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The History of Greater Phoenix’s Economic Development


Our region has had a long history of coming together as a community in coordination with the state leadership to drive intentional economic development.

For forty years between the 1940s and 1980s, Greater Phoenix experienced economic growth, led by bi-partisanship efforts, including the Central Arizona Project (CAP) in the 1960s, which championed growth by securing a stable water supply. In the late 1980s Arizona was hit hard by the savings and loan (S&L) crisis. Commercial development was overheated, and the downturn created not only a concern for the recovery but also brought to light a mismatch of the state and regional economy with global economic trends and the performance of other states. In response, state and regional leaders came together and developed Arizona’s Strategic Plan for Economic Development (ASPED) and its implementation process, the Governor’s Strategic Partnership for Economic Development (GSPED). ASPED and GSPED created an industry cluster strategy for state leaders to coalesce around. Similarly, following the Great Recession the Velocity plan was developed in Greater Phoenix through multisector coalition, focusing on industry diversification.

These efforts have improved our ability to recover from economic shocks. Greater Phoenix has recovered from the pandemic recession faster than other large metro regions. Now our region stands at a crossroad. While the regional economy is more diversified than before the Great Recession, it is not yet specialized to claim top market status for emerging growth sectors. Global challenges associated with climate change, technological disruptions, and social and economic inequalities are reshaping the national and regional competitiveness. Against this changing landscape, economic diversification without strong specialization in emerging tech and growth sectors puts Greater Phoenix at risk of losing out to other leading regions.

Historical Catalyzing Events

Historical events that drove economic change in Greater Phoenix.

Economic Growth

Motorola opens military electronics R&D center

Motorola opens a research and development center for military electronics

Economic Growth

Manufacturing surpasses agriculture in the region’s economy

Economic Growth

Intel expands to Chandler

Economic Growth

The Groundwater Management Act is signed

Late 1980s
Cluster Development

The S&L crisis impacts Arizona

Cluster Development

Greater Phoenix Economic Council is founded

Economic Competitiveness

ASPED and the state’s cluster strategy is developed

Economic Competitiveness

Real estate bubble bursts leading to “Great Recession”

Economic Competitiveness

Arizona Competitiveness Package passed by the Legislature

Economic Competitiveness

TSMC and Intel make major investments in Arizona semiconductor industry