Honey bees typically travel 1.3 miles to collect the necessary resources to bring back to the bee hive. For the last few decades, the majority of West Valley finance and insurance workers have had to commute significantly farther than the average honey bee. Commuting to other areas of the Valley has historically been accepted as a byproduct of living in the West Valley. With 34% of professional finance and insurance workers in Maricopa County specifically residing in the West Valley, however, is shattering this dated perception. With a hive of talent ready to fly, it’s the perfect time for financial and insurance institutions to build a colony and invest in the West.
WESTMARC’s “West Valley Pipeline” regional workforce development strategy continues to demonstrate a region that contains a skilled and talented workforce—with finance and insurance as one of the leading sectors.
“We just partnered on a joint marketing piece with CBRE that goes into detail about our workforce, demonstrating a robust talent base in finance and insurance,” explains Sintra Hoffman, WESTMARC president. The collaborative marketing efforts of CBRE and WESTMARC have revealed invaluable data for financial and insurance companies ready to relocate or expand.
“CBRE tracked 23 companies that publicly announced a new or expanding location since 2018 in the West Valley,” says Jessica Morin CBRE Pacific Southwest Division, senior research analyst, “that equals upwards of 4,000 new jobs. Most of these identified users are clustered in West Phoenix, Goodyear, Surprise and Tolleson.”
So where does this leave the West Valley? In a prime position. Here’s why, according to Morin: “Competition for labor has significantly increased, and finance and insurance companies may increasingly look to locate away from their competition, especially closer to the labor in the West Valley,” she says.
In addition to the competitive 34% readymade talent residing in the West Valley, finance and insurance graduates from Grand Canyon University, ASU West Campus and the Maricopa Community College system have the potential to increase this substantial workforce even more.
“The West Valley is fortunate to have two community colleges, a major public university as well as two major private universities,” says Teresa Leyba Ruiz, Glendale Community College president. “It’s the responsibility of the educational institutions to ensure a talented workforce, that is flexible and adaptable, and is ready to contribute to the economic success of corporations and the community.”
And, while educational partnerships continue to feed the finance and insurance employee supply chain, the antiquated perceptions of the West Valley are changing.
“The West Valley has a somewhat unique hurdle in public perception,” Morin says. “People put the West Valley in a box, assuming it’s solely a distribution and healthcare market. While these uses have a significant footprint, the labor in the West Valley support professional and business service users, such as finance and insurance.”
In addition to having the aid of education, community and business partnerships, technological advancements have fueled favor to the West Valley as a viable hotspot for finance and insurance economic development opportunities.
“We are in the midst of enormous change that will affect our current and future workforce,” Ruiz says. “The change has a lot to do with the rapidly changing technological power of computers and advancing systems that will impact financial and insurance institutions, specifically.”
“From my perspective as the vice president of BNC bank, if you have a smartphone you can be a customer of our bank. We don’t have to be in close geographic proximity to serve customers across the valley,” says Ron Castro, BNC National Bank vice president. “If a bank in Glendale can operate that way, other banks can too—those downtown and in the East Valley—can relocate or expand here.”
With a firm foundation of finance and insurance talent available and waiting for a daily honey-bee commute, rather than I-10 east trek, what needs to happen to attract more employers to create a colony?
“The West Valley needs a pioneer that understands the strengths and opportunities of the West Valley region, and who is willing to establish a campus” Morin says. “Once that occurs, I believe others will follow in their lead and the West Valley will establish itself as a finance and insurance hub.”
“We have quality of life, affordable housing, a beautiful and functional infrastructure of new highways,” Castro adds. “The only thing holding us back is the investment in office space and building to bring more opportunities to the West Valley.”