The West Valley is a booming community with 1.7 million residents strong and an expected population of 2.1 million by 2030. With big name companies like the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) making investments in the region, the West Valley is shedding old perceptions and becoming a destination for people to live, work and play.
“It’s no secret that elected officials and business leaders have been working diligently to attract high-wage employment, professional companies and headquarters to the West Valley. We’re seeing that, even during a pandemic. Microsoft, TSMC, Ball Corporation, White Claw and so many others have joined us during this challenging time,” says Sintra Hoffman, president and CEO of WESTMARC.
As the pandemic diminishes and businesses return to typical operations, trends in the West Valley point to sustained growth.
For many in the West Valley, the workday begins with a commute to Central Phoenix or the East Valley. That could become less of a phenomenon in the future, however. According to data obtained by WESTMARC, 36 percent of Maricopa County’s healthcare workers live in the West Valley. “Healthcare is driven by rooftops and rooftops keep being built in the West Valley, so we know that is a sector that’s going to grow as populations increase,” explains Hoffman.
A slew of healthcare investments are arriving west of the I-17. In June, Phoenix Children’s Hospital announced plans to build a $135 million campus in Glendale. The Arrowhead Campus will create 473 healthcare jobs and serve the 500,000 children expected to live in the West Valley by 2030.
In addition to the hospital in Glendale, Phoenix Children’s is growing its presence in Avondale with the Southwest Campus. It will include a $33.5 million medical office building, expand the specialty services currently offered at Phoenix Children’s Southwest Valley Specialty and Urgent Care Center and retrofit the current urgent care into an emergency department. The city will also be home to Phoenix Children’s Sports Medicine Clinic, which will cater to young athletes.
“All told, we’re investing nearly $200 million in the West Valley and bringing 650 jobs,” says Robert L. Meyer, CEO of Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Ken Chapa, economic development director at the City of Avondale, says that Phoenix Children’s is one part of the growing suite of medical services offered in the city. In June, the ribbon was cut on Akos Medical Center, located in Avondale’s Health-Tech corridor. The 68,000-square-foot campus offers medical office space and currently houses Apricus Urgent Care, Peak Heart & Vascular Medical Office and Peak Surgery Center.
“We’re seeing a lot of health care groups coming to the market. They know there’s already an established cluster of healthcare, and healthcare providers like being around each other,” explains Chapa. “ClearSky Health, which focuses on brain and spinal rehab, is building its first location in Arizona right next door to Akos.”
In Goodyear, Franklin Pierce University recently expanded their Doctor of Physical Therapy program to keep up with demand. “Abrazo Health has developed and grown several residency programs over the past couple of years. There’s a tremendous need in the in the West Valley for additional medical resources,” comments Lori Gary, economic development director for the City of Goodyear. “We think that the medical and healthcare fields are going to drive some of the employment growth in Goodyear.”
Hoffman believes that more specialized care will set roots in the West Valley and bring high paying jobs. A growing niche within the healthcare system is telehealth, which saw greater adoption during the pandemic when people were wary of sitting in a doctor’s office.
Dr. Michael Simons, medical director of Banner Telehealth, expects that – pending regulatory reform – telehealth will grow at a more rapid pace compared to the pre-pandemic status quo since many patients who were reluctant to try to a new mode of care have now experienced the benefits of the system.
“There’s a shortage of physicians and nurses in Arizona,” explains Simons. “There are some definite advantages that are borne out of telehealth. Let’s say there’s a physician who’s in a particular niche of their field. Telehealth makes their practice geographically agnostic, so they can still be focused on the niche they’re interested in while supplementing that with additional duties which can be performed to a much broader patient base.”
Another sector spurring growth in the West Valley is manufacturing. The City of Phoenix attracted TSMC to Arizona, with its facility under construction at the I-17 and Loop 303. “We spent a lot of time in 2019 with the Arizona Commerce Authority and Greater Phoenix Economic Council in Taiwan encouraging TSMC to select Arizona,” explains Christine Mackay, community and economic development director for the City of Phoenix. “It’s about the ease of doing business. We have programs in place that allow companies like TSMC to operate here on capital-intensive projects in our foreign trade zone.”
With the arrival of TSMC in the West Valley, other companies will have more of a reason to follow suit. “All of the suppliers and contractors that work with those bigger name companies will also be drawn to the region,” says Hoffman.
Further south along the Loop 303, manufacturing facilities have taken the place of agricultural fields. Popular products like Red Bull and White Claw are canned in Glendale’s New Frontier District. In Peoria, plastic bottle cap maker Novembal and body armor producer Tyr Tactical add to the West Valley’s advanced manufacturing footprint.
“Tyr Tactical has contracts all over the world, and they’re expanding to two new buildings in Peoria,” says Kirsten Hall, business attraction program manager for the City of Peoria. The company was awarded a contract with the FBI in August 2020 valued at $30 million over five years.
Adds Mackay, “Arizona is projected to outpace the nation in job creation for the next decade. That’s happening because of how hard our elected officials and educators have worked to change the state’s economy from the pre-Great Recession economy that was built on golf and retirement.”
Housing is a top priority for companies that want to relocate. Two decades ago, when Hoffman was working to attract businesses to the West Valley, she was told that the lack of executive level housing would be a challenge. “That’s not the case today,” Hoffman remarks. “For example, the least expensive house at Sterling Grove in Surprise is $450,000. It’s not by any means a starter community.”
When a company is considering relocating, one of the benefits the West Valley has is a range of housing for the workforce, from the C-suite to entry-level employees. “Being able to show that you have the full spectrum of homes within a 10-minute radius of a particular location is a huge win for us,” explains Chapa. “That’s enticing to corporate decision makers because they realize that they don’t have to worry about employees getting stuck on the highway – their workforce is right in their own backyard.”
In Avondale, a master-planned community called Alamar will have 3,700 homes once fully built. Garilyn Bourgeois, vice president of marketing for Brookfield Residential, believes that businesses and rooftops go hand-in-hand. “Today, we see tremendous opportunity with an influx of new quality businesses, a surge in manufacturing facility operations and significant investments in recreation centers, retail, education – all the desirable amenities that make families want to stay here for generations.”
North Peoria has also become a destination for luxury home builders. “At the intersection of Lake Pleasant Parkway and Happy Valley Road, the median income is $100,000. If you go a mile north, it’s $130,000 – and it just gets higher as you go further north where these master-planned communities are. They’re all luxury lots and have the topography that you would expect in the North Scottsdale area,” Hall comments.
“There’s a lot of wealth in the community, but it’s quiet wealth,” says Hoffman. “But it’s here, and you’re seeing it in the homes on the market now.”
Quality of life
Entertainment and recreation options are another magnet for attracting businesses to the West Valley. Having the available housing is one thing, but businesses and their employees want to do more that live and work. As the region grows, so do the options to play.
“Because of the sports we have in the West Valley, we are getting a lot more national attention. The Cardinals and Coyotes play in Glendale. We’re also hosting the Super Bowl in 2023, which is significant,” comments Hoffman. “And of the 15 Major League Baseball teams that compete in the Cactus League, the West Valley hosts nine of them.”
Phoenix Raceway in Avondale hosts a variety of races, including the season finale races for NASCAR’s three national series: the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Trucks. “We got the NASCAR Cup Championship race now three years in a row. That’s huge,” says Chapa. “NASCAR is a great way for Avondale to get national attention.”
For folks interested in outdoor activities, the West Valley has no shortage of hiking trails and parks. Estrella Mountain Regional Park and White Tank Mountain Regional Park lets families experience the outdoors and enjoy the West Valley’s natural beauty. Lake Pleasant in Peoria is the second largest lake in the Valley, with plenty of room to boat and fish.
“Peoria prides itself on the recreational amenities available in the city. Along with Lake Pleasant, we have 27 miles of river and mountain trails to hike and bike,” says Jennifer Stein, communications director for the City of Peoria. “We also have three community parks, including the new Paloma Community Park, which has pickleball, fishing, an extensive playground and splash pad. The park includes adaptive equipment because we want everyone to have a wonderful experience.”
The arts also thrive in the West Valley. Gila River Arena, Ak-Chin Pavillion and State Farm Stadium bring in musical acts from around the country and world. For local performances, there’s the Arizona Broadway Theatre and Theater Works. The Arts HQ Gallery features artwork created by West Valley residents and hosts workshops, community events and lecture series.
Entertainment districts like Westgate and P83 offer a wide variety of restaurants and retail stores – and have drawn in more investment. Crystal Lagoons Island Resort broke ground south of Westgate in June and announced a partnership with the first-of-its-kind Mattel Adventure Park. In P83, a new mixed-use development called Stadium Point is bringing more than 500,000 square feet of Class A office space, a business class hotel and multifamily residential housing, along with retail and restaurant spaces to Peoria.
“Goodyear has seen nearly 150 new retail and entertainment businesses open in the past five years and in the past three years, we have filled over 600,000 square feet of commercial space with restaurants, retail and entertainment,” says Gary.
Hoffman adds, “When we say we have 1.7 million hungry residents, we’re not kidding. People don’t want to drive across town. They are looking for local options, and I think that it behooves restaurants to look west.”
Economic growth doesn’t just spontaneously occur. It requires a concerted effort on behalf of business leaders and elected officials to create the fertile ground from which development springs. “Our residents enjoy an exceptional quality of life, and we’ve become widely known for that,” says Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat. “What makes this possible, though, is that we are doing things the right way in Peoria. With a cohesive council, steady leadership and strong fiscal policies, we are focused on boldly embracing a future enriched by the depth of our character and enhanced by our courage to unleash the opportunities ahead.”