The economic downturn rattled almost every industry in Arizona at its foundation.
“The recession served as a necessary wake-up call for both the Valley and the entire state,” says Andy Warren, CEO of Maracay Home and Greater Phoenix Economic Council board member. “In the years leading up to the recession, many people in Arizona had a mindset that economic expansion was invulnerable to setbacks. The recession has changed that mindset.”
But in the middle of the unstable economic environment, analysts would have a hard time identifying Arizona as one of the states that was hit the hardest by the economic downturn if they looked only at GPEC’s success during that time.
In fiscal year 2012, GPEC helped 36 companies expand or relocate to the region — the most in the economic catalyst’s 23-year history. That topped GPEC’s previous record of 31 companies, which it set in 2011, giving GPEC its two best years when times were toughest and competition for companies was at its most fierce.
So how did GPEC achieve such success in a down economy?
“GPEC has distinguished itself as a true public-private partnership where the cities, county and business leaders have a working forum to collaborate around economic development issues,” says Don Smith, president and CEO of SCF Arizona and vice chairman of GPEC’s board of directors. “It also possesses an outstanding research capability that can reliability assist other economic development interests in making successful decisions. The strategies and tactics at GPEC are robust, and comprehensive, covering local, national and global interests on behalf of the state, and the ground game both internationally and domestically is exceptional.”
The economic impact of GPEC’s success is staggering. The 36 companies it assisted in 2012 will create more than 4,000 jobs for the Greater Phoenix region, will generate $178 million of net new payroll, and absorb or build approximately 3.8 million square feet with their phase one investments. Companies GPEC helped relocate to the Valley include CyrusOne, one of the largest data centers in the country, and Silicon Valley Bank, an expansion from California creating 250 jobs at an average salary of $88,000. Advanced business services, general business services, transportation and distribution, manufacturing and healthcare continue to drive the majority of GPEC’s relocation activity, with environmental technologies rounding out the lion’s share.
GPEC President and CEO Barry Broome credits part of his organization’s success to a major policy achievement for Arizona, the Qualified Facilities Income Tax Credit.
“Gov. Jan Brewer, House Speaker Andy Tobin, Senate President Steve Pierce and the entire Arizona legislature have worked hard to improve our business climate as evidenced by the Qualified Facilities Income Tax Credit,” Broome said. “Moving forward, key economic development programs are still needed to compete with other markets to attract high impact, export-oriented companies and investment — working together as we have done in recent years, I have no doubt we’ll get there.”
More than 11 percent of GPEC’s locates were international companies, primarily due to ramped-up efforts on the organization’s foreign-direct investment program and 16.7 percent were from California, another highly concentrated effort with partners throughout the state to draw investment to the Sun Corridor.
“We now have strong consensus that nurturing high quality job growth is our top priority,” Warren says. “Leadership at the state level, municipal level and from the private sector are now fully aligned with a singular focus toward specific growth industries applicable to Arizona. We are creating a fiscal environment where Arizona is fully competitive with other growth-oriented states … This clear mission and focus is on growth industries that will drive the future economy such as healthcare, clean technology, technology, aerospace and defense.”