If the West Valley could speak for itself, it would confidently articulate that in addition to compromising 15 unique communities with more than 50,000 businesses, it also houses a population of 1.5 million people. With equal tenacity, the West Valley would share about “her” ever-growing robust workforce that includes Banner Health, Luke Air Force Base, Amazon.com, American Express, APS (Palo Verde) and many more competitive top-target industry employers. It would tell you all this and more, with pride and assurance, laced with the best kind of humility of a thing that knows its worth without reducing or downplaying others. Now, WESTMARC says data can speak for the West Valley.
Although the West Valley isn’t a person with an audible voice, companies near and far, local economic development officials and loyal residents gladly serve as the voice with a mission of a growing an exceedingly competitive entity. One of the West Valley’s most avid supporters and interpreters, WESTMARC, is joining forces with some of the Valley’s most prominent decision makers, educators and analysts to develop and showcase a workforce that’s skilled, strong and unstoppable in attracting new businesses near and far.
West Valley employee statistics are finally hitting home
Did you know that 37-percent of healthcare employees reside within the West Valley? In fact, it’s Maricopa County’s leading industry. Why, then, are only 21 percent of healthcare jobs actually located in the West Valley? If that raises an eyebrow, this will lift the other: 34 percent of finance and insurance workers in Maricopa County live in the West Valley, yet only 12 percent of the jobs are located there.
If both brows are raised, and you’ve added a head scratch, you’re experiencing a reaction similar to that of economic developers and leaders in the West Valley. Intermingled with confusion has been an element of frustration among Maricopa County’s key players, whose responsibility it is to attract new businesses.
The frustration, until recently, has derived from the way data has been collected in workforce reporting. Prior to recent initiatives, analytic information was historically recorded based on place of employment, rather than residency.
“This issue of details involving employment occupation information rather than residence put the West Valley as a whole at a great disadvantage,” explains Scott Whyte, Peoria’s economic development director.
“Companies look at workforce availability first and foremost. How many skilled and talented individuals required by a company are available – not just bodies, but skilled workers? Not having accurate data puts us in a position of hardship,” Whyte says.
Thanks to the efforts ofWESTMARC, Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), Dr. Shade Shutters, EMSI and additional West Valley partnerships, inaccurate reporting is hopefully an issue of the past. How will this impact the West Valley’s employment reporting and efforts to attract new business?
“We can statistically show proof of having a skilled workforce,” says Buckeye Interim Economic Development Director Dave McAlindin, “rather than simply saying it.”
McAlindin adds, “In the past, the only way we could prove our workforce migration, was to tell prospective company decision makers to get up in the morning, watch the news and observe the traffic headed east on the I-10.”
According to WESTMARC’s President and CEO Sintra Hoffman, the improved methods of data sourcing aren’t simply correcting a significant discrepancy in workforce statistics, they are soliciting much more granular occupational data.
“With our partnership with MAG and the work of Dr. Shutters this year, we have been able to look more deeply into specific occupations and learn more about the 69 percent of West Valley resident commuters traveling east,” Hoffman says. “This targeted data is a significantly improved way of messaging the West Valley to companies.”
Sarah Murley, of Applied Economics, will add to the refinement and eventual execution of the new West Valley workforce data, says Glendale Economic Director Brian Friedman.
“Sara is analyzing the data and coalescing all the information to be easily read and digested,” he says.
Same players, but a new and better game
In reality, the heavy hitters of a skilled workforce have been in the West Valley for some time now. The assumption or perception that it hasn’t is something for which the current three-phase WESTMARC workforce study has labeled as “grossly outdated.”
The emergence of accurate reporting, however, has and will continue to enable invaluable players to rise from bench to limelight. How will this change the desirability of the West Valley in the eyes of businesses seeking a new location? The short answer: business will boom.
Turn your attention to Glendale as a perfect example. With a current population of 250,000 and a workforce of 120,000, Glendale is expected to rise to 350,000 residents by 2040 with 200,000 jobs.
“Driving the entire Valley of The Sun, Glendale has about about 32 million square feet in total space — office, retail and industrial — and now we’re in a place where we’re welcoming more jobs than people,” Friedman says.
Further west, Buckeye is experiencing an explosion in population, with 654 housing permits – a 46 percent increase over last year — with an anticipated 2,000 permits projected for 2017, making it the No. 1 population-based rising West Valley city.
Great news indeed. The West Valley steadily fills homes, has attractive space for a number of desirable industries and plenty to attract new businesses, but let’s revisit how this plays into the workforce.
The proverbial players in the limelight are a multifaceted workforce highly skilled in healthcare, transportation, distribution, business services and manufacturing.
If you’d like another analogy, think about whales and barnacles. They have a perfect symbiotic relationship. If you’re thinking the barnacles represent the West Valley workforce, think again. The West Valley workforce is a beautiful Orca who just made her most impressive “sky hop” and she’s about to be covered in barnacles.
As new businesses continue to realize the breadth of an existing and ever-growing skilled workforce through improved and substantial data sourcing, with any luck I-10 East will look much less like an ant parade during the 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. commute.
Who is in the limelight?
As Hoffman previously stated, the improved employment data analytics aren’t simply illuminating more accurate numbers, they’re shedding light on who comprises the West Valley’s skilled workforce.
“We know through MAG mapping and the site selection community that we have a strong skilled FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) workforce,” Friedman says.
Beyond the West Valley’s robust workforce, composed of skills in advanced business services, healthcare, STEM professions, advanced manufacturing, IT and aerospace, there is another invaluable demographic from which to acquire skilled workers.
“Every year, an estimated 400 Luke Air Force veterans separate from the military,” Hoffman explains. “This means we have highly skilled people available in this region now. This gives the West Valley a paramount opportunity to acquire highly skilled individuals to make an existing impressive workforce even more formidable.”
Of course, WESTMARC’s relationships with educational entities like West-Mec, Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, Maricopa Community Colleges and more are also producing educated, skilled and available qualifiers to fill the existing needs of targeted top industry employers, all of whom are lucrative to the continued prosperity of the West Valley’s economic development upturn.
We’ve built the workforce, now … will they come?
If the data provided by the collaborative efforts of MAG, EMSI, Dr. Shade Shutters and Sarah Murley prove true, we can expect business to grow exponentially over the next decade and beyond. A new means of collecting data is the No. 1 source of gratitude. Finally, the West Valley’s workforce is being recognized for what it is: a powerhouse.
“Together,” Friedman says, “Our cities in the West Valley collectively house 1.6 million people strong. We are definitely a force to be reckoned with and will only get stronger. All our economic directors are meeting now on a routine basis. United, we are encouraged, proud and pleased that the West Valley has matured and is in a good position to have a good future.”
The West Valley may not have “her” own voice, but does she really need it? After all, she has the numbers, a soluble workforce and finally, a way to show it.