Tech jobs and companies are the holy grail of economic development, and are highly sought after by cities across the country.
The tech industry provides high-paying jobs and significant economic impact — spurring cities to actively compete to attract tech companies. But which Arizona city is winning the race to bring in more of these high-quality companies?
Central Phoenix is having a significant impact on the city and region’s overall efforts to attract tech companies and their employees. In fact, according to the AZ Tech Council, Phoenix has more than 66,450 tech employees in its boundaries — more than 50,000 more than the next-highest community in the Valley.
Central Avenue in Phoenix has one of the highest concentrations of tech jobs in the region, thanks to the fact that many tech employees prefer a work setting with established nearby neighborhoods and significant amenities. And one of the busiest locations for tech centers is around Park Central in midtown, where several key initiatives are taking place. It is home to a number of important tech-related companies that are having an impact on the industry at large:
• The WearTech medical device lab is working to enhance research and development of wearable technology. The Center helps small and large businesses through investment and research collaborations that result in new products, manufacturing opportunities and services that will position Phoenix as a leader in this emerging industry. The Park Central location was ideal for the Center because of its proximity to local medical facilities — healthcare is one of the leading applications for wearable technology — and because of the influx of innovative new companies and organizations coming to the project.
• Nerdery, a digital business consulting firm, has a long-term lease for 8,317 square foot space in the Leib Building at Park Central. Nerdery is a digital business consultancy that takes companies from today to their digital future, working at the leading edge of strategy, design and technology to help clients evolve and thrive. By focusing on business outcomes, Nerdery crafts impactful digital experiences and infrastructures that accelerate digital transformations, innovations, modernizations and operational initiatives. Nerdery was founded in 2003 and has offices in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Phoenix.
• Zayo, a network solutions provider that provides fiber and bandwidth connectivity and other IT infrastructure, has built a data center on site at Park Central. The Boulder, Colorado-based company has a strong footprint in the Phoenix market.
According to the Arizona Technology Council, in the third quarter of 2020:
• Tech companies paid out more than $22 billion in overall wages
• Tech jobs actually increased by 1.2 percent in the third quarter despite the impacts of the pandemic
• Overall, the Valley is nearing having 10,000 tech companies doing business in the region.
“I say it each year and each year the data makes my message even clearer: technology has become the key driver of our economy,” said Steven G. Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council. “In the global marketplace, Arizona is on the rise and can be compared with the most influential and powerful technology hubs. Add to that, Central Phoenix has become the nucleus.”
Sharon Harper, Chairman and CEO of Plaza Companies, one of the co-developers of Park Central, said that the growth in tech is part of a strategy to broaden the overall economic impact of the area.
“Our company has long been a part of economic development efforts designed to encourage the growth of the tech sector in Arizona, and we are finding that the midtown Phoenix area is really becoming a hotbed for this growth,” Harper said. “Park Central is emerging as a hub for tech and biotech in the area, and the overall critical mass for these industries is growing.”
Plaza Companies and Tucson’s Holualoa Companies have teamed up to redevelop Park Central into a vibrant destination., which once was the city’s first official large-scale shopping mall. The companies have transitioned the expansive space from a retail center to an almost 500,000-square-foot bustling community hub ideal for playing, working, congregating and celebrating the arts.
The Phoenix icon consists mostly of single and two-story buildings with plenty of open space, making it even more attractive to companies that are looking to create a health-focused work environment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stan Shafer, Chief Operating Officer for Holualoa Companies, said the area’s mix of high-end office space and desirable urban elements is a good formula for attracting tech companies.
“These kind of companies are looking for a rich and fulfilling work environment where their employees can access amenities both on and off of work,” he said. “It is gratifying to see the positive economic impact they are having on the region, and providing spaces where this kind of growth is fostered and encouraged.”
For office leasing, tenants and brokers can reach out to Andrew Cheney with Lee & Associates (502.954.3769) or Bill Cook with Plaza Companies (623.344.4526). For Retail leasing contacts are Brent Mallonee with Cushman and Wakefield (602.224.4437) or Margaret Lloyd with Plaza Companies (623.344.4558).