe, which will be its second office site in greater Phoenix.

The San Francisco-headquartered company will move into a newly constructed building in Tempe’s Hayden Ferry complex this fall. Zenefits will occupy five floors (135,000 square feet) in the building owned by Parkway Properties, Inc.

“With small businesses across the country wanting to take the HR headaches out of managing their companies, the demand for our HR automation software is off the charts,” said Parker Conrad, CEO and co-founder of Zenefits. “With this fast growth, we need more people to join our team – and a place to put them. We are delighted that we found such a great space here in Arizona.”

The Tempe office which will mirror the careers they’re hiring for in San Francisco — account managers, executives, benefits advisors, HR specialists, operations personnel, sales representatives, and client support staff. The Tempe office will ultimately house more than 1,000 employees. Zenefits already has 600 employees in the Scottsdale office it opened in November.

Zenefits is a free, cloud HR automation platform that makes it effortless to manage a business and its employees by automating all of the associated HR administrative work: compliance, on-boarding, payroll updates, health insurance, and other employee benefits.

Zenefits is widely considered to be the fastest-growing SaaS company in history. In May, the company announced that it had raised $500 million in Series C funding, at a $4.5 billion valuation. Zenefits has more than 10,000 business customers and serves 100,000 employees in 48 states.

Zenefits’ arrival in Arizona last year was the largest expansion from a California-based tech company into the greater Phoenix region since PayPal in 2010.

The expansion in Tempe will enable the company to meet the needs of its rapidly increasing customer base.

“Zenefits initial footprint for market entry has since exceeded expectations, as they expand within one of the hottest tech markets in the U.S. with a new location in Tempe,” said Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “The leadership demonstrated within the greater Phoenix region from leaders such as Phoenix City Councilmember Kate Gallego and Mayor Greg Stanton, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane, and Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, is to be celebrated as we welcome the expansion of one of the fastest growing tech companies.”

Zenefits currently employs more than 1,000 people, up from just 15 at the beginning of 2014.

Matt Coxhead and Ryan Bartos of Savills Studley represented the growing startup in their lease negotiation along with co-broker, Jon Dishotsky Custom Spaces, who represents Zenefits globally.
Trucks CrossingBorderat Nogales

Arizona trade mission builds confidence with Mexico

President and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), Chris Camacho, joined Governor Doug Ducey in Mexico City for an important trade mission last week, with more than 40 business, university and government leaders – including GPEC board members Sharon Harper of The Plaza Companies, David Rousseau of SRP and University of Arizona President Dr. Ann Weaver Hart.

At $15.8 billion, bilateral trade (imports into Arizona and exports to Mexico) between Arizona and Mexico is larger than the state’s next six largest trading partners combined. And according to an April 2015 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, growth for total exports and manufacturing exports to Mexico is up 22.7 percent and 28.5 percent, respectively.  

“Arizona and Mexico share more than an important border for global commerce, but are also connected by the rich historical, social and cultural ties,” said Camacho. “Governor Ducey’s leadership, and the work of David Farca, president of the Arizona Mexico Commission, has set a new tone and reinvigorated dialogue with Mexico City.”

The impact of Gov. Ducey’s trade mission, and the recent opening of the Trade & Investment Office in Mexico City, sends a strong message that Greater Phoenix and the state of Arizona is open for business with our neighbor to the south. With more than 370 miles of shared border, there is an unparalleled opportunity for both Arizona and Mexico to continue to increase trade.

Camacho also added, “The meetings this past week with government and business leaders will further enhance the economic prosperity for both sides of the border, and I am eager to continue the work being done to foster this growth.”

For an international guide to doing business in Greater Phoenix, visit http://www.gpec.org/toolkit.  

IO President Anthony Wanger.

Tech-friendly scene makes Arizona a data center hot spot

Phoenix has its head in the clouds.

Digital information—everything from financial and medical accounts to media entertainment and social networks—is now being stored in about 60 high-tech data centers throughout the Phoenix metro area, adding to the state’s growing reputation in the technology industry.

Renewable energy, geo-stability and tech-friendly legislation are a few of the reasons why Arizona has one of the highest concentrations of data centers in the United States, second only to Virginia.

Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, says one of the reasons Phoenix has seen a significant level of data center activity is power availability and competitive pricing.   

“We have very affordable power costs,” Camacho says. “Our utilities have been very flexible in supporting this industry to ensure we have dual feeds from the electrical standpoint. Having affordable power rates has been critical. The other attributes that are important to this industry as to why we have been successful are the level of infrastructure, that’s generally fiber infrastructure, and latency. We’re very favorable to the West Coast in that regard.  So our communities, as well as Cox, Century Link and others, have done a great job extending infrastructure to support this industry.”

Demand for renewable energy

As data centers continue to propagate, the demand for power increases.

A recent survey by Mortenson Construction, one of the leading data center contractors in the U.S., reported 84 percent of responding data center executives, developers and operators believe there is a need to consider renewable energy. Energy efficiency is a top concern and nearly half the survey participants believe improved technology can increase energy efficiency.

“Technology companies like Apple, eBay, Amazon and Google, all of the organizations that store massive amounts of information, tend to have leaders who are highly environmentally conscious,” explains Steven G. Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council,  “They would much prefer to use renewable energy to power these data centers rather than power coming from a coal-burning plant. It’s less about the economics and more about doing the right thing.”

IO president Anthony Wanger agrees. IO, one of the largest colocation data centers in North America, has created and patented energy efficient data storage modules and operating software. In 2013, APS evaluated IO’s Power Usage Effectiveness ratings and determined the modules were more efficient than the traditional raised-floor data center environment.

In February, IO announced an agreement the company made with APS to be able to offer renewable energy to its customers.   

“We had a break through,” Wanger said. “We were able to negotiate a rate with APS that allows us to buy renewable energy. We were able to get a rate that reflects the scale of our use, and the option for our customers to simply choose to go green. For about a cent and a half more per kilowatt hour they can buy energy that is 100 percent renewable. It’s solar and wind. We have had terrific customer feedback about it.

“It’s important for us,” Wanger continues. “We want to be leaders in dematerialization and we want to be leaders in giving our customers the tools and the choices they need to manage their energy needs. Our very largest customer, Goldman Sachs, is committed to zero carbon.

“We have taken great strides in moving our energy over to renewables. I’m not going to tell 1,000 customers what they have to do,” he explains, adding that if he puts it on the menu and incentivizes it, he believes they will choose it. “We are committed to renewables, we are leaders in energy efficiency, by putting it out there, it’s going to be a needle mover.”

Making it happen

IO began with three businessmen and a foldup table from Costco, Wanger said. The table, signed by the co-founders Wanger, George Slessman and William Slessman, is somewhere in the Phoenix facility as a reminder of how they began.

“I always liked to build things. I have always been fascinated by buildings and real estate and systems and machines,” says Wanger, who comes from several generations of entrepreneurs. “I was brought up in the ‘you make your job, you don’t get a job’ mentality. Sit down. Figure it out. Make it happen. That’s the only thing that works for me.

“We’ve been really fortunate we have a really solid business with terrific institutional backers and terrific institutional customers. We’ve been able to attract some terrific talent. The way we got here is people. When I say make it happen, it isn’t just the three of us, it’s the entire team.

“Make it happen. That really is the moral of our whole story here. These data centers didn’t build themselves. These folks didn’t employ themselves. The capital didn’t raise itself. The customers didn’t identify and sign themselves. This is hard work.

He suggests that in order for Arizona to continue growing its reputation in the technology arena, it, too, will take hard work.

“If Arizona wants to continue its fantastic growth it’s going to be because it chooses to, not because it happens automatically. I feel very positive about Phoenix and Arizona’s prospects, but I think we have to be careful not to take things for granted,” Wanger says. “It’s a very competitive economy. I think we would be well advised to be purposeful in our recruiting and the way in which we create a climate where risk takers can take risks.”


Wanger and his partners at IO, which now has six locations around the globe, were among some of the early risk takers in the data center industry.

“We grew up with the GoDaddy guys. If you go back 10 or 15 years ago, they were in data centers. We were in data centers. There was another guy in data centers and that’s about it,” Wanger says.

According to a market overview analysis by CBRE, today there are about 60 data centers in the Phoenix metro area, including colocation operations and those used by individual companies. An additional 21 greenfield sites have been identified mostly in the East Valley for build-to-suit data centers.

Even with the explosion of data centers in Phoenix, Wanger says he is seeing a trend toward consolidation.

“We are moving away from square footage to more power in less space with shared highly utilized banks of computers,” he says. “I think that the Internet went from 400 markets globally to 200 to 50 markets. I think it’s on its way to being in 12 markets globally. That’s mega consolidation. We are doing everything we can do in our power to make sure Phoenix is on the winner side of that equation.”

Tech magnet

Energy affordability, access and renewable options are sited as reasons for locating power-intensive data centers in Phoenix, but there are more.

Geo-stability is an important factor when deciding a data center’s location. Arizona is free of natural disasters, making it an appealing locale.

“We don’t have hurricanes, or earthquakes or tornadoes or floods or any of those things that jeopardize a data center. We are a very sound place from that standpoint,” Zylstra says.

Moderately priced real estate with relatively low property taxes and legislative incentives sweeten the pot.

“A lot of economic policies in the legislature have supported both enterprise use and colocation centers,” Camacho says. “More recently there was legislation in the last few years that provided a sales tax exemption on server and IT equipment. That was one of the last pieces of the puzzle of being a great market in terms of allowing this market to grow and making it competitive against California and these other states.”

According to CBRE, “The financial impact of this law to a 1 MW tenant’s bottom line could be as much as $6 million to $7 million in tax credit savings over a 10-year period.”

Camacho continues, “There are tax credits available for companies of a certain investment scale, so, in a certain investment threshold, when they meet that level of capital investment, they are eligible, assuming they are going to use significant renewable energy resources, to obtain a corporate income tax credit.”

(subhead)The future

Locating data centers here is often an introductory step for some of the larger companies to test the business waters and learn about the Phoenix area.

“We’ve spent a lot of time working to support colocation operations in the market that are already here,” Camacho says. “And we are working as diligently as we can as we travel outside this market and showcase Arizona marketplace to prospective users. We’ll showcase IO data centers and Digital Realty Trust and others that are in this region with the goal of inducing these tenants to come and utilize colocation space and drive new investment and job creation at the same time.

Proximity to California has made it convenient for companies with corporate headquarters on the West Coast to locate their data centers here. “It encourages them to visit and to learn more about the operating environment. Then our goal is to talk further with them about future operational expansion. It could be back office, IT, or technology centers. Data centers and data storage are generally their first foray into evaluating this market on the office side.

“Once you become a nerve center where companies store data, then you start seeing a lot of these colocation tenants that are in these major facilities evaluating opportunities for back office expansion which generally comes with more job creation,” Camacho says.

CBRE reports a high quality of life and low cost of living have encouraged back shop operations for companies such as Wells Fargo, American Express, PayPal, Yelp and others to locate here.

“Companies tend to aggregate around each other,” Zylstra says. “At some point you get to a critical mass that people recognize and they want to be affiliated with it, connected to it.

“The recent Apple announcement is a watershed moment for us,” Zylstra says, referring to Apple’s plans to locate a data center in Mesa. “Apple is the most innovative company on Earth today. It’s the most successful company on Earth. When that kind of company makes a commitment here in Arizona it suggests that we have come into our own. I believe it is an important milestone in becoming known for technology.”

As the technology sector continues to grow, it is important to attract quality talent, he says.“ The greater the reputation the easier it is to attract and retain talent and that’s your competitive asset in a digital economy,” he says.

Drawing in talent is important, Camacho agrees, but he also says it is important to provide a continuing pipeline of trained talent in IT and technical services through our local educational system.

“That’s what is going to make this industry successful,” Camacho says. “We can see that pipeline coming through our Maricopa Community Colleges and the four-year systems that can meet the demand.

“Even though they are not large employers, there’s a very significant level of indirect technology job creation associated with these data centers. On average, you can provide anywhere from two to four indirect jobs for each of the jobs created within the companies themselves.”


Booker expands tech operations to Scottsdale

Booker, the leading platform for service commerce, announces plans to expand their operations to Scottsdale. With headquarters in New York City, and offices in Orange County, Calif. and Singapore, Booker’s decision to grow into Scottsdale at SkySong is a great addition to the companies who have already selected SkySong to grow.

Booker’s platform allows services businesses of all sizes to provide accurate, up to date information with their clients to connect them with various services. With Booker, businesses are able to engage with clients and expand their reach to a larger customer base. 

“We are excited to become a part of the unique ecosystem in Scottsdale’s SkySong ASU Innovation Center” said Josh McCarter, Booker CEO. “Scottsdale’s talent pool, world-class technology presence, and university partnerships make it an ideal place to expand our business and continue our mission of helping small and medium service businesses grow intelligently while serving their customers better.”

“Scottsdale continues to attract growing technology companies like Booker to Arizona,” said Scottsdale Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane. “We believe that Scottsdale is cultivating a culture of innovation and leadership that fosters a spirit of collaboration amongst creative technology companies that wish to live and work in a community that emulates their lifestyle and beliefs.”

“Building upon the growing critical mass of technology companies in metro Phoenix, Booker joins the ranks of major tech companies such as Weebly and Zenefits, who have chosen to grow their operations in the region,” said Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “This emergence of tech companies into the market is indicative of the robust talent pool that exists, and the great livability our communities offer these workers.”

“We are pleased to welcome Booker Software in joining more than 70 companies affiliated with SkySong,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “We look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship, learning from Booker’s tremendous success and offering a collaborative innovation environment as well as connections with ASU’s student talent.”

To learn more about Booker, and their current openings in the new Scottsdale location, visit http://www.booker.com/careers.

REI Goodyear Distribution Center

REI to open 400KSF distribution center on Loop 303

Seattle-based REI, a leading outdoor retailer, has announced it will open a 400,000-square-foot distribution center creating more than 100 new jobs in the West Valley – becoming the third tenant along the newly-opened Loop 303 in Goodyear.

REI offers its members and customers outdoor gear and apparel for activities such as for hiking, biking and camping. The company is expected to break ground on the facility covering 34 acres near Loop 303 and Camelback Road in May and open in early 2016. REI has been one of a few select companies recognized on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For,” since the recognition began in 1998.

“This is exciting news,” said Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord. “Not only does REI’s announcement mean more jobs in the city, it signals businesses continuing to open along Loop 303 – a major corridor of land available for development. We’re glad REI selected Goodyear to set up shop, and we look forward to having them here.”

Through the new distribution center, REI and REI.com customers will benefit from shorter cycle times required to replenish product, ensuring for more options on store shelves and shorter deliveries. Once the Goodyear facility is up and running, the company will reach 20 percent more customers with two-day ground service.

“We are privileged to join the community of Goodyear as we expand our distribution capacity and services to the southwest market,” said Rick Bingle, REI’s vice president of Supply Chain. “The Goodyear distribution center will enable us to continue to focus on the needs of customers by moving our gear and apparel more quickly and efficiently, now and into the future.”

REI has partnered with Sunbelt Holdings/Merit Partners     as developers for the project.

“We are very excited that REI has selected PV303 for their new distribution and fulfillment center,” said Kevin Czerwinski, President of Merit Partners. “REI joins other corporate household names currently located at PV303, all benefiting from the availability of quality labor, fantastic logistics, freeway identity, and foreign trade zone.”

The addition of REI to Goodyear continues to solidify not only Goodyear’s, but the West Valley’s presence as a major player in online fulfillment centers that provide high-quality goods to consumers and retailers throughout the western United States.

Sandra Watson, president of CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, said Arizona is a prime location for companies such as REI.

“Arizona’s world-class infrastructure system and strategic Southwest location are key advantages supporting the distribution channel and supply chain management needs of growing national and international companies, Watson said. “We welcome REI to our business community and thank them for investing in Goodyear for their corporate expansion.”

The sentiments of Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, echoed Watson’s.

“There has been significant investment in infrastructure in the West Valley, and the recently completed PV303 business park is another example of how our region is growing businesses,” said Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

“The decision by REI to locate their newest facility to the city of Goodyear at the PV303 is emblematic of this commitment, and Mayor Georgia Lord and her team have contributed greatly to this effort. Together, we look forward to welcoming REI to the region,” Camacho added.


Boomtown! is latest tech firm to expand to Scottsdale

San Francisco-based Boomtown! is the latest tech company out of California to announce their plans to expand their operations to Scottsdale. Founded in February 2014, the company has continued to grow, and has selected the Greater Phoenix region for its first expansion.

Boomtown! fixes everyday merchant technology problems in real time, providing on-demand installation and support of in-store technology, resulting in reduced business costs, increased revenue and the prevention of lost sales.

“Being a Chicago transplant I’ve had the privilege of watching the evolution of the Phoenix/Scottsdale Start-Up scene over the past four years, all while building a company that was headquartered in the San Francisco Bay area. It’s been exciting to see the likes of Weebly, Zenefits and Apple as they set up shop here and also watch locally grown successes like WebPT, GoDaddy, and Infusionsoft, said Paul Wyer, Boomtown! Head of Operations and co-founder.

“I’ve met some really talented people in the valley that wish they had similar “bay start-up opportunities” and they felt like they had to move to California to get access to those kinds of jobs. I want to keep Arizona talent in Arizona, so we decided to build-out our Boomtown Operations Team here,” Wyer continued. “It’s a ripe location for start-up growth and we get access to eager and technically talented candidates from Valley-based universities and companies.”

Using new age technology, Boomtown! provides merchants with immediate support, remotely though the app. This saves businesses time and money. With more than 350 technicians across the country, Boomtown! is also able to dispatch local technicians to businesses when needed.

“I’m glad to learn that Boomtown has chosen to expand its operations to Scottsdale. We believe our community is a natural fit for vibrant companies who value quality of life as much as the bottom-line,” said Scottsdale Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane.

“Greater Phoenix has a larger base of qualified software workers than any other market in the mountain region, and is poised to grow by 14 percent over the next five years,” said Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “The availability of talent coupled with a competitive operating environment, continues to draw companies like Boomtown! to the region. We look forward to seeing their growth in Scottsdale.”

To learn more about Boomtown!, visit www.goboomtown.com


GPEC names Chris Camacho new CEO

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) Board of Directors unanimously selected Chris Camacho as the organization’s fourth president and CEO during a special meeting today.

Camacho has served as executive vice president of GPEC since joining the organization in 2008. He oversaw the organization’s top line performance measures, including domestic and international business development and market strategies. Camacho has also served as a primary conduit to Maricopa County and cities in the region.

“Chris is one of the leading economic development professionals in the country and unquestionably the best candidate for the position,” said Don Smith, GPEC board chairman and CopperPoint Mutual president. “His proven leadership acumen and depth of experience will enhance the momentum of the organization and propel our work forward. Following an extensive evaluation, the Board was confident in the strength of our leadership succession plan. Chris has the full support of our communities and stakeholders.”

Over the course of his career, Camacho has earned regional and national recognition. This month, he was recognized by Consultant Connect as a Top 50 Economic Developer in North America. He has served as president of the Arizona Association for Economic Development, and was named Economic Developer of the Year by the organization in 2011. Both the Phoenix Business Journal in 2012 and Development Counsellors International in 2013 recognized him as one of the 40 under 40.

“I am fully invested in seeing the future sustainability of our region supported by significant business growth and collaborative economic development initiatives,” said Camacho. “I am humbled by the board’s decision and the outpouring of support I have received from the community. Greater Phoenix has become home to me and my family.”

During Camacho’s tenure, GPEC has led the attraction of 174 companies, creating 26,688 jobs and $2.2 billion in capital investment. Notable projects include Silicon Valley Bank, Zenefits, GoDaddy, Yelp, Amazon, Garmin and General Motors, among many others.

Previous GPEC CEOs include Ioanna Morfessis, Rick Weddle and the most recent president and CEO, Barry Broome.


Growing tech firms reflect emerging Arizona business sector

Don Hawley is the quintessential product of Silicon Valley. He went to college at the University of California, Berkeley, became a serial entrepreneur and founded and developed many successful technology companies in the San Francisco Bay area.

So why is he doing business in Arizona?

“Arizona is infinitely more business friendly,” said the founder, chairman and CEO of Scottsdale-based Innovative Green Technologies, which creates environmentally friendly products that reduce emissions and save users money. “Favorable tax rates make it less costly to do business in Arizona compared with California, which is attractive to newer companies that have to watch their pennies. Arizona is also blessed with Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, which supply a constant stream of high-quality young talent, which is a great resource.”

Hawley isn’t alone. The recently expansions of Zenefits and Weebly into the Valley and the emergence of Valley-based WebPT and Infusionsoft as technology powerhouses reflect an exploding techn industry in Phoenix that is transforming the state’s economy.

“The technology ecosystem in Arizona has never been more robust and these recent business attractions are going to become more commonplace,” says Steven G. Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council. “One of the vital attractions for startups in the Silicon Desert as compared with Silicon Valley is the drastically lower cost of living, especially in the area of housing. The word is getting out about Arizona.”

Valley economic developers are doing more than using lower tax rates and promises of sunshine to convince tech companies to relocate here, the state is building its home-grown success stories. A great example is WebPT, which launched its cloud-based physical therapy software in 2008 and has evolved from startup into one the fastest-growing software company in Arizona, creating more than 200 jobs in Phoenix.

“There are great incentive programs available to businesses looking to grow,” says Brad Jannenga, co-founder, chairman, president and chief technology officer at WebPT. “The Angel Tax Credit program offered by the state is a great opportunity for investors to have peace of mind when backing startups and knowing they can take a tax break when doing so. This was a major win for us when we went out for our Series A round back in 2010. Investors were lining up around the block partly because of the early stage success we had, but also largely because of the Angel Tax Credit.”

It’s the success of emerging companies like WebPT that are driving the robust growth of Arizona’s technology sector, says Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC).

“What we’ve done on the policy side was working with the legislature and governor so they understand that even though the headlines belong to Apple and Intel and companies like that, it’s the hundreds if not thousands of small and medium technologically based enterprises that have the chance to be the next GoDaddy,” Broome says. “Maybe you get lucky and you get a Google or a Microsoft or maybe an Infusionsoft becomes a Microsoft. Having the ability to get those small companies to go to scale and having the economic development programs and policies in place to help them are where we’ve been most helpful.”

Jannenga credits organizations like GPEC for helping the technology sector grow by tirelessly looking at new ways to diversify the economy and working closely with Arizona’s universities to produce the next wave of talent needed to feed the workforce demands of the technology industry.

But Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton put it simply: “WebPT is a game-changer, not only in terms of showing the growth in the tech sector in Phoenix, but growth in the warehouse district in downtown Phoenix.”

Experts say Arizona has actually done a number of things well to build a business environment that fosters innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit.

“The state has emphasized economic development through support of key economic development groups like the Arizona Commerce Authority and GPEC,” says Jacque Westling, partner at Quarles & Brady in Phoenix. “(Arizona) has created and maintained some key tax incentives, such as the Refundable Research and Development Credit and the Angel Investment Tax Credit Program, promoted tech transfer from the universities and supported emerging areas of strength such as biotechnology, data centers, energy and other areas.”

Zylstra says having facilities with ready-to-go infrastructure in desirable hot spots such as downtown Phoenix and downtown Scottsdale has been a major part in attracting technology companies to the Valley.
“Knowledge workers like the type of amenities available in these locations,” he says. “When you add Arizona’s ample workforce, low taxes and low cost of doing business, the foundation is very strong.”

Jannenga says the state’s deep awareness of the emerging technology sector and what it means to our state’s economic future has been helpful to WebPT and other early stage companies.

“I think when people began to recognize that we couldn’t rely on the traditional engines that had previously fueled our growth — tourism and migration from colder climates chief among them — to provide the type of jobs we need, it caused a basic shift in how progressive leaders thought about the future,” says Don Pierson, CEO of SpotlightSales, which has developed a sales performance optimization tool.

With the foundation for building a successful technology sector in place, Pierson says he has seen tremendous growth in the software industry and expects that growth to continue.

“I think biofuels are really interesting,” he says, “and I’m always amazed by what comes out of the biotech area.”

Greg Head, chief marketing officer at Infusionsoft, agrees with Pierson that Arizona quickly becoming a center for software businesses.

“Right now, there are thousands of entrepreneurs incubating new innovations, hundreds of software business growing and employing more people and several bigger software companies like GoDaddy, LifeLock, Infusionsoft and WebPT that are growing fast,” Head says. “The Arizona software community is growing up quickly.”

Experts agree that diversifying Arizona’s tech sectors will continue to power its growth. Zylstra expects aerospace and defense and semiconductor and electronics to continue to be strong, “but IT, especially software and data centers, healthcare, bioscience and alternative energy will help lead us into the future,” he says.

“We need to have all tech industries thriving in Arizona,” says Mike Auger, CEO and founder of PikFly, a technology-driven same day delivery network for local businesses. “A focus in one area puts us into a corner. Semiconductors have been great for our state, but that is really what we are known for — we need to be known for all types of tech.”

While Arizona’s growth in the technology arena is impressive, the state must tackle one major issue to maintain that positive trajectory.

“I spend more of my time as mayor in economic development recruiting and retention than I do anything else,” Stanton says. “The reality is this: the companies are concerned about workforce development. Do we have the pipeline of employees that they are going to need as their companies grow?”

Jannenga agrees that Arizona needs to invest heavily into all levels of our education system and diversify our skilled workforce.

“The places where we’re falling short is we’re not delivering the engineering talent necessary for the tech sector to really take off,” Broome says. “We need to make a big move on the production of engineers and make a big move on the production of information communication technology people.”
Broome says that big move can come from anywhere from community colleges to higher education to unique specialty certification programs that are putting students through six-month boot camps and producing a qualified workforce. He cites the Maricopa Corporate College as a unique training program that is developing and delivering customized workforces.

“You’re going to see continued movement in creating new educational options and a huge infusion of these intermediate training strategies to build the technology sector,” Broome says.

Creating a viable workforce to feed the needs is of the technology industry is a must to maintain the state’s robust growth and quality of life, experts say.

“We either grow the tech sector of the economy or we will fail,” Broome says. “That’s how important it is. It’s where the wages are. It’s where the high-end people are. It’s the part of the economy that is most sustainable. If you’re not building a tech sector, you’re relying on your current industries to remain relevant and we know from history that just doesn’t happen.”

Broome says the Valley has learned from companies like Motorola and General Motors than mature companies in mature industries contract and fade away, so it forces the business community to continually recycle its economic strategy around new industries.

“From my perspective, you’re looking at a make-it-or-break-it situation,” Broome says. “The reason the economy is so sluggish is because it’s waiting for consumption. It’s waiting for government spending and it’s waiting for retail spending and it’s waiting for construction and home buying. When your economy can only recover on that basis, you’re going to continue to have ebbs and flows and dips and falls. Even a place like San Francisco, which has a very difficult business climate because it’s expensive to the point of being unimaginable, its net year-to-year economic growth is much more robust than Phoenix and the rest of the country because its economy is built around talent, innovation and the high-tech sector. If we do a good job and build that out better, there’s no reason why Phoenix can’t be the most exciting community in the United States.”


Tractor Supply Company plans Arizona distribution center

Tractor Supply Company (NASDAQ: TSCO), the largest rural lifestyle retail store chain in the United States, announced Monday plans to build a new distribution center in Casa Grande, Ariz.

“The addition of a new distribution center in the Southwest is key to our western expansion strategy,” said Greg Sandfort, president and CEO. “Arizona’s proximity to our Western stores provides an ideal location for our new facility which will allow us to achieve lower transportation costs and faster delivery to our stores. Casa Grande has an excellent workforce, and we appreciate the hard work of the local and state officials who assisted us through the process.  We look forward to a very long and productive partnership with the Casa Grande community.”

The Phoenix office of JLL completed the 100-acre land sale that will bring a new Tractor Supply Company distribution center to the rail-served, 416-acre Central Arizona Commerce Park in Casa Grande.

“It is exciting to welcome Tractor Supply and to continue to bring manufacturing and distribution-focused companies together in Casa Grande,” said JLL Managing Director Bill Honsaker. “Central Arizona Commerce Park is about making connections – connections that link West Coast ports inland and that deliver the benefits of this very strategically located, cost effective and business-forward environment.”
Honsaker, along with JLL Managing Directors Anthony Lydon and Marc Hertzberg, are the exclusive brokers for Central Arizona Commerce Park.

“Tractor Supply Company will be a great addition to the community and will be joining many other agricultural, industrial, and commercial businesses in Casa Grande that have quick access to several transportation routes,” said Bob Jackson, Casa Grande Mayor. “We’ve worked diligently over the years to have the proper infrastructure in place for current and future growth, and have improved the efficiency of the permitting process to create a friendly business environment. We welcome Tractor Supply Company to the community and thank them for choosing Casa Grande as the site for their first western distribution center.”

Tractor Supply executives and local government officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking event today, November 17, at the Casa Grande distribution center site located in the Central Arizona Commerce Park. The facility is expected to begin operating in the fourth quarter of 2015 and will be approximately 650,000 square-feet in size, with the potential to create more than 250 local jobs.

“The new Tractor Supply investment will bring needed jobs to the Casa Grande community,” said Barry Broome, President and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “This further bolsters the city’s position in building out a future industrial employment corridor, and we are excited to have them in the region.”

Tractor Supply Company’s new distribution center will have the potential to service approximately 250 stores in the Southwest region. Currently, the company operates more than 1,360 stores in 49 states across the country.

“We are thrilled that Tractor Supply Company selected Casa Grande for expansion and thank them for investing in Arizona,” said Sandra Watson, President and CEO, Arizona Commerce Authority. “Our state’s strategic Southwest location and world-class infrastructure system provide companies a platform to access key regional and global growth markets, which help to advance their businesses and long-term corporate success.”

Central Arizona Commerce Park provides a premier distribution facility for the Southwest and is situated near the confluence of the I-10 and I-8 offering access to other regional infrastructure assets supporting businesses operating in Casa Grande and the broader region.

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Zenefits will create 1,300 Jobs at new Scottsdale office

Today the Greater Phoenix Economic Council was joined by the Arizona Commerce Authority, Maricopa County and the City of Scottsdale in welcoming Zenefits to the Greater Phoenix region.

Zenefits, the free, cloud-based human resources technology company that automates and eliminates time-consuming paperwork for small and medium-sized businesses, announced today plans to create over 1,300 new full-time jobs over the next three years, and the launch of a new, nearly 100,000-square-foot office in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“We’re thrilled to open our new office in Scottsdale, which will allow Zenefits to meet the growing demand from thousands of small businesses who want to focus on their people instead of paperwork,” said Parker Conrad, CEO and co-founder of Zenefits. “The greater Phoenix area has a talented workforce and an expanding tech community, and Zenefits is excited to grow our team both here and in San Francisco.”

Zenefits is widely considered to be one of the fastest-growing tech companies in recent history. Its user base is on track to grow 1,600 percent in 2014, and in a little over one year in business, the company has signed up more than 2,000 businesses serving over 50,000 employees across 47 states.

This is the largest expansion from a California-based tech company into the Greater Phoenix region since PayPal in 2010. Zenefits has already hired 60 new local employees, and plans to expand to more than 1,300 full-time employees within the next three years. The company’s new office will occupy 94,000 square feet of office space in the Scottsdale Galleria Corporate Center.

“We want to welcome Zenefits to Scottsdale, where it joins a growing field of exciting and innovative tech companies who are drawn here by all the elements that ensure a motivated, skilled workforce, an outstanding quality of life and a positive business environment,” said Scottsdale Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane. “We are delighted to welcome Zenefits to Scottsdale – they will be an incredible addition to our business community and our City’s economy.”

The expansion into Scottsdale will enable the company to meet the needs of its rapidly increasing customer base. Zenefits is now in the process of hiring a range of new employees for the Scottsdale office, including HR specialists, sales representatives, account managers and executives, and client support staff. Zenefits currently employs more than 390 workers in its San Francisco headquarters, up from just 15 at the beginning of the year.

“Zenefits is one of the fastest-growing tech companies in America, and we are tremendously excited that its leadership selected Arizona for a major expansion that will advance its corporate growth goals,” said Sandra Watson, President and CEO, Arizona Commerce Authority. “Our state’s surging technology ecosystem and highly-educated workforce continue to attract innovative companies seeking to develop operational hubs to help drive business growth and enhance their competitiveness across the country.”

Zenefits automates a wide range of time-consuming, administrative HR tasks that companies otherwise have to handle manually, including: benefits and payroll, hiring, taxes and compliance, employee life events, health insurance and more. Zenefits’ cloud-based HR platform connects seamlessly to a company’s existing third-party benefits systems, so that businesses and employees can manage these systems from a single, beautifully designed dashboard.

“We are thrilled that Zenefits chose the Greater Phoenix region for its first big expansion,” said Barry Broome, President and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “Zenefits will provide a substantive impact to the innovation ecosystem, creating 1,300 new jobs in the ICT sector over the next three years, spurring growth and contributing to our broader economy.”

The core Zenefits service is 100 percent free to customers because it is able to collect fees from all kinds of benefit providers. This unique business model is one of the reasons Zenefits has been able to attract so many users so quickly. As of June, the company has raised $84 million from prominent investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), and Academy Award-winning actor and investor Jared Leto.

David Funkhouser

Funkhouser Appointed to GPEC Ambassador Committee

The national law firm of Quarles & Brady LLP announced that David E. Funkhouser III, a partner in the firm’s Phoenix office, has been appointed to the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) Ambassador Steering Committee, which is focused on ensuring GPEC’s Ambassador Program aligns with the organization’s key objectives and mission.  Members of the Steering Committee advise on the strategic direction of GPEC’s Ambassador Program, serve as a sounding board for emerging initiatives and support implementation of programs, and design activities relevant to and in support of GPEC’s mission.

Funkhouser handles complex commercial litigation matters. His litigation practice has an emphasis in real property disputes, trust, estate and probate litigation, and other commercial torts. Funkhouser also routinely represents financial institutions in all aspects of litigation.

He is also heavily involved in the local community, just recently completing his term as president of the Maricopa County Bar Association. Also in 2014, Funkhouser was named a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, selected for inclusion in the 2014 Southwest Super Lawyers magazine and named to both the Phoenix Business Journal’s “40 under 40” and  Richman Media’s “Leaders under 40” lists, respectively. He is a member of the Leadership Council for the Special Olympics Advocacy Resource program, a founding member of Suns 88 Charities and a certified ambassador for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. He also served in the Arizona House of Representatives from 2008–2009. Funkhouser earned both his law degree and undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa.

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Phoenix MBDA Hosts Global Business Conference

The Phoenix Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center, in partnership with the Thunderbird School of Global Management, is hosting Phoenix MBDA’s 2nd Annual Global Business Conference and the concurrent Global Business to Business Trade Expo on Thursday, October 23 and Friday, October 24 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel. The expo will focus on topical business opportunities and will provide information on how to conduct business with local, domestic, and international companies.

The two-day event is expected to bring in 150 local, national, and international attendees, including foreign consulates, Arizona Mayors, businesses looking to expand their services and product offerings in international markets, and interested individuals who are looking to start and/or grow a business to support global initiatives.

In support of the conference, Penny Pritzker, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce said, “We know that when U.S. firms sell their goods overseas, the U.S. economy stands to benefit. U.S. exports reached a record $2.3 trillion in 2013, and exports now support 11.3 million jobs, up 1.6 million since 2009.”

Alika Kumar, Executive Director of Phoenix MBDA also emphasized the importance of the conference and said, “Understanding the simplified processes of how to do business in international markets is vital to all U.S. based businesses and all individuals looking to do business abroad. This conference will lay the framework and foundation for those looking to succeed abroad.” Panelists include Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, as well as Barry Broome representing the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC). They will provide information about opportunities, including how to network, connect, do business, and succeed in international markets.

For information about registering or sponsorship opportunities, contact Kaaren-Lyn Morton at (602) 248-0007 or e-mail kaaren@phoenixmbdacenter.com.


Harper Getting Distinguished Service Award from GPEC


Sharon Harper, Photo by Shavon Thompson

Sharon Harper, Photo by Shavon Thompson

Plaza Companies President and CEO Sharon Harper will receive this year’s Distinguished Service Award from the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), which recognizes significant individual contributions to economic development efforts in Arizona.  
Harper will be honored alongside Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, the recipient of the organization’s Outstanding Regional Contribution Award, and Dibble Engineering’s Rebecca Timmer, who will be named Ambassador of the Year at GPEC’s Annual Dinner Thursday, Oct. 9 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.
This year’s Annual Dinner promises to be one for the record books, when more than 700 guests gather to honor award recipients and commemorate GPEC’s 25th anniversary as one of the country’s most effective economic development engines.
Harper has long played a key role as an economic leader across the Valley and beyond, and proved instrumental in catapulting Phoenix-based Plaza Companies to the forefront of the national healthcare, biotechnology and bioscience and senior housing sectors. Harper was also heavily influential in the widespread success of SkySong, The ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, which is considered among the premier economic engines in the Southwest and is credited in attracting numerous cutting-edge technology and innovation companies to the area, as well as more than 1,500 jobs.
“It’s an immense honor to be among the honorees at GPEC’s upcoming dinner, and I am grateful to be able to contribute to the efforts of the organization as far as encouraging economic growth and sustainability across Arizona,” Harper said. 
The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) is one of the region’s premier economic development groups. GPEC has been working on behalf of businesses looking to relocate and expand –– for 25 years. It is a public-private partnership representing Maricopa County, 23 communities throughout the region and more than 160 private investors. 
“Sharon Harper has been an invaluable asset to us over the years as we’ve worked to improve Arizona’s economy,” said Barry Broome, CEO of GPEC. “We are pleased to be able to honor her achievements and recognize the positive impact she has had on economic development in the Valley.”
Harper served as the Chairman of GPEC several years ago, and has been instrumental in GPEC’s international agenda and serves as Co-Chairman of the International Leadership Council. As a result of ILC’s efforts, 20% of new companies entering the market in the last fiscal year have been international, compared to just over 1 percent five years ago.
“I’ve long been proud to be a part of the work of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, proud to represent the City of Peoria on the Board, and am eager to watch another successful 25 years unfold from such a groundbreaking organization,” Harper said. “I look forward to continuing to work in conjunction with GPEC to further establish Arizona as the epicenter of economic success in the Southwest.”


WESTMARC Creates United Front To Boost West Valley

“You can’t just say you ‘support regionalism,’ you have to believe it.” Surprise Mayor Sharon Wolcott is talking about attitude in the West Valley.

Thirty minutes earlier in a separate conversation, Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord made nearly the same comment. “We believe in regionalism and we put it into practice,” she says. “On this side of the Valley, it’s not just words, it’s real.”

District 5 Maricopa County Supervisor, Clint Hickman, points out the window of his 10th floor office. “They place us so when supervisors look out the window, we’re looking at our district,” he said. Gazing across West Phoenix, the dome of University of Phoenix stadium is clearly visible in front of the White Tank Mountains. “I was born and raised in the West Valley,” he continues. “As a business owner, a public servant, and West Valley native, I believe we’re stronger for working together.”

Talk to any business leader about the West Valley, and the words heard are “regionalism,” “working together” and “diversity.” Maricopa County districts 4 and 5, and 15 communities from Surprise to Gila Bend, Wickenburg to Phoenix are starting to flex economic development muscle. When the synergies are totaled, the sum is the United Cities of West Valley.

The spirit of cooperation west of Interstate 17 is a break from history. As recently as a decade ago, West Valley cities were clawing for territory, car dealers, and the next power center. Tens of thousands of families were driving to qualify for affordable homes popping up in dozens of sprawling tracts. Politically, there may as well have been walls running down city limit lines.

Then came the recession. The economic downturn had a chilling impact on the West Valley. Faced with abandoned neighborhoods, empty strip centers and vacant warehouses, municipal revenue streams dribbled to nothingness. What was the norm wasn’t working.

The change started quietly. “It all began shifting over the past three to four years,” recounts Lana Mook, mayor in El Mirage. “We, the area’s mayors and business leaders, realized we would be a lot stronger working together than working separately.”

The challenge was bringing together the region’s assets and promoting the area. The catalyst had been sitting there since 1990. The Western Maricopa Coalition (WESTMARC) was the one place where mayors, businesses and public officials connected. In 2011, the WESTMARC board appointed a former Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) senior vice president to the role of president and chief operating officer. Michelle Rider took the reins of an old organization with a new charge.

The regional development organization took on a new focus. Its board of directors and Rider decided to leave business recruitment to organizations like GPEC, Arizona Commerce Authority and individual cities’ economic development departments.

“We saw our role as creating a strong environment in which business can flourish,” she explains. “We focus on three priorities. Our efforts are to promote the West Valley, enhance economic development and increase member value. We partner with GPEC and Arizona Commerce; they have the recruitment resources. We need to ensure when a business comes knocking on our door, we’re ready.”

“Let’s say there are a lot of misunderstandings about the West Valley outside the West Valley,” muses Mayor Lord. “Many of those misunderstandings are because people’s only experience with the Valley is sitting in traffic on I-10 when returning from California. They haven’t stopped here to explore.”

“I drive to work in the morning between two of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the state,” Supervisor Hickman says. “I look at the vast expanses of open land, the many homes, the business clusters we have, and realize, there’s a lot to offer.”

Site selection consultants look at many factors before plopping a business into a market. Key among those are similar firms, transportation and workforce. The West Valley has a well-kept secret. It is home to significant diversity in the three key siting factors. The region is home to a diverse collection of business sectors.

Mayor Wolcott lists the base: “Manufacturing and logistics, healthcare, advanced business services, aerospace and renewable energy businesses are located all over the region. We have the most diverse business and population base in the state.”

There’s another asset: Maricopa County west of I-17 has vast tracts of undeveloped, single ownership land.

“We learned from the rapid development in the East Valley,” explains Mayor Lord. “The cities in the West Valley have jealously guarded industrial land, Luke Air Force Base and our transportation corridors.”

One of the region’s major corridors has a significant cheerleader. Mayor Wolcott has pressed for improvements to Grand Avenue since she first took office. “This is a multimodal corridor that’s unique to the West Valley,” she says. “No other road in the state is like this. It connects ten cities and runs from the Capitol to Wickenburg; essentially, it runs all the way to Las Vegas.”

“The West Valley has an extraordinary mix of transportation modes,” echoes Mayor Mook. “We have both (Union Pacific) and (Burlington Northern) rail roads, a collection of spurs, (Loop) 303, I-10 and some day, I-11.”

The biggest asset in the region is its workforce. “Goodyear is the sixth fastest growing city in the United States,” Mayor Lord says with pride.
The rest of the West Valley is growing rapidly. In 2010, the region was home to 39 percent of the County’s population, according to the Maricopa Association of Governments. By 2040, MAG says the share will climb to 46 percent for the region.

“Every work day you can almost feel the land tilt,” says Mayor Wolcott. “The roads are filled with our residents driving out of our region to go to work. We have a significant, well-educated workforce who’d rather work closer to home.”

More than half the Northwest Valley’s workforce commutes into Deer Valley, Central Phoenix and the Scottsdale Airpark.

“We want our residents to stay closer to home, and we’re working as a region to make that happen,” Mayor Lord is emphatic about cutting the commutes.

Manufacturing, medicine, aerospace, renewable energy and advanced business services. These are the roots of the “West muscle” promoted by WESTMARC.

Rider is passionate about all of this. “We’re bringing our members together as a powerful force to make these assets known. There’s a story to tell, and we’re getting the word out.”

GPEC position aligned with WTO ruling on tariffs

A ruling by the World Trade Organization earlier last week affirmed the position the Greater Phoenix Economic Council held in 2012, opposing the countervailing duties placed on Chinese-manufactured solar panels.

The ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) counters the position taken by the International Trade Commission (ITC) in 2012, which imposed tariffs on Chinese-manufactured photovoltaic cells and modules. In a formal letter to the US Department of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) strongly opposed the tariffs on the grounds the duties would have a detrimental effect on the existing solar and renewable energy industry in the Greater Phoenix region.

“We are encouraged by the decision of the WTO, and are optimistic the US will move quickly to reverse its course on these tariffs,” said Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “Our state leaders have enacted sound pro-business policies, including renewable energy tax credits, which have resulted in significant investment to the region. The 2012 decision by the ITC was completely antithetical to those efforts.”

The ITC is currently considering additional rounds of countervailing duties on solar goods from China; however the recent announcement from the WTO suggests bringing the US measures in line with the ruling offered by the WTO.

For additional information on GPEC’s previous statements regarding this issue, please visit www.gpec.org/tariff.


Broome taking part in Global Cities Initiative

As part of the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council president and CEO Barry Broome, will join various business and elected leaders for a discussion on the development of a metropolitan export strategy.

“The mayors and business leaders from the region have led in the transformation of our economy” said Broome. “Developing a metropolitan export strategy through the Global Cities Initiative is a critical step toward ensuring our economic future.”

The forum, Going Global: Boosting Greater Phoenix’s Economic Future, taking place today at ASU Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, will feature many speakers, including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce William M. Daly, Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program co-directors Bruce Katz and Amy Liu, and Chase market manager for Arizona and Nevada Curtis Reed, Jr.

The half-day event will center on preliminary market assessment findings on how the Greater Phoenix region can better position its global competitiveness. The city of Phoenix is part of a network of regions across the nation participating in the Global Cities Initiative’s Exchange to help develop global engagement strategies

Closing out the forum, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will join the program via satellite to make an announcement regarding the National Export Initiative.

The event will begin at 9:30 a.m. and conclude at 12:15 p.m.


GPEC Earns Economic Development honor

Cited as one of the Best to Invest Top U.S. Groups of 2013, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) has once again made Site Selection magazine’s annual ranking for top U.S. Economic Development Groups.

“This recognition is a reflection of our elected and business leaders working together to promote Greater Phoenix and Arizona as business friendly,” said Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “The Arizona Competitiveness Package of 2011 and subsequent economic development policies have dramatically shifted our market’s competitive position towards advanced manufacturing and other high-tech industries.”

The ranking took into account four objective categories: new jobs, new jobs per 10,000 residents, new investment amount and new investment per 10,000 residents. “This year’s Best to Invest Top Groups in the U.S. all demonstrated an ability to reach new markets while reaping significant reinvestments from their existing industries,” said Ron Starner, general manager and executive vice president of Conway Data Inc. and Site Selection magazine.

The magazine also features a ranking for top North American deals of 2013, highlighting the Apple, Inc. locate to Mesa, Ariz. The collaboration included a partnership between GPEC, the Arizona Commerce Authority, the city of Mesa, DMB Associates, Maricopa County, and Salt River Project.

Several factors contributed to determining the Top Deals of 2013, including: level of capital investment, degree of high-wage jobs, creativity in negotiations and incentives, regional economic impact, competition for the project and speed to market. “Trends among this elite group of projects include a penchant for free trade zones and an awareness that sometimes facility reuse is as good as brand new,” said Adam Bruns, managing editor of Site Selection.

Broome credits the successful consummation of the project to “years of work on infrastructure, permitting, and crafting performance-based incentives.” He also cited the ability to offer a “turnkey real estate option” as a key factor in sealing the deal.

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Glendale adds economic development talent

The City of Glendale Office of Economic Development has a new talented team member to tout: Kristen Stephenson has joined the city as an Economic Development Specialist. Stephenson spent 12 years with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), where she provided crucial economic and competitive analyses, including tax policy, incentive analysis and economic impact modeling and was most recently GPEC’s leading Economic Analyst.

“Economic development is an engine for the city of Glendale and we are fortunate to have someone of Kristen’s intellectual acumen on our team who understands the Valley and state and the value of progress through business,” said Brian Friedman, Executive Director of Community and Economic Development. “Accurate, well-positioned market and economic information is critical to everything Glendale does to communicate our proposition, from engaging clients to reaching out to brokers and developers and Kristen’s expertise will help us continue to grow.”

While at GPEC she also oversaw and managed the daily activities of the organization’s research internship program and was responsible for tracking GPEC’s progress toward its goals. Stephenson has played an instrumental role in the development of the new Greater Phoenix Rising website in which she researched, organized and compiled vast amounts of data to fill the site and provided feedback on its creative direction. She earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Arizona State University and has actively participated in the Arizona Economic Roundtable, an association for business economists, for the past five years. Stephenson grew up in Glendale and currently resides in Glendale with her husband and two sons.

For more information about the Glendale Office of Economic Development, visit www.glendaleaz.com.