In what will likely be his final State of the City address, Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny on Tuesday night spoke about Chandler’s growth in 2017 and made announcements regarding two additional businesses that will be expanding in the city in 2018.
Liberty Mutual Insurance will move into an office at the Chandler Airpark sometime in the next year, Tibshraeny said. The new office will immediately create 750 jobs, with the expectation of growth to as many as 1,000 in the future.
In addition, Wells Fargo will lease an additional 190,000 square feet of office space along the Price Road corridor in south Chandler within the year. Tibshraeny said the expansion is expected to create 1,200 jobs for the company, in addition to the approximately 5,000 people the company already employees at that office.
“We must continue to find ways to work with our business community,” Tibshraeny said, echoing a sentiment expressed by many in Chandler as the city becomes an appealing site for business investment. “As these businesses grow and expand, they continue to provide job opportunities.”
The speech began with an animated video harkening to the agricultural heritage from which Chandler was founded. It described the economic and cultural signifiers that Tibshraeny called “uniquely Chandler,” from a newly re-developed downtown area to a peculiar attachment to ostriches that dates back to the city’s founder, Dr. A.J. Chandler, who brought one of the birds to Arizona in the late 1800s.
A Waymo Chrysler Pacifica was parked outside the City Council chambers where the event was held, standing as a beacon to the audience, representing the strides Chandler has made welcoming innovation into its economy. Tibshraeny said Waymo will continue to test self-driving vehicles in Chandler, with the intention of enhancing the safety capabilities of the vehicles.
The mayor announced in the summer of 2017 that Waymo was ramping up the testing of its autonomous vehicles in Arizona by asking Chandler residents to apply for the use of a self-driving car, according to City Council minutes from July 2017. According to Waymo’s website, it is looking for new riders in the Phoenix metropolitan area who will help improve their business by sharing their thoughts and experiences.
Sticking with the historic spin of the rest of his speech, Tibshraeny also focused on homegrown companies when discussing small business. He pointed to older companies like Microchip, which began locally and is headquartered in Chandler.
“We have one of the lowest cost of services,” said Chandler Vice Mayor Nora Ellen. “We like to have the high-end, high-wage employers, but we also work really hard to retain small businesses.”
On the other hand, most of Chandler’s breakthroughs over the last two years, including Intel’s 2017 announcement that it would begin construction once again on its Fab 42 plant in south Chandler, have focused on bigger businesses. Those within the city often tout its proclaimed reputation as the innovation and technology hub of the southwest.
Beth Brizel, a Chandler resident and former Chandler Unified School District volunteer, is worried. “You’re not really bringing in high-paying jobs,” she said.
“The [jobs] most people are interested in hearing about are the ones that have a variety of positions, are higher end and are employing different levels of people,” Brizel said, worrying that customer service positions like the ones so often created in Chandler are not so satisfying for the long-term growth of the city.
The previous two expansions of Wells Fargo’s Chandler office opened primarily customer and corporate support positions.
Interim Chandler-Gilbert Community College President Bill Guerreiro values those lower paying jobs as points of entry for new residents in the community. He is also a Chandler Chamber of Commerce member said he works with companies like Verizon looking to place corporate support offices in Chandler, encouraging them to capitalize on the young, growing job market.
Guerreiro said the chamber, which was filled to the standing-room-only maximum, typically fills up for the annual address. Guerreiro was recognized by Tibshraeny at the beginning of the speech, as were about a dozen other colleagues who came to see the two-time mayor’s final address.
As his fourth consecutive term comes to a close, Chandler term limit rules prohibit Tibshraeny, who is 52, from running again. He held the same office from 1994-2002, then served eight years as a state senator before returning to the mayor’s office in Chandler, where he has served since 2011.
The election to replace Tibshraeny will occur in conjunction with national mid-term elections in November. Chandler Councilmember and two-time Vice Mayor Kevin Hartke announced his intention to run in Oct. 2017.