By Arman Sidhu
In a video shown shortly before his Jan. 31 State of the City Address, Mayor Jay Tibshraeny climbed into an autonomous car, complete with a sleek design, sporty performance and a personal digital secretary that doubled as a chauffeur.
“I could get used to that,” Tibshraeny said.
The car may be fictitious, but City officials are hoping that vehicles like that could be invented and manufactured in Chandler.
Chandler, which was named “the country’s hottest new city for autos” by Fortune Magazine last year, is welcoming the new cluster of automotive and tech companies, the focus of Tibshraeny’s talk.
Waymo, formerly the Google Self-Driving Car Project, has made its mark on the city by testing its Lexus Hybrid SUVs here since April. In October, Waymo opened its Chandler facility, which will be used for vehicle maintenance. It also hired several of its testers who sit in the vehicle and record data to monitor and improve vehicle performance.
General Motors, which opened its Innovation Center in the Price Corridor in July 2014, continues to build its team. The automotive giant is hiring entry-level graduates and experienced employees to work on projects that range from ride-sharing to information security. The center is one of four located around the country, and is responsible for the creation of more than 1,000 jobs.
Local Motors, a motor vehicle manufacturer, was founded in the Valley 10 years ago. The company is known for its Rally Fighter vehicle, a premium priced and, at times, acrobatic vehicle enjoyed by enthusiasts and spectators. Local Motors is also adopting cutting-edge technologies and applying innovative techniques from an open-source community. Its product line includes two 3D-printed vehicles, produced in a Chandler-based micro factory.
Other companies involved in Chandler’s automotive tech cluster include navigation giant Garmin and semiconductors like Intel, Microchip and NXP Semiconductor. Though less known for their contributions to the automotive industry, semiconductors have pivoted their products in anticipation of a future automobile laced with new technology, requiring high-performance hardware and software.
“These automotive tech companies further diversify Chandler’s roust employment base, allowing us to remain economically strong,” Tibshraeny said.
Outside of the automotive industry, two companies, Davita and Republic Services, recently moved into the Price Corridor. Davita, a health care company focused on kidney care, will add nearly 600 jobs to the area. republic Services, one of the largest waste management companies in the country, expects to add hundreds of employees in a variety of roles to accommodate the company’s growth.
The mayor’s address also featured the announcement of rental car company Enterprise Leasing’s move into a 42,800-square-feet space in the Chandler Corporate Center. The move is expected to bring 150 jobs.
Rogers Corp., which announced last year that it would relocate its headquarters from its namesake town of Rogers, Connecticut, to Chandler, will boost its workforce by 200. The company’s move will also include a $20 million expansion.
Downtown Chandler has experienced unprecedented growth with expansions in housing, retail, and office space expected to continue.
“In recent years, about $64 million has been invested in projects with an estimated $172 million on the way in the near future,” Tibshraeny noted.
Companies like Quad Mark, a consultancy, and Execute to Win, a cloud-based application provider, have recently moved downtown, diversifying the area to include businesses outside of retail and restaurants. The landed a downtown movie theater, with Texas-based Flix Brewhouse slated to move in.
Tibshraeny also touted the city’s talent, financial stability and infrastructure, and attributes those characteristics to Chandler’s success.
“These assets make us a natural draw for the types of employers we increasingly see take interest in Chandler.”
Tibshraeny concluded that despite the changes that have occurred nationally, Chandler’s focus would be on a “positive and productive path to success.”
“The state of our great city continues to be robust, vibrant and enduring.”