A driving force behind the Greater Phoenix business boom
Written and compiled by Robert Yehling, Innovation & Tech Today
Greater Together. These two words standing alone might not seem like much, but to the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), they fuel transformation.
GPEC was founded 30 years ago on the foundation of regionalism, collaboration, connectedness and innovation. Fast forward to today and there is no secret that their success is rooted in their ability to embody, Greater Together. Through collaboration of the region’s 22 cities and towns, Maricopa County and countless community partners, Greater Phoenix has become a force to be reckoned with.
During Chris Camacho’s tenure as President and CEO of GPEC, he has seen the evolution of the region firsthand. Since 2010, Greater Phoenix has emerged as a model location for a wide variety of emerging technologies, including cybersecurity, blockchain, wearables and autonomous vehicles. The region has also become increasingly attractive as a location for more traditional businesses like financial services, healthcare and healthcare tourism.
According to Camacho, Greater Phoenix’s strengths include a culture that supports business, and the region’s exceptionally diverse and talented workforce. It should be no surprise that in a metropolitan area that has the nation’s largest engineering school, there is no shortage of new college graduates ready to take on new challenges and embrace the technologies of tomorrow.
“Tech companies are evaluating locations where they can cost-optimize, access labor pools and scale,” says Camacho. “Today, business expansion is about more than cost optimization, it’s about community building and quality of life. The companies we work with come to the table with broad sweeping questions about the market. They’re asking about our regional ethos and how they can partner with initiatives that matter to residents.”
While business attraction is a cornerstone of GPEC’s operation, they are also committed to enhancing the competitiveness of the region. But they’re not doing it alone.
“Representing 22 cities and Maricopa County, GPEC is a one-stop model for companies looking to relocate or do business in Greater Phoenix. The GPEC team understands economics and partners with the cities to learn the unique strengths of each community in our region. When someone contacts our team about an expansion or relocation, we’ll provide a project scope to the cities, and interested communities will respond when they have the infrastructure and real estate available. We then coordinate a regional response and work with the state for additional resources. But business attraction alone can’t sustain a market. That’s why we’re working with regional leaders to advance the competitiveness of Greater Phoenix. We’re continuously evaluating and strengthening the drivers of a competitive global region,” he added.
As a 2017, 2018 and 2019 recipient of the Mac Conway Award for Excellence in Economic Development by Site Selection magazine, GPEC serves as point of contact for businesses from around the world seeking to relocate to Greater Phoenix. When your economic development group has drawn more than 800 companies, nearly 150,000 jobs and $16.1 billion in capital investment in its 30-year history, companies tend to listen… and relocate.
With the business attraction efforts setting records for the organization, it’s no surprise that the Phoenix-metro area is touted as one of the hottest job growth markets in the country, continually adding 50,000 to 100,000 jobs annually.
“We are a trusted advisor for this region, not only do we intimately know our market, we’re also coming to the table with thorough data put together by our research and analytics team,” said Camacho. “With our vast experience working with targeted markets such as Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, New York and Chicago, we understand the complexity of needing to reduce burn rates, increase top line revenue and address risk. We’re not just marketing the region, we’re here to be a confidential and reliable partner when businesses start considering scalability options.”
Other markets have seen the growth in Greater Phoenix and have taken notice, rightfully so. Here’s a quick snapshot of a few of GPEC’s announcements during July 2019 alone (in addition to those made by member cities, several included in this special Tech Zone section):
- Verdigris Holdings, which serves underbanked consumers, announced it is building its corporate headquarters in Greater Phoenix and bringing 210 well-paying jobs. The move carries a $32 million economic impact along with a $19 million capital investment.
- Compass Datacenters will build its new eight-center, 1.8 million sq. ft. campus on 225 acres in Goodyear. “Greater Phoenix is rapidly becoming the leading market for data centers in the U.S.,” said Camacho. “The region’s ideal southwest location offers very low risk of natural disasters, low latency, robust infrastructure and close proximity to a broad customer base.”
- Acronis, a global leader in cyber protection, is opening a new office in Tempe to focus on AI, machine learning, cyber protection innovations, and blockchain technologies. They will spend $50 million in R&D over the next three years and provide 150 new jobs.
Over the past few years, Google, Apple and Microsoft have added significant nerve center capacity to the region. These deals add to the organization’s past year successes that include the $1 billion facility autonomous truck and transportation firm Nikola is building, USAA’s announcement to bring additional software and IT operations into their location in Greater Phoenix, and Deloitte’s large technology office expansion in the area.
The success of the market comes from GPEC’s willingness to take risks and be unapologetic about their commitment to putting Greater Phoenix on the map. With 30% of the more than 300 businesses actively considering the market coming from California, GPEC launched the #CAstruggles campaign to help spotlight Greater Phoenix as the best location for the increasing exodus of California companies. Taxes, regulatory burdens, the spiraling cost of living, rising overhead, lack of new space and other financial pressures are fueling the exodus. GPEC has supported the expansion and relocation of more than 200 California companies to Greater Phoenix, including Charles Schwab, Yelp, Weebly, Silicon Valley Bank, Gainsight and DoubleDutch, and is ready to support more.
Behind all of this work is an economic development organization that runs like a startup. According to Camacho, every day is filled with accomplishments from a purposeful staff that stops at nothing to fulfill GPEC’s mission. “We are fearless, tenacious, and expect a lot from the staff,” Camacho said. “While we are thrilled to attract dynamic companies that make the region’s economy stronger, our staff is motivated by the impact each job has on the employee, their family, and the regional partners that make up Greater Phoenix. This region truly is Greater Together and we invite everyone to come see for themselves.”