Arizona’s economic developers have scored big wins in 2018

Above: Becton, Dickinson and Company, a global medical technology company, recently broke ground on a new headquarters in the IDEA Tempe development, at 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway. Business News | 28 Nov, 2018 |

Winning is a team effort, and Team Arizona has had a very productive 2018 when it comes to attracting new companies to locate here or to expand their current operations.

Arizona’s team is led by a growing workforce, as the state climbed past the 7 million mark for population. Of those people, more than half are located in Maricopa and Pinal counties and companies have been drawn to those two counties. Other role players for Arizona is the solid, modern infrastructure that is in place, as well as a climate of collaboration among officials on the local, county and state level.

“What companies are citing as reasons to move to Arizona are the labor makeup and workforce availability, as well as infrastructure readiness and speed to market,” said Mitchel Allen, director of business development for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “Obviously being in a pro-business region or state certainly helps. We’re certainly winning a lot of deals because of that.”

Allen is just one of the economic development leaders that have been working diligently to win those deals. Each of these wins are victories that the people of Arizona share in terms of quality jobs and economic growth that raises an already high quality of life in the state.

Nikola Motors

While the Phoenix market garners the most attention for economic development, something special is brewing just south of the Valley in Pinal County.

Pinal County grabbed plenty of attention in 2016 when startup electric car manufacturer Lucid Motors announced it planned to build a factory at the Central Arizona Commerce Park in Casa Grande.

That project was an enormous victory for Arizona and Pinal County, and in 2018, the county came through once again with what could be called a save, to use baseball terminology. Nikola Motors, another startup hybrid vehicle manufacturer, had originally planned to build a factory in Buckeye to manufacture its groundbreaking hydrogen-powered semi trucks. However, the company received a large order from the Anheuser-Busch company for up to 800 semis and that order changed the timeline.

“They told us at the time that the big contract that they got for 800 semi trucks, that they were going to have to expedite the timeline,” said Tim Kanavel, economic development manager for Pinal County. “The site that they were looking at in Buckeye wasn’t going to be ready in time.”

In stepped Pinal County, the City of Coolidge and Jackob Andersen of Saint Holdings, the owner and developer of both the Central Arizona Commerce Park and the Inland Port Arizona in Coolidge, the site where Nikola will build a 1 million square foot assembly plant. The Inland Port Arizona was ready to go with everything that Nikola Motors was looking for: Plenty of available land with access to freeways with Interstate 8 and Interstate 10, a rail line and a location situated within a 50-mile radius of 2.8 million people to provide ample workforce access.

“Everything follows infrastructure and the backbone for a lot of these companies is either rail or your interstate access for their transport,” said Rick Miller, city manager for Coolidge. “That was one of the real good things about this location with the I-8 and I-10, it’s not very far at all from where Nikola is looking.

“Arizona is a fantastic state to do this kind of business. The climate’s right.”

Saint Holdings is one of the largest owners of private land in Pinal County and has positioned itself as a leading economic driver for the county. Lucid Motors expects to employ 2,000 people at its plant, and Nikola Motors plans to have slightly less than 2,000 employees. Between the two projects, that’s nearly a $1 billion economic impact for the county.

Andersen envisions that when work begins on the Lucid and Nikola plants in early 2019, there will be a burst of activity as companies that support this new automotive technology move in.

“One of the requests of both companies when they came to us, one of the reasons we were so high on the hit list, was do we have available land adjacent or in close proximity so that they are not on an island and not able to accommodate any supply chain support or auxiliary users that would be there to serve their needs,” said Andersen, who has been active in land acquisitions in Pinal County since 2006. “I think you’ll see a quick move for the region to become quite a hub for automotive manufacturing in the Southwest.

“These cars and trucks, from our understanding, they’re not just cars and trucks, they are collecting data all of the time, they are loaded with sensors and cameras. So, we’ll see a lot of businesses coming into the area that you wouldn’t think are automotive, but they really are related to that industry.”

Nikola has already begun hiring staff for its research & development facility that is located at 4141 E. Broadway Road in Phoenix. That facility will be the company’s Arizona headquarters until the manufacturing facility is completed.

Airobotics

Israeli automated industrial drone manufacturer Airobotics opened its new regional headquarters in Scottsdale. The company started with 15 employees locally, but plans to have 80 on its Arizona team by the end of 2019. The company was ranked by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top tech companies to watch in 2018 and plans to move its global operations to the Scottsdale location in the Scottsdale Airpark area at 8340 E. Raintree Drive.

“Gov. Ducey recently implemented that AZ Sky Tech program which is for the advancement of unmanned, autonomous type of systems, or drones,” said Mark Paratore, Scottsdale economic development program manager. “They can test and deploy here in the state, so I think that the alignment that Scottsdale has with the forward-thinking innovation along with the state, the operating environment or the business-friendly climate, Scottsdale became a location of choice for them.”

Airobotics develops fully automated unmanned aerial vehicles (or UAV’s) to be used in industrial settings. One of its first customers in the U.S. was mining company BHP Billiton Plc.

The move to Scottsdale was the company’s first venture in the United States, which created challenges for Airobotics and the City of Scottsdale as they worked together toward opening.

“We had to ensure that they know what types of licensing or permits that are going to be required in order to set up their operation,” said Paratore. “So we really relied upon our key stakeholders or key influencers within the community that we know that can really help them in that process. So, anyone from the Commerce Authority to the GPEC and anyone in between, we made sure that we were checking all of the boxes so that we don’t land on the 23rd hour and realize that we didn’t take care of all of these things.”

Andersen Corporation

The West Valley was a hot spot of economic development in 2018, with a significant victory coming in September when Andersen Corporation, one of the largest window and door manufacturers in North America, announced plans to invest more than $105 million and build a new regional manufacturing and distribution facility to serve the western United States.

Work on the facility, located at Cotton Lane and Commerce Drive in Goodyear, will begin in early 2019 and will take a year to complete. In 2020, the company expects to hire 415 full-time employees.

“Andersen Corporation’s expansion to Greater Phoenix showcases the region’s ability to meet the demands of a major manufacturing and distribution operation,” said Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council during the initial announcement for the project. “The site in Goodyear allows them to scale by tapping into local resources and a dynamic talent pool that is ready and willing to support their current and future growth.”

The company already has initial plans in place to make a total investment of at least $200 million through additional future expansion of the campus, which will be owned and operated by Andersen Regional Manufacturing, Inc, a subsidiary of Andersen Corporation.

Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular expanded its Arizona footprint when it moved into a new, 164,000 square foot facility at 7500 N. Black Canyon Highway, Phoenix. The company has assumed the entire space, developed by Everest Holdings, which has been completely renovated to include a “floating” second level. The building contains 24 private offices, 8 conference rooms and 5 training rooms.

The mobile service provider, which boasts nearly three million customers, currently employs 1,025 staff in two Phoenix-area locations. The new facility, a former Sam’s Club, will allow for the addition of 1,600 employees over the next three years. The company hired 500 additional employees this year alone.

Axiscades

In 2017, Tucson enjoyed a major victory with Caterpillar picking downtown Tucson as its new location for surface mining and technology offices. As is often the case, that move created a domino effect and the first one to fall into place was Axiscades, a global provider of innovated engineering solutions for the mining, construction, aerospace, defense and other key industries.

Axiscades, which is based in Bangalore, India, is moving into new offices in downtown Tucson, drawn there by Caterpillar.

“We chose Tucson to be closer to Caterpillar, one of our key customers, as well as other clients in the mining industry,” said Mritunjay Singh, CEO of Axiscades, in a press release announcing the move. “The entire region is strong, not only in mining, but also other key Axiscades strategic growth areas.”

Axiscades plans on hiring 320 new employees for its Tucson operation, mostly high-level positions like mechanical and electrical engineers and research and development.

TuSimple

Like Lucid Motors and Nikola Motors, TuSimple is attempting to be a major disrupter in the automotive industry. TuSimple is a global developer of self-driving trucks and expanded its presence in Arizona this year.

TuSimple had been operating out of a 6,800 square foot testing facility in Tucson, but recently expanded to 50,000 square feet with plans for even more growth in 2019. All told, the company has designs on creating 500 new jobs in Arizona as it refines its autonomous trucks that have been testing in Arizona.

The expansion plans are expected to have a total economic impact of $1.1 billion over the next five years.

Becton Dickinson

Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), a global medical technology company, acquired C.R. Bard, Inc., in 2017. Bard, a medical technology company in the fields of vascular, urology, oncology and surgical specialty products, had an office in Tempe, but moving was a strong possibility under new ownership.

Tempe, however, proved to be a worthy location for BD, and the company recently broke ground on a new headquarters in the IDEA Tempe development, at 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway.

“There was a chance that they would move, but fortunately, they decided to stay in Tempe,” said Maria Laughner, economic development program manager for Tempe. “It was a lengthy process to retain them. They were looking at several other locations around the country and we met with their leadership several times. At the end, they decided to stay in Tempe because of the success of the current BD team in tempe, the relationship they have with the city and the great opportunity to be the anchor tenant at our new IDEA campus.”

BD currently has 500 employees in Tempe and that number will grow when they move to a new facility in 2020.

The IDEA Tempe development is located next to the Tempe Center for the Arts and stands for Innovation, Discovery, Education and Arts. At full build-out, the development will have five commercial buildings totaling 1 million square feet as well as 40,000 square feet of arts rehearsal and classroom space.

More wins

In January, it was announced that the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport would be home to the nation’s first international air cargo hub to house both Mexican and United States customs officials. SkyBridge Arizona is a first-of-its kind project that will speed up the process for goods traveling to and from Mexico and South America. At full buildout, the 360-acre project will create an estimated 17,000 direct and indirect jobs and more than 5 million square feet of commercial space.

In June, financial firm Deloitte announced a lease of 102,000 square feet in Gilbert, where it plans to eventually hire 2,500 employees as part of its expansion.

In September, India-based tech company Infosys announced plans to open a technology and innovation hub and create 1,000 jobs in Phoenix over the next five years. Infosys is still in the process of selecting a location for the new office.

In October, Wag!, the on-demand dog walking company, announced plans to open a customer care center in Phoenix that will bring 100 jobs by the end of the year.

And the year isn’t over yet.

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