Jobs Pouring Into East Valley As Firms Flock To Region - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Jobs Pouring Into East Valley As Firms Flock To Region

October 8th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Jobs Pouring Into East Valley As Firms Flock To Region

By Jason Stone

Staff Writer

Arizona’s job numbers are sizzling, but East Valley numbers are on fire.

A recent report from the East Valley Partnership said the region’s six communities – Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe, Queen Creek and Apache Junction – added a total of 4,589 jobs from January through June this year.

“It’s fun to be mayor when the economy is doing well,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said.

Here’s just how fun: The East Valley’s job gains were more than half of all jobs generated in the greater Phoenix area – which is impressive considering the growth that’s also occurring in the West Valley.

The investment and manufacturing sectors are seeing the biggest job growth in the region, followed by technology and financial services.

Local economic and government leaders agree there’s not just one reason big companies are either relocating to the East Valley or expanding here. They say it’s a combination of low taxes, low regulations, space to expand, good weather and some forward thinking.

“Plus, people who move here actually like it here,” said Denny Barney, president and CEO of the East Valley Partnership and a Maricopa County supervisor.

“Businesses want to be here,” Barney said. “Aside from a stable tax policy, we have affordable housing and a good quality of life.”

“And the single biggest factor is we have an educated workforce that’s ready to be deployed.”

Freedom Financial, State Farm Insurance, ADP, Bank of the West, Pay Pal, GM Financial and Toyota Financial Services are among the companies that have generated thousands of jobs for the area.

In Mesa, business giants such as Apple and Dexcom are changing the diversity of the city’s business landscape.

In Chandler, Rogers Corporation announced a major expansion to add 1,200 new jobs to bring its total workforce to 6,200.

In Tempe, Bank of the West plans to hire 250 workers in IT, wealth management and commercial banking this year.

And Gilbert scored a big victory earlier this year with financial consulting firm Deloitte’s decision to bring 2,500 jobs to the town this winter.

“Part of our jobs as economic developers is keeping companies from leaving for one of the other communities,” said Micah Miranda, Chandler’s economic development director. “Having a steady supply of new, well-educated talent in the marketplace helps attract business and expansion efforts. We have a growing and well-educated talent pool for these employers to pull from.”

The job is also getting cities ready for businesses to set up shop. If ever the phrase “if you build it, they will come” was true, the East Valley is experiencing that.

For example, Mesa is laying the groundwork for much of its business momentum with improvements to its so-called “technology corridor.”

In April, the city voted to spend $10 million for improvements for the area, which stretches along Elliot Road from Ellsworth to Signal Butte. The changes include expanding Elliot from a single-lane road to a three-way stretch in both directions.

“Our role is to provide the infrastructure and workforce readiness,” Giles said. “All over Mesa, we’ve made significant investments. Having that infrastructure in place is what these large companies need.”

The improvements are both practical (street lights) and aesthetic (landscaping) to help lure in those companies to an area that’s already one of the fastest growing residential communities in the Valley. After already attracting a $2 billion Apple command center, those improvements can only make a rich area get richer.

The widening project along Elliot Road is expected to be completed by Oct. 8.

Partnership reaching goals

It’s all part of the vision the East Valley Partnership had in mind when it formed in 1982.

Charles Wahlheim, the publisher of the old “Mesa Tribune” at the time, was part of the group that formed the coalition with the goal of helping each city in the region grow. The original group also included supermarket and education icon Eddie Basha and other East Valley leaders.

At the time, the East Valley region had about 400,000 residents. That number has swelled to 1.4 million people today.

Since it started, the Partnership estimates 1.3 million jobs have come to the region.

“I’m happy the type of industries we’re attracting with this kind of growth keeps us more insulated from the booms and busts of the construction industry,” Barney said.

Maricopa County overall is experiencing a job boom, as evidenced by a new study financial site conducted.

It ranked Chandler No. 1 and Gilbert fifth in the nation for job hunting. Two of the other top five also were in the Phoenix metro area.

The WalletHub study looked at factors such as unemployment rates, median annual income and housing affordability.

For the second year in a row, Maricopa County is ranked as the fastest-growing counties for jobs in the U.S. The county’s unemployment rate last month was 4.2 percent, lower than the state’s seasonally adjusted rate of 4.6 percent and mirroring what most cities in the region are reporting.

Chandler is doing even better with a 3.3 percent rate at last check in June.

“We’re basically at full employment in Chandler,” Miranda said.

Barney said the East Valley’s transition from more mom-and-pop businesses to major industries has been years in the making.

“In decades past, much of the East Valley was ‘Main Street America,’” Barney said. “Now you’ve got Boeing (expanding) in Mesa and Intel in Chandler, and the overall jobs economy is different. We’re no longer frankly susceptible to the ups and downs of the economy.”

Mesa prepares for growth

One of Mesa’s recent coups was acquiring one of six new data centers from infrastructure consortium EdgeCore. The company is constructing the $150 million facility in Mesa as part of the first phase of a larger development.

Here are some other Mesa projects attracting more jobs to the city:

The new Residence Inn by Marriott, near U.S. 60 and Crimson Road, is bringing about 100 jobs to the city this month.

Eclipse Automation Inc., a supplier of custom automated manufacturing equipment, is expected to hire more than 50 automation engineers and technicians this year as it pumps $1 million into its latest manufacturing facility.

CMC Steel’s micro-mill is undergoing a 63,000-square-foot expansion to manufacture spooled rebar.

AQST Space Systems picked Mesa to relocate its headquarters from Puerto Rico after last year’s devastating Hurricane Maria.

And don’t forget about Arizona State University’s plan to add a satellite campus in downtown Mesa. Programs using augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence and 3D design will be the focus of the $63.5 million campus, giving Mesa another footprint in the tech world.

Development in the Red Mountain 202 area is also booming, with Piper Plastics the latest to set up shop in the city’s Falcon District near Greenfield and McKellips roads.

The worldwide provider of high-performance polymer materials and plastic components is investing $10 million into a new 90,000-square-foot facility that’s still under construction in the North American Research and Development Tech Center.

The new facility is expected to begin operations in June with 130 employees. The company plans to increase its workforce to 175 over the next three years.

Even better, those jobs will carry an average hourly wage of $20 to $25 per hour.

“It’s been a great ride for the East Valley and Mesa in particular,” Giles said.

In Gilbert, the town scored a big victory earlier this year with financial consulting firm Deloitte’s decision to spend $50 million for a 100,000-square-foot delivery center. That’s going to bring 2,500 jobs alone to Gilbert once it’s completed this winter.

Gilbert expects to see a direct and indirect financial impact of more than $9 million over the next decade, according to the development agreement between Deloitte and the town.

The other good news is the average annual wages for those jobs is expected to top $95,000 within 10 years. Deloitte is also promising a capital investment of more than $34 million during that time.