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Ambassador Panel at GPEC Office

Advancing the region

Industry experts provide insight on Greater Phoenix’s transportation projects, energy advancements, tech implementations 

Greater Phoenix is growing at a rapid pace, not only regarding population, but in economic momentum and technological advancements. Arizona exceeds the national average for economic momentum, landing No. 4 in economic momentum, No. 3 in personal income growth and No. 5 in job growth, according to State Policy Reports. The region is seeing this kind of massive growth because we work together.  

At the start of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council’s (GPEC) Ambassador panel on advancing the region, panelist Chris Richardson, the CIO of Development, Mobility, and Smart Cities, Arizona State University (ASU), shared a proverb: “If you want to do something quick, do it yourself, if you want to do it well, do it together.”  

Richardson expanded on this idea saying that “in order to tackle the biggest problems in the world, you need alignment. I think a lot of these things we are trying to advance aren’t based on party or personal interest, they are based on looking at an opportunity and solving the challenges.” 

The panelists included Eric Anderson, executive director, Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG); Donald Chung, customer technology product development, Arizona Public Service (APS); and Richardson. The panel was moderated by Colleen Schwab, GPEC’s senior vice president, marketing and communications, with more than 60 attendees in the audience. 

Greater Phoenix's economic momentum and technological advancementsis are growing at a rapid pace. Learn more about this from our Ambassador panelists.


What kind of advancements are we seeing in the region right now? 

The panelists discussed various advancements in Greater Phoenix that we are seeing in energy, transportation and smart region technology 

Chung mentioned that energy actually has a lot to do with advancements in the region because Arizona and APS are a leader in clean energy.  

“We are already well on our way to a clean energy economy,” Chung said. He added that APS is continuing efforts to make Arizona’s energy as sustainable, affordable and clean as possible, and pointed to Arizona being the 3rd largest solar state in the country. 

Anderson pointed out that quality transportation is top of mind to advance Greater Phoenix and has been for quite some time. Recently, ridership for the light rail has exceeded the Maricopa Association of Governments’ original projections, said Anderson. 

“One of the major areas to look at is bus systems and dealing with transit deserts,” said Anderson. He mentioned that in order to accomplish this, Greater Phoenix will be having “important policy discussions regarding how to move the region forward.” 

When it comes to smart cities, Richardson mentioned two different initiatives that ASU has spearheaded. One is the ASU Smart City Cloud Innovation Center (CIC), which is powered by Amazon Web Services. This center helps build smart communities in Maricopa County cities and towns by using AWS Cloud to solve community and regional challenges. 

Another initiative that Richardson highlighted was the Novus Innovation Corridor, a 330-acre development in Tempe that focuses on future forward urban environment. The Novus Innovation Corridor focuses on four topics: adaptive urban environment; sports performance, training and entertainment destination; sustainability and the Smart City; and long-term ASU-driven alliances to enhance commerce and experiences. 


How do corporations in Greater Phoenix stay ahead of their market competitors? 

Greater Phoenix is a young underdog market so that gives us a lot of stability to be nimble, yet, we don’t have as many legacy infrastructures in place as other markets. So how do we keep a competitive edge? The panelists agreed that many regional companienot only innovate within, but they take inspiration from other companies. 

“We should focus more on how to create an environment that is our own,” Richardson said about legacy companies. “Where I have been looking for inspiration is to the best technology companies: Amazon Web Services/Amazon, Salesforce, Microsoft and others.” 

In the business of energy, Chung said that they look outward “to keep track of the markets and see what is happening out there. Part of that is talking to peer utilities and looking at potential competitors, energy related products, and innovation to see how that impacts our business.”  

However, Chung stressed that while Greater Phoenix is leading in many of these innovative industries, “that doesn’t mean we can be inconsistent. We need to keep our heads up and look around outside our territories.” 


Are you interested in staying up-to-date on Greater Phoenix’s growth and advocating for the region’s competitiveness? Become an Ambassador – learn more.