Over the past year, Arizona has gained global recognition for its thriving technology ecosystem. Despite being on the tail end of a pandemic and facing supply chain challenges, Arizona has rapidly become an epicenter for electric vehicles, semiconductor manufacturing and many other rising industries. In fact, the growing number of technology companies calling Arizona home, as well as an increase of available jobs and competitive wages, are cementing Arizona’s role as a vibrant technology hub.
In the Arizona Technology Council’s December 2021 episode of TechCast, Phoenix Business RadioX owner and president Karen Nowicki was joined by Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC); Joe Snell, president and CEO of Sun Corridor, Inc.; Vic Narusis, senior vice president of Business Development at the Arizona Commerce Authority; and Steve Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council to not only reflect on the obstacles and victories of 2021 but predict what is in store for 2022.
Throughout this hour-long episode, this panel of economic development leaders agreed that 2021 seemed to be the beginning of the return to normalcy. After a year of small business closures and widespread uncertainty, 2021 was defined by resiliency and bouncing back. The experts also agreed unanimously on another positive note: when compared to other states across the country, Arizona is ahead of the curve in terms of economic recovery.
“A tremendous amount of partnership was orchestrated over the past year to help address the delivery of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to ensure that small businesses got the funding they needed,” said Chris Camacho, president and CEO of GPEC. “In doing so, we were able to help greater Phoenix experience a full economic recovery by August of this year. Next year, we hope to focus on an ‘anti-fragility movement’ to help smooth out organic and inorganic shocks that may occur in the future and ensure we can continue absorbing those shocks seamlessly while growing.”
Joe Snell, president and CEO of Sun Corridor, Inc. added that despite the hardships of the past couple of years, Arizona is in a unique position in terms of economic recovery and business attraction. In fact, he claims that 2021 is on track to be one of Sun Corridor’s best years yet, forecasting tremendous growth across southern Arizona. “Between Raytheon basing its headquarters in Tucson, TuSimple choosing Arizona to expand and build a major presence, Leonardo Electronics expanding to Oro Valley, BD committing to building major manufacturing and cleaning syringes in Tucson and Sandvik Medical choosing Tucson for operations via virtual site selection, we now need to anticipate where things might be headed and prepare ourselves for continued growth.”
As for central Phoenix, Chris noted that 50+ companies moved into the Phoenix metro area, generating $13 billion and a massive amount of Phase 1 jobs. “TSMC was a major juggernaut for our state and country. That move really crystallized our global reputation as a semiconductor manufacturer and stands to bring a growing number of other supply chain companies to Arizona. I was blown away by the sheer activity in deal flow – GPEC is currently managing 252 projects in our pipeline and approximately 75% of those stem from industrial technologies.”
Weighing in from the statewide perspective that the Arizona Commerce Authority has, Vic Narusis agreed that the ripple effects from TSMC’s selection and Intel’s fab construction in creating ripple effects across the Valley. “That translates to 5,000+ very good-paying jobs and immense career opportunities. That’s 5,000 families that are better off. And that doesn’t even include the jobs from battery manufacturers and recyclers like Kore Power and Li-Cycle. We’re seeing lots of next-gen mobility solutions like ElectraMeccanica in Flagstaff, Lucid Motors in Casa Grande and CP Technologies in Prescott create needed innovations and economic growth across Arizona, not just in the metropolitan areas. This is made possible by the incredible collaboration that is unique to Arizona’s culture.”
Looking ahead to 2022, the panel of experts predicted that Arizona will continue to struggle with transitory inflation, labor shortages, supply chain bottlenecks and affordable housing. Additionally, Chris highlighted that the connectedness of low-income families to broadband is still a big problem. “We saw this firsthand with the virtual learning that came with COVID-19 – this was a major wake-up call for a number of school districts. This could have easily been a 2-3 year setback for students across Arizona, but devoted parents and a variety of organizations banded together this year to address the digital divide.”
But addressing broadband disparities is not the only step that local economic development organizations need to take to build a more inclusive economy. To become more equitable and inclusive, the experts asserted that our leaders need to pause, reflect, lean into the tough issues we’re facing and continue breaking down barriers. “We are living in a state that is already diverse in nature,” said Joe. “We have to be thoughtful and purposeful about supporting our communities, putting our money where our mouth is in terms of resource investment and expanding our stakeholder bases to reflect who we, as organizations, want to be in the future and help us define what the future will look like for Arizona.”
2022 holds a lot of promise for Arizona. And as Vic eloquently noted, “we’ve learned a lot of lessons over the past few years – we’re not flying the plane as we’re building it anymore.” The difficulties we have collectively faced have primed us to plan ahead, make intentional decisions, support and advocate for one another and remain resilient. Together, we look to 2022 with optimism, hope and confidence that Arizona’s growth and innovation will continue to sustain our families and cultivate the region’s development.
The official podcast of the Arizona Technology Council, AZTechCast is dedicated to covering innovation and technology in Arizona and beyond. Through the art of the connected conversation, AZ TechCast’s hosts and guests share success stories, tech news and analysis about the region’s leading startups, companies and emerging technologies, as well as the latest industry trends and critical issues propelling Arizona’s growing technology ecosystem. Visit www.aztechcouncil.org/techcast to learn more or to listen to recent episodes.
About Phoenix Business RadioX
Karen Nowicki is the owner and president of Phoenix Business RadioX. Amplifying the voice of business, Phoenix Business RadioX helps local businesses and professional associations get the word out about the important work they’re doing to serve their market, profession and community. A successful author, speaker and the creator of Deep Impact Leadership™ and SoulMarks Coaching™, Nowicki is a two-time recipient of the prestigious national Choice Award® for her book and personal development retreat. In addition, Nowicki has been an expert guest on regional TV and radio shows, including Fox Phoenix Morning Show, Sonoran Living, Good Morning Arizona, The Chat Room and Mid-Day Arizona. Recognized for her leadership and business acumen, she has been a regular contributor to many print and online magazines – publishing articles and blogs for business and education.
Visit www.aztechcouncil.org/tech-events to view all of the Council’s upcoming virtual tech networking opportunities, engaging virtual tech events and in-person tech events.