December 28, 2016
President & CEO, Greater Phoenix Economic Council
This November, regional and state leaders gathered to share the announcement that ADP — a global provider of human capital management solutions — would be opening a new office in Tempe, Arizona adding 1,500 jobs in a space that was once the headquarters for U.S. Airways (now American Airlines).
This announcement was impactful on many levels. In addition to adding quality jobs to the region, the company will occupy a large office space in the heart of a major metropolitan community. The company credited the region’s lifestyle as a draw for employees as a key component in their decision about where to expand.
This shift in decision-making for companies is becoming the new normal in economic development. Companies of all sizes and in all stages of the business lifecycle are naturally inclined to consider costs and how changes to their business — such as an expansion or relocation —will impact their bottom line. However, more and more of that decision is directly influenced by two critical factors: availability of workforce, and the livability of a community.
When Carlisle Companies, a $3.5 billion global diversified manufacturer, announced it was relocating its corporate headquarters from North Carolina to Phoenix, it citied these two elements as deciding factors. These sentiments are echoed by CEOs across the country, as businesses seek to plant roots in communities that can support their company’s growth and offer employees lifestyle amenities and experiences that will enrich their personal lives.
Companies looking at Greater Phoenix for expansion are able to find a robust, skilled labor pool, due to a strong presence of higher education institutions in the market, including the Maricopa County Community Colleges (MCC), Arizona State University (ASU), Grand Canyon University (GCU), as well as career and technical education programs such as Universal Technical Institute and the University of Advancing Technology.
With more than 250,000 students at MCC and more than 85,000 students at ASU, the output of students supplements the already existing talent pool, providing a diverse workforce of varying skillsets and level of experience; an asset that is attractive to companies looking to expand into the market.
A further draw is the connectedness of communities — the availability of things to do, recreation, and arts and cultural offerings. In Gilbert, for example, strategic planning around the downtown area’s Heritage District has spurred upscale restaurant and retail development and transformed the town’s identity. In the city of Phoenix, a movement is underway to transform the city’s alleys from unused spaces into public gathering places, featuring art, murals and food vendors. And the city of Tempe recently joined two other valley cities in offering grid bikes, linking people with places and fostering a sense of community.
These factors are becoming increasingly important for companies, which means they should be increasingly important for communities as they take on their strategic plans for future growth.
Around the Greater Phoenix region, public officials and economic developers are committed to enhancing the region’s competitiveness by supporting the qualities and assets that set us apart: a robust higher education system responsive to the needs of business, as well as inclusive cities and towns that connect people and create community.
Shifting the conversation from low cost to high value will help advance those communities seeking to attract and grow innovative, sustainable businesses. A new age of economic development is upon us, and Greater Phoenix is well positioned to succeed in this new reality.