The time just after sunrise and before sunset is referred to as the “golden hour.” Its name derives from the brilliant shadows and colors that appear just as night comes and right as darkness disappears. Light always illuminates the landscape, sometimes in magnificent ways — even after the darker moments. You could say that PHX East Valley is now in one of its more brilliant golden hours. Despite the darkness surrounding the pandemic, the East Valley region continues to grow, expand, and celebrate economic success.

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From a new, 101,000-square-foot CVS Health office in Chandler to the Boeing Company’s manufacturing of the Apache Longbow helicopter in Mesa (now employing more than 4,500 people) and the arrival of Northrop Grumman’s Galaxy 30 (G-30) spacecraft and 633,000-square-foot Launch Vehicles Division Headquarters in Chandler, PHX East Valley’s cities, towns and Native American communities are shining brighter than ever.

This little light of mine, why (now) let it shine?

What is it that makes this the time and space for economic development to flourish throughout the PHX East Valley — even amidst a global pandemic?

“It’s due to the fact that the region’s economy has diversified away from historical growth areas that led to boom and bust cycles,” says Micah Miranda, economic development director for the City of Chandler, “to an economy that produces goods and services for export.”

Additionally, according to William J. Jabjiniak, economic development director for the City of Mesa, it’s also because of a robust workforce, infrastructure and available land.

“PHX East Valley communities, especially Mesa, have invested in all forms of infrastructure in addition to having the right regulatory and tax environment to attract a wide variety of companies,” Jabjiniak says. “With substantial population growth already occurring and having a reasonable cost of living, these key drivers will allow us to be one of those places that not only survive the pandemic, but thrive because of it.”

Statistically, the East Valley boasts 9,514,480 square feet of current development and approximately 31,874,178 square feet of shovel-ready property, with 4.9 percent corporate income tax and 4.5 percent individual income tax.

Major growth

“We have a positive outlook for 2021 as Arizona ranked in the top three fastest-growing states, and Maricopa County was named the top U.S. county in attracting talent,” Jabjiniak says. “Arizona gained an estimated 129,558 people between July 1, 2019, and July 1, 2020, according to the data released December 22 from the U.S. Census Bureau. These indicators prove that we will continue to see an influx of capital and growth.”

PHX East Valley not only continues to attract talent, but also has an existing skilled labor pool ready to feed a diverse and comprehensive portfolio of industries. Technology, aviation, aerospace and defense, autonomous vehicles, advanced manufacturing, tourism, financial services, higher education, biosciences and healthcare — as major industries in the PHX East Valley — continue to prosper and expand because of a solid, reliable talent base.

“We expect industrial — both manufacturing and logistics — life sciences, cold storage, in addition to data centers, to continue to surge in the Phoenix-Mesa metropolitan area,” Jabjiniak says. “Mesa has evolved into a cutting-edge hub of innovation and home to some of the most forward-thinking industries, such as medical devices and aerospace and defense. We expect to continue to attract and grow companies like Dexcom that currently employ more than 1,000 in high-quality jobs.”

Additionally, aerospace and defense and aviation are growing at exponential rates, with Northrop Grumman’s recent investment and expansion throughout Greater Phoenix, Able Aerospace’s continued growth, as well as Boeing’s construction of a new one-story, 155,000 square-foot facility on its Mesa campus.

Fanning the flame

Of course, the ongoing breadth of economic development in and of itself is attracting innovative companies to PHX East Valley.

“Clarivate has doubled in size in the last 12 months,” says Mike Morhardt, executive vice president of commercial performance and operations for Clarivate. “We wanted the ability to be able to invest in a location that would grow with us. And Chandler delivered on that. We also looked at where other companies were going and what types of organizations were in that area.”

And for Dexcom, another company that relocated to the PHX East Valley (from San Diego), geography and logistics added to the reasons for planting a manufacturing facility in Mesa.

“Dexcom was attracted to the Phoenix area, and specifically Mesa, because of the business attractiveness of the state, the city, and the regional area, and the geographical closeness to San Diego,” says Jim Kasselmann, senior director and general manager of Dexcom. “It was advantageous to have it close to San Diego, because of all of the support that’s available there.”

Talent pool

But, by-and-large it’s the talent for which companies like Clarivate and Dexcom were lured to the PHX East Valley.

“Obviously, we were looking for talent — a population of talent — and that talent primarily aligned to sales, inside sales, customer service, quote to cash, accounts receivable, a lot of different functions,” Morhardt says. “We were also looking for that talent to have a certain level of education, and in some cases, language skills.”

For companies like Clarivate, a global leader in insight and analytics to accelerate innovation, scientific and academic research are a significant aspect of the business. Similarly, Dexcom, a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system that eliminates the need for finger sticks, also benefits from close proximity to research-based higher education resources.

“We are well connected with Arizona State University’s biomedical engineering school,” Kasselmann says. “We had interns from there that we have hired right out of the university as engineers. One of the other aspects of ASU that I’m definitely interested in pursuing through our engineering staff here is with the polytechnic group.”

In addition to ASU and the Polytechnic Campus, PHX East Valley has the Maricopa Community College District with 10 individually accredited colleges and an annual student population of upwards of 200,000.

Of course, there is even more to attract companies and talent to the warm glow of a growing PHX East Valley.

“Access to high-quality K- 20 education opportunities, a talented workforce and spirit of cooperation between neighboring communities are but a few attributes that make the East Valley attractive,” Miranda says.

“Arizona knows how to do hospitality and I think the East Valley is very welcoming,” adds Jabjiniak. “It is not as ‘institutional’ as communities in the East. For being the 35th largest city in the country, it is easier to get access to city-elected officials, state-elected officials, and C-level executives. People work together to get things done as there is a collaborative spirit here that I think is genuinely different from other more established markets.”