PHX East Valley is hotbed for job growth

Business News | 21 Sep |

The PHX East Valley – comprised of Apache Junction, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek and Tempe – continued its winning ways during the first half of the year, adding 4,589 jobs – more than half of those generated during the same time in all of greater Phoenix.

The data comes from the cities’ economic development offices.

Of the total jobs, 3,569 were the result of business relocations and 1,020 were generated by company expansions.  Investment and jobs in manufacturing led the way, followed by technology and financial services.

“Our robust talent pool and pro-business environment continue to make PHX East Valley a destination for entrepreneurial startups, as well as established national and international companies,” said Denny Barney, president and CEO of the East Valley Partnership, the region’s economic development organization. “The best news is that economic development activity in our region remains brisk, as more companies consider locating or expanding here.”

A case in point: From January through June, financial consulting firm Deloitte announced a $50 million capital investment in a 100,000-square-foot delivery center that will create up to 2,500 jobs. “These are high-wage, technology jobs that not only will benefit Gilbert but will have a positive ripple effect throughout metropolitan Phoenix,” said Dan Henderson, who leads the town’s economic development efforts.

This is on top of Wells Fargo & Co. previous announcement and construction on a 190,000-square-foot expansion of its massive campus in Chandler that will account for 1,200 new jobs and increase the workforce at the site to 6,200 from 5,000.

There is also a bevy of activity in the advanced manufacturing sector, particularly in Mesa that will bring thousands of jobs to the region and pour millions of dollars into the local economy.

What is significant about these wins, Barney said, is not only the impact they will have on new jobs but also how these industries will diversify the PHX East Valley economy. 

Business and financial services sectors continue to grow

The region’s advanced business services sector, especially financial services, has grown steadily during the past 10 years, with companies such as Pay Pal, GM Financial and Toyota Financial Services generating thousands of jobs.

Along with banking giant Wells Fargo’s expansion, Liberty Mutual Insurance will move into a new Chandler office by 2019, creating 750 immediate jobs and another estimated 1,000 positions in the future.

In nearby Tempe, Bank of the West will hire 250 workers in IT, wealth management and commercial banking by year-end. 

FinTech industry taking hold 

As technology transforms banking, finance, investing and data analytics, opportunities in the FinTech industry also are exploding, according to Micah Miranda, Chandler’s economic development director. “And because of the large and growing number of tech and service professionals here, our region is poised to become a hotbed for these firms,” he said. 

San Francisco-based FinTech startup Bright Benefit Inc., which helps improve employees’ financial health, opened an office in Chandler with 25 employees and is looking to hire another dozen workers.

On Q Financial, an online provider of mortgage tools for home loans, mortgages, electronic lending and loans, also set up shop in the region, with a 44,603-square-foot office in Tempe. 

These firms join Freedom Financial, State Farm, ADP and Bank of the West, which all have established a foothold as part of the region’s growing FinTech sector.

Mesa leading the way in advanced manufacturing

PHX East Valley is attracting and growing companies that use state-of-the-art technologies, too. This is especially true in Mesa, where AQST Space Systems relocated its headquarters to Falcon Field Airport from Puerto Rico, and Piper Plastics, a global provider of high-performance polymer materials, precision molded and machined plastic components and assemblies built a 90,000-square-foot North American Research and Development Tech Center there.

Eclipse Automation Inc., a supplier of custom automated manufacturing equipment for the life sciences, energy, transportation, mining, industrial and telecommunications industries invested $1 million in its third manufacturing facility there, with plans to hire more than 50 automation engineers and technicians over the next year.

Also in Mesa, CMC Steel began construction on a 63,000-square-foot expansion of its micro-mill to manufacture spooled rebar and EuroContempo will produce its European cabinets at its new 72,000-square-foot facility.

To provide more opportunity for advanced manufacturing, the city established the Pecos Advanced Manufacturing Zone for heavy and light industrial, as well as business-park and commercial uses. “With thousands of acres of developable land, plus power, water, natural gas, fiber, a Foreign Trade Zone and a streamlined entitlement process, firms are able to establish their operations quickly and at a competitive cost,” said William Jabjiniak, Mesa’s economic development director. 

Technology companies continue to foster innovation 

From entrepreneurial startups that change the way people travel, buy a car or sell their home to studies about the impact of spaceflight and the nation’s only virtual hospital, PHX East Valley has become a strong and growing hub for technology firms. Part of the reason is the region’s infrastructure, with designated technology corridors and innovation districts. Another part is the educational resources that help build a tech-focused workforce. 

The region is home to Arizona State University, the nation’s most innovative university, with its main campus in Tempe and Polytechnic campus in southeast Mesa. Earlier this year, the university received approval on a $63.5 million satellite campus in downtown Mesa that will offer programs using augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and 3D design that are critical to medical, aerospace, manufacturing and entertainment firms.

These factors were a draw for CyrusOne, which will develop a data center cloud campus for Fortune 1000 companies, and EdgeCore Internet Real Estate’s planned 1.25-million-square-foot campus, in Mesa.

In Tempe, Economic Development Director Donna Kennedy said the city is beginning to realize its dream of bringing new jobs and discoveries to the region with the signing of the first tenant in I.D.E.A. – Innovation, Discovery, Education and Arts. Medical device manufacturer Becton Dickson and Company will be part of the 18-acre, 1 million square foot project slated to open in late 2019. 

Chandler also is living up to its reputation as the “Silicon Desert,” with technology-driven companies racing forward to usher in a new era of transportation. The city is building a solid automotive-tech hub, with Waymo (formerly the Google Self-Driving Car project), which designated the city as one of its four national test sites, along with Intel, Garmin, NXP, Microchip and other suppliers. 

This bevy of business activity in PHX East Valley is turning heads: Since the start of 2018, the region has been lauded as one of the best places to start a career, a top spot for millennials on the move, and for Gilbert, one of the happiest cities in the nation.

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