Arizona is a Top-Tech Job Generator

Steve Zylstra b&w

Steve Zylstria
President & CEO, Arizona Technology Council


If you live here, you probably haven’t noticed but Arizona has one of the hottest technology job markets in the country right now. There’s nothing particularly unique about how Arizona is adapting to technology as compared to other tech hubs. It’s just that “information technology” (IT) is integrated into almost every business. The markets for IT are growing larger—whether in the office, on the web or for everyday use by consumers.

Phoenix is integrating technology into its business community the same as most cities but in terms of the number of tech jobs we’re creating, we actually compete with the likes of San Jose and San Francisco. In June of this year, Forbes names the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area as the “City Winning the Battle for Information Jobs Outside of San Francisco and Silicon Valley.” Phoenix and Tucson are on their way to becoming major hubs for technology companies and are able to compete in the global economy.

This job growth hasn’t happened by accident. We’ve worked a long time on developing a business plan to attract those kinds of companies. It was only after the recession of 2008 receded a bit that we could really say things were coming together. Today, Arizona’s economy is becoming richer in both the number of technology businesses that are being attracted to move or expand here, and those being created as startups.

Almost every day we have a richer environment of all kinds: local startups like Tuft & Needle, which redefined the mattress business model, WebPT and Infusionsoft to name a few. We have strong technology clusters such as bioscience, telecommunications, aerospace and software. And the stronger our ecosystem becomes, the more we become a center for attracting those kinds of companies.

On the outside, Arizona is known to have a really talented workforce. What’s happening now, however, is jobs increasingly require more education. Although certainly not all jobs require a four-year bachelor’s degree, almost all high-paying jobs require at least an associate degree or some sort of certification. By 2025, 75 percent of jobs will require some education beyond high school.

Relatively speaking, Arizona’s population is not as highly educated as other areas we compete against in the nation. But as you see more demand for higher education required of the workforce, our academic institutions, especially the universities, have gotten better at preparing a new generation. That trend is expected to continue. Arizona State University and The University of Arizona have evolved into nationally recognized research institutions. With support of the Arizona Technology Council, our academic institutions from kindergarten on are focusing on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to address the need for a much more highly educated workforce.

In addition to our workforce, we have been successful at attracting more necessary risk capital from other regions. Venture capitalists regularly fly in and out of Arizona looking for deals. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of risk capital in Arizona yet; it’s one area that needs a lot of attention. But the more tech companies that grow here and exit, the more angel capital we can produce. It’s a virtuous cycle.

Even with capital constraints, our low real estate costs and tax rates make Arizona an attractive place to do business. New companies are moving to our urban areas, as evidenced by the real estate activity in the old downtown Phoenix warehouse district. Light rail has been a huge help in attracting millennials to our downtowns, as their relationship with cars is different from those of past generations.

Our urban areas also have evolved to become magnets for millennials. Downtown Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe and Scottsdale Airpark are all attracting a new generation of talent. Forbes linked our job creation to Bay Area companies—Uber, Yelp, Weebly and Shutterfly among others—expanding into the Valley in recent years. JLL research has estimated that relocating from Silicon Valley could save companies up to 42 percent in annual costs per employee and 76 percent in total lease costs.

It has taken many years of hard work on the part of a large cohort of tech entrepreneurs and economic developers but we finally are hitting the target for tech job creation. Moreover, if housing in Silicon Valley continues to be unaffordable and our tech companies continue to grow, it could get even better for us. The next big job? More angel and venture capital from the local community to fuel the growth of our early stage companies – so they can’t be convinced to move out of Arizona just as they are beginning to create jobs.


Steven G. Zylstra Sc.D. (Hon.) serves as president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council, a role he assumed in December of 2007. He is responsible for strategy, operations, all financial matters and accomplishment of policy development for the Council. Steven is a vocal spokesman for the value technology can provide in raising social and economic standards in Arizona. Steven has served in numerous technology leadership and advisory roles to the Governor and currently serves on several association, industry and community boards, including being recognized as an Aspen Institute Fellow for his work in workforce development. Between August 2013 and August 2015 he served as the Chairman of the global organization Technology Councils of North American (TECNA). Steven can be reached at 602-343-8324 or at