Promoting Arizona Business Growth – Key Drivers: Innovation and Talent

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By Sandra Watson


Spearheading Arizona’s economic development efforts, the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) promotes statewide assets and competitive advantages to businesses in the global marketplace. We engage company decision makers, in Arizona and around the world to advance their corporate success.

The ACA works to recruit innovative out-of-state companies to establish new operations in Arizona, helps companies operating in the state to grow their businesses, and partners with entrepreneurs to create new businesses as well as jobs in emerging areas. As part of these efforts, we highlight Arizona’s key points of attraction and strategic industry clusters.

For example, Arizona is nationally recognized as a top state for workforce quality and availability ranking No. 2 in the country, as well as No. 1 in higher education degree opportunities. Talent is a critical factor for companies seeking employees to scale their operations. The ACA provides a suite of managed programs to help companies access resources to acquire talent and provide training to employees as they expand.

The ACA’s work with national and international companies reveals that our state’s skilled and available talent pool plays a major role in their decisions to expand in Arizona. Apple, General Motors, State Farm, Garmin, Go Daddy, Northern Trust, Silicon Valley Bank, Orion Health, Weebly and Zenefits are recent examples. Collectively, these companies plan to hire thousands of employees in the greater Phoenix area, and more companies are following.

In fact, metropolitan Phoenix topped the Mountain and West regions with 78 economic development deals in 2014 surpassing totals posted by Salt Lake City and Denver*. Furthermore, the Phoenix metro area had more corporate relocation and expansion projects in 2014 than San Francisco, Seattle and Portland combined.

Additionally, Arizona’s young, highly-skilled workforce is continually fed by a network of more than 142 colleges, universities and technical schools including Northern Arizona University, the University of Arizona and Arizona State University.

According to RealtyTrac (Sept. 2014), the Phoenix metro area has a millennial population of nearly 902,000. Those 20-somethings make up 23 percent of the metro’s total population. Statewide they account for 27.8 percent and are a big draw for tech employers.

Global giants in the semiconductor and A&D industries, as well as startups in IT, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing sectors are driving a surge in demand for skilled talent as they grow in our state.

Arizona is equipped with a robust portfolio of statewide programs supporting innovative companies of all sizes.

Programs including the ACA’s Quality Jobs Tax Credit, Qualified Facility Tax Credit and the Research & Development Tax Credit encourage job creation and capital investment.

The ACA’s suite of innovation resources and tools also create opportunities for early-stage companies. In February 2015, the ACA launched a new online Start Up portal connecting Arizona’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. It assists startup companies at all stages to advance their business success.

*Source: Site Selection Magazine

Sandra Watson brings more than 20 years of economic development leadership experience to Arizona. She and her teams have successfully attracted hundreds of companies to Arizona that have invested billions of dollars in capital – creating more than 75,000 quality jobs. For more information about how the ACA can partner to help businesses expand and grow, visit