Gilbert: Town full of talent
by Savannah King
Don’t make the mistake of calling Gilbert a “city.” This community is a town.
“We like what a town denotes, which is that there’s a connected way here,” said Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels. Daniels moved to Arizona in 2002 and to Gilbert in 2005. By 2009, she was serving as a member of the town council and was elected mayor in 2016. “I’ve only been in Gilbert for 15 years. So, that tells you about our welcoming attitude toward the newcomer or someone who wants to launch a business,” says Daniels. “In Gilbert, you’ll be embraced if you want to come in and work hard and contribute.”
Gilbert is a vibrant and thriving community located in the southeast Phoenix metropolitan area. In addition to its high quality of life with more than 300 days of sunshine a year, a nationally A-rated K-12 school system, and a 30-minute average commute — this town is brimming with opportunity.
Indeed, several major companies have selected Gilbert for locations including Deloitte, Northrop Grumman and GoDaddy.
We spoke with Dan Henderson, director of economic development for the Town of Gilbert, about the benefits they offer to companies and residents.
Why should companies consider Gilbert for their next expansion or relocation?
DAN HENDERSON: Here in Gilbert, we are focused on attracting new investment from businesses in aerospace and aviation; advanced business services; financial and insurance industries; education services; health care; manufacturing; and real estate. As we look around us, the regional assets, industry-leading firms, and quality of workforce have created strategic advantages in these key sectors in the state of Arizona, the Phoenix metropolitan area, and Gilbert.
So, we build on these community strengths, quality infrastructure and that talented workforce, the realized as well as the projected growth in industry trends, and Gilbert is growing and realizing benefits in those industry spaces.
From a business climate perspective, we have a very low total payroll cost, no sales tax on manufacturing equipment, no inventory tax, and we are a right-to-work state. Almost 41% of the residents within the community have a bachelor’s degree or higher. We have the availability of a skilled workforce connected to about a million people.
What are some of your top economic development priorities?
HENDERSON: We want to ensure that the community is well positioned to be independent of market fluctuations and that we can go into diverse industries. Our business attraction, our business expansion, and our retention and redevelopment efforts are proactively focused on businesses looking to locate or expand in the Phoenix metropolitan area, the Phoenix east valley and in Gilbert. To achieve this, we work with our regional partners such as the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and the Arizona Commerce Authority, as well as a robust entrepreneurship ecosystem.
We engage national site selectors and work with regional and local brokers as well as centers of excellence and developers to generate prospects and leads. We really use our business acumen and our communities and strengths to refine those leads and opportunities into projects. Those projects then find a very convenient and very efficient sort of development-serviced process through entitlements. We’re constantly benchmarking that speed to market. What our companies have come to realize is that through these benchmarking efforts, they are able to get those certificates of occupancy faster than in any other community in the valley.
How would you describe the workforce in Gilbert?
HENDERSON: The average age of residents in Gilbert is in the low to mid-30s. Our workforce is well educated; 44% of the adults over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher. We have a very hard-working labor force participation rate of over 70% within a 30-minute commute to Gilbert.
We are the No. 1 Phoenix suburb for millennials. We are the best suburb in the Phoenix metropolitan area, according to Thrillist. We’re the No. 2 safest community in the U.S., and we are the third best city to find a job in the U.S.
What should site selectors understand about Gilbert?
HENDERSON: We’re able to create solutions with our partners and ultimately help our clients succeed in those initial stages of evaluating the community, but their needs continue to evolve and grow. We can work with our clients to help them succeed, not only in finding a location but also in growing and expanding. I think each project has unique needs. It’s a combination of a lot of things that make a company successful, and we work on those unique needs. Our team does an excellent job of working with our regional partners and our local leadership and stakeholders, and we rely on our internal departments within Gilbert to anticipate, create and help.