By Dominique Cantelme
From the March/April 2021 Issue
Even pre-pandemic, Arizona was making a name for itself in various sectors. Fast forward to today and not much has really changed.
When the AZ Technology Council released its Q4 2020 Arizona Technology Industry Impact Report, this was made even more obvious. Compiled by eIMPACT, the report showed a 29 percent increase in STEM job postings in Dec. 2020 vs. Dec. 2019 and 4.3 percent growth in AZ tech companies. There was 6.2 percent employment growth and a 1.02 percent increase in tech wages, which reached more than $22 billion.
“Despite a challenging year caused by the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Arizona’s technology sector was able to rebound quickly and even outpace Q4 2019 in several significant growth metrics,” said Steven G. Zylstra, the Council’s president and CEO.
Healthcare is another thriving sector. According to Lorna Romero, a spokeswoman for the Health System Alliance of Arizona (HSAAZ), AZ hospitals and health systems have collaborated to manage resources and balance demand on the healthcare delivery system since the beginning of the pandemic.
AVONDALE: THE CITY WITH AN EDGE TO THRIVE
It’s no secret that the Phoenix metropolitan area’s West Valley is one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation. This area is expected to account for more than 40 percent of the region’s growth during the next 10 years, creating an exciting new frontier for developers and businesses. The City of Avondale is well-positioned to accommodate the demands of this new environment. Its location provides access to strategic transportation corridors, as well as a diverse and highly skilled labor shed with over 3 million square feet of flex, manufacturing and logistics space currently under construction. Each site is within a mile from all five full-diamond interchanges located in the city and provides an easy 5.5-hour drive to the Port of Long Beach and over 22 million consumers throughout the western U.S.
Avondale’s McDowell Road Corridor, also known as the Healthcare Corridor, has emerged as an attractive location for both medical and retail investments, and is continuing to expand. Recent investments by the Akos Medical Group include a 68,000-square-foot, Class A medical office building and surgery center, which will open in the Summer 2021. The Medical Campus, when complete, will create over 400 high-quality medical jobs. ClearSky Rehabilitation Hospital recently announced their Arizona debut and plans to build a 43,000-square-foot facility that will create 100 new healthcare-related jobs and serve hundreds of individuals recovering from strokes, brain injuries and spinal injuries.
Akos and ClearSky join other high profile medical firms on the Healthcare Corridor such as Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Integrated Medical Services and Arizona Center for Cancer Care. Adjacent to the Healthcare Corridor is McDowell’s Restaurant Row. This area features a variety of destination dining options attracting both residents and customers from all over the Valley. It features regional and local favorites such as Portillo’s Chicago Beef, Trapper’s Sushi, and opening soon, Barrio Queen, as well as national franchises such as In-N-Out Burger, Claim Jumper, Raising Cane’s, Chick-fil-A and Chipotle.
The BLVD, Metro Phoenix’s newest mixed-use destination, is located just around the corner from the Healthcare Corridor. The American Sports Center (ASC) is Arizona’s largest indoor multi-sports facility and is centrally located within The BLVD. Over 500,000 visitors and athletes from around the country come to the facility to participate in basketball, volleyball and soccer tournaments each year. Hilton, Marriott and MyPlace support the ASC and business travelers with over 411 rooms within walking distance of the facility, and more rooms will be added with the addition of Avid Hotels in 2021. Those looking to live within walking distance of The BLVD will be able to do so with the 541 units planned at the Village at The BLVD and Avari Apartments, and more single-family homes on the horizon.
Businesses that choose Avondale have access to over 40,900 skilled healthcare workers and 106,400 business service workers within a 25-minute commute. Statewide education partners such as Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona are producing graduates with leadership skills in high-demand careers. Estrella Mountain Community College offers two-year degree programs in forward-thinking subjects such as Artificial Intelligence. This particular program is the first of its kind in the nation, demonstrating the commitment of its schools to enhancing the next generation of the community’s workforce.
Businesses that choose Avondale also have access to the Local EDGE, a premier new program that provides high-quality programming and interactive opportunities to help Avondale businesses thrive. The Local EDGE staff delivers a concierge level of services and works alongside new Avondale businesses to plan groundbreaking, ribbon cutting and grand opening celebrations, and promotes these events on its Avondale EDGE social media platforms. The Leading EDGE Awards allows the City to annually celebrate two businesses that make a positive business and community impact, and Phoenix Raceway and Eric’s Family Barbecue were the inaugural recipients of this award.
Avondale has a lot to offer businesses, but it also provides one of a kind amenities, events and a variety of housing options that support a high quality of life. Estrella Mountain Regional Park encompasses over 20,000 acres of pristine Sonoran desert accessible to hikers and naturalists. Birdwatchers, paddleboarders and outdoor enthusiasts gather annually at the Base & Meridan Wildlife Area to celebrate the Tres Rios Festival. Avondale is Arizona’s home to NASCAR, hosting two races annually, including the 2021 National Championship Race. The community also offers a broad spectrum of housing choices that will suit everyone’s needs, including modern multi-family, historic neighborhoods and premier master-planned communities such as Avondale’s newest addition with Alamar. Alamar’s welcoming tree-lined neighborhoods feature amenities to inspire deep-rooted connections, from a newly planned K–8 public school to recreational spaces that include a private pool, dog parks, ballfields, basketball courts and outdoor gathering venues.
“Along with our low cost of doing business and an uncomplicated permitting process, our geographic location provides access to critical transportation corridors and a deep talent pipeline of skilled workers,” said Ken Chapa, Avondale’s Economic Development Director.
SIERRA VISTA: CUTTING-EDGE TECH IN MOTHER NATURE’S BACKYARD
Extraordinary skies, uncommon ground. It’s a description that Sierra Vista adopted to capsulize not only the remarkable geography of the area, but also the unique business opportunities.
Instead of the usual smattering of industrial sites and triple-digit acreage often touted, Sierra Vista is blazing new trails with a leading-edge knowledge base and state-of-the-art facilities—requiring a minimal footprint but maximum technology.
A surprising player in the technology mix is Cochise College. With a strategic focus on training today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs, Cochise College has been recognized as one of the top three community colleges in the U.S. Its newest programs include a fully equipped augmented reality/virtual reality center and a military standard, hands-on cybersecurity lab.
University of Arizona’s College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST), also in Sierra Vista, is one of the nation’s top cybersecurity training facilities, operating in a unique online AI environment that grows exponentially to replicate the intricacies of today’s Industry 4.0 world. CAST’s cyber operations program is designated as a Center of Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency, one of only 20 in the nation, and its intelligence education program is approved by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Strategically located in Sierra Vista, Fort Huachuca is the U.S. Army’s hub of technology and real-world cyber defense. The operations at Fort Huachuca are supported by thousands of highly educated and technology-focused contractors, many of whom are recruited from the Fort’s 400-plus soldiers and officers who voluntarily separate from service, via Fort Huachuca, annually.
At this unassuming installation at the base of the same-named mountains (“Huachuca” means “place of thunder” in Apache), several key missions that support national defense are conducted, including NETCOM, which operates and defends the Army’s worldwide networks; the nation’s largest unmanned aerial systems training facility; and the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, focusing on myriad high-tech training to support the Army’s critical intel missions.
Thanks to Sierra Vista’s high elevation (4,633 feet), surrounding mountain ranges and pristine airspace, Fort Huachuca conducts highly technical training and testing, which cannot be achieved anywhere else in the United States. The 2,500-square-mile “high altitude bowl” of the Buffalo Soldier Electronic Test Range sets the stage for world-class electronic testing paired with an extraordinary workforce. A national treasure identified in 1954 when the Electronic Proving Ground was opened, Fort Huachuca is positioned to support the future warfare requirements for the defense of the nation.
As a center for education and defense, Sierra Vista enjoys a stable economy and fiscally conservative leadership. These key attributes clearly contribute to the city’s low tax rate. Add that to an affordable cost of living and lifestyle amenities to find a destination worth discovering.
Even during a pandemic, the City has been working to make Sierra Vista a better place to live, work and play. A thoughtfully planned business district revitalization project is underway, with groundbreaking slated for later this year. Once completed, the community’s historic West End will be transformed into a budding entertainment district with amenities for pedestrians, bicyclists and outdoor events.
The first EPA WaterSense Community, Sierra Vista has made great strides in conserving this precious natural resource, from completing a nationally recognized water treatment facility to installing rainwater collection and stormwater mitigation infrastructure. Sierra Vista is a model city for smart water use. Taking another step forward in its water conservation efforts, Sierra Vista replaced natural grass with high-quality artificial turf on its soccer fields in 2020. The newly turfed fields, along with an extensive complex of baseball and softball facilities, have put Sierra Vista on the map for tournaments, pulling athletes from across the southwest, with a handful of teams hailing from the Pacific Northwest and upper Midwest. Sweetening the pot is Sierra Vista’s cooler temperatures, averaging a comfortable 73 degrees for the year, and generally 10 to 20 degrees cooler than Arizona’s crowded metropolitan centers.
While the mountains and elevation mean economic opportunity, they also support Sierra Vista’s outdoor recreation. The Huachuca Mountains, part of the Sky Islands, are a medley of soaring peaks that cup southeast AZ and create one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world in a blend of tropical and temperate climates, riparian areas and expansive forests. The highest peak in the Huachucas stretches to nearly 9,500 feet and determined hikers and mountain bikers are rewarded with knock-out, 360-degree views.
Sierra Vista’s affordability and lifestyle are the foundation of many of the community’s recognitions, including most affordable city in Arizona, best city for teleworking, best city for young families and best city to retire to. At about 45,000, Sierra Vista’s population is right-sized, supporting many big city amenities in a community that has everything you need.
PEORIA: AN IDEAL PLACE TO MAKE YOUR PLACE
The City of Peoria, AZ is an ideal location for the semiconductor and smart technology manufacturing industry and horizontal/vertical supply chain integration. Targeting industry sectors such as robotics and automation, nanotechnology and internet of things (loT), Peoria offers solid, site ready infrastructure, access to major freeways and is within close proximity to Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport.
The Vistancia Technology Park, located in northern Peoria, at the award winning Vistancia master-planned community, is a prime location for suppliers to successfully become a part of the growing tech hub in the Greater Phoenix region. The technology park is just off the Loop 303 freeway and minutes from I-17. Vistancia Technology Park is a mixed-use area that is ideal for manufacturing, office and retail uses. There are more than 429 acres that are shovel-ready with ample power, water, wastewater and fiber optics and within 15 minutes from the future TSMC campus.
In the southern region of Peoria is the Peoria Logistics Park. This park is a 158-acre industrial park, located in close proximity to Loop 101 and Grand Avenue (US 60) for easy access to the entire region and major interstates. It is within 6 to 9 miles of I-10, depending on route. The site is shovel-ready with infrastructure and zoning. It is currently zoned for light industrial and can accommodate potential semiconductor suppliers, value-add manufacturers and other large industrial users. Just north is Peoria Place, a planned mixed-use development that includes 27 acres of industrial land. This site, adjacent to Grand Ave., is just minutes away from downtown Phoenix.
Peoria has the sites, the experience and the capabilities to ensure that semiconductor related businesses will find the needed expertise to be successful. Peoria staff include development directors that worked on the Sumitomo Sitix project in north Phoenix, in addition to staff that previously owned businesses that were key suppliers of equipment and facility build outs. They understand the needs of properly setting up a semiconductor-related company and meeting rigid timeframes for approvals and construction in today’s business environment.
Companies will find business friendly city leadership, low cost of doing business, foreign trade zones, expedited permitting and a professional economic development team. Peoria offers local companies, both large and small, an award winning Business Concierge program. Its concierge is there to assist you with any and all business related assistance needs, from maneuvering through the permitting process to connecting you to workforce development partners. There are 3,500+ engineering graduates across all Arizona state universities. Peoria takes pride in its close working relationship with the nation’s largest, Arizona State University (ASU), for workforce development. ASU has been ranked the most innovative university in the U.S. for six straight years. Part of their innovation stems from their Macro-Technology Works center. This center is a state-of-the-art research center offering office space, labs and equipment to support collaboration with commercial partners. This relationship provides suppliers locating to Peoria access to world-class research and a highly skilled, sustainable workforce. Peoria draws workforce from the majority of the Greater Phoenix region, providing workers options for lifestyle choices due to the reverse commute its west valley city benefits from. Peoria is where your employees will want to live.
Peoria offers young, family orientated communities with diverse, high quality and affordable housing opportunities. An A+ school district, ranking in the top 17 percent nationwide (Expansion Magazine), Peoria Unified School District maintains high standards to ensure their students receive the best education. Families will enjoy more than 40 city-sponsored events, multi performing art centers, large retail hubs and chef-driven restaurants. The City of Peoria has 25 miles of trails and beautiful parks with high-end amenities. Peoria’s exceptional lifestyle amenities also include Lake Pleasant Regional Park, the P83 Entertainment District and MLB spring training venue for the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners. Peoria is the place to live, work and play.
FLAGSTAFF: HOME OF BIO-SCIENCE INNOVATION
Flagstaff, Arizona is building a Bio-Science workforce pipeline at Northern Arizona University (NAU). Since 2012, the former Teacher’s College of Arizona has graduated over 6,000 students from the Department of Biological Sciences and over 3,000 from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, which includes students that earned a minor or a certificate as well. In a community of 75,000 people, such an infusion of minds hungry to put new skills to work to make a positive impact in the world is of great value and pride to the community that has a high and growing concentration of people working in biosciences.
W.L. Gore & Associates employs over 2,500 people in Flagstaff where they have been operating their business since 1967. While many know the waterproof breathable fabric Gore-Tex, their Flagstaff W.L. Gore & Associates campuses focus on medical device research and development, and manufacturing to improve the lives of patients worldwide. Known for their innovation and distinctive team culture, they work together with healthcare professionals to solve some of the most complex medical challenges with minimally invasive products for a wide range of patients. W.L. Gore & Associates has a strong relationship with NAU, offering students competitive work-based experiences to enhance the workforce pipeline.
Machine Solutions, Inc. is a company that began as a start-up 20 years ago and now employs 80 people, providing proprietary mechanical solutions to a variety of complex process, testing and device design challenges. Machine Solutions Inc. set the industry standard for a long list of operations, creation and delivery related to balloon and catheter technologies and pharmaceutical delivery methods. Machine Solutions is a pioneer in radio frequency technology, advancing technology for catheter tipping, bonding, flaring, flanging, hole forming, biopharmaceutical sealing, sterile connecting and disconnecting, along with many other applications.
Dr. Robert Kellar is the Chief Science Officer for Axolotl Biologix, which harvests stem cells from donated placentas to create a regenerative fluid that encourages repair and regeneration in people. The placentas are donated from cesarean section patients, so as a mother is celebrating new life with her newborn, Axolotl is able to put the placentas to good use. Dr. Robert Kellar is also actively supporting other entrepreneurs by way of Development Engineering Services (DES). DES is a bioengineering firm with expertise in research, product development, business, marketing and sales. Their areas of focus include pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cell-based therapies. In between these and other bio-science pursuits, Dr. Robert Kellar serves as Faculty in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Mechanical Engineering at Northern Arizona University where he instructs and guides students into bio-science careers to improve lives.
Flagstaff’s bio-science ecosystem is also supported by Moonshot@NACET, a 20-year-old nonprofit organization that solicits pitches from those ambitious, disruptive innovators whose plans hold commercial possibilities. Housed in the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, also known as NACET (Nay-set), Moonshot develops programs to grow new entrepreneurs in Flagstaff, in other communities around Arizona, and to communities out of the state in places as far away as Seattle, Washington. Participating in the statewide Startup Together AZ April 19-23, Moonshot is delivering the first Business of Bio Bootcamp as a virtual event. The event is sponsored by POBA Medical, W.L. Gore & Associates and The Mullings Group. The Mullings Group has made 7,000 successful bioscience placements with more than 600 different companies over the past 30 years.
Bioscience start-ups supported by Moonshot@NACET in Flagstaff include:
- Amnyo Biologics focuses on improving patient outcomes through affordable regenerative therapeutics.
- Aneuvas focuses primarily on medical devices inserted into the body via small catheters inserted into the blood vessels.
- AZ Ionics is developing a line of novel chemical products of interest to lab chemists and their research.
- Bee Well, an eco-driven, organic hand sanitizer manufacturer that donates to communities in need.
The entire state is growing the bio-sciences, and Flagstaff is literally and figuratively at the top. This four-season location is also a tremendous place to raise a family, with schools in the top 100 in the nation. Flagstaff is the best place to have it all.