Writing by Sandra Watson
Since the beginning of the 21st century, Arizonans have experienced rapid changes in their transportation landscape.
State highways like the Loop 202 and Loop 303 have established connections between the East Valley and West Valley in the Phoenix metro area. A decade ago, the Valley Metro light rail debuted, and today the system spans 26 miles. Arizona continues to make investments in the future Interstate11 corridor, laying the foundation for a critical connection between the two largest cities in the West—Phoenix and Las Vegas—that currently are not linked by an interstate.
In the past few years, the innovations have been fast and furious. Ride-sharing apps and automated vehicle companies have joined the state’s economy, providing increased transportation options for Arizonans.
Arizona also has strategically positioned itself as the capital of the next big innovative disruption in the transportation market: electric vehicles. More and more exciting companies are making tremendous investments in Arizona’s economy that benefit communities across the state.
Yes, Arizona has become a leader in transportation technology and innovation, in large part due to a careful and thoughtful emphasis on job-friendly policies championed by Gov. Doug Ducey and leaders at every level of government. By developing a talented workforce while ensuring forward-thinking companies can operate in an environment free from overly burdensome regulation, Arizona has emerged as a hotbed for entrepreneurs and technology companies looking to build the products of the future and address global challenges.
Arizona has demonstrated in recent years that our value proposition resonates strongly with modern businesses searching for a location to test, scale and succeed. We’ve put an emphasis on recruiting these innovative companies looking to make long-term investments, and we are beginning to see outstanding results.
Lucid Motors is one such Arizona success story. The automotive company aims to build a luxury vehicle for the next generation of Americans who want a world-class automobile to include an electric engine. Touted as the “most promising” of the new EV startup companies by Charged magazine, Lucid’s forward-thinking designs have already electrified the auto world and attracted the attention of private and public sector leaders from across the world.
Lucid Motors explored 60 locations in 13 states as the potential site for its plant designed to create more than 2,000 jobs and $700 million in capital investment. Thanks to the groundwork laid by Gov. Ducey, the Arizona Commerce Authority and our partners, Lucid Motors selected Arizona on the basis of our innovation-first mindset, strategic geographic location and excellent relationship with our neighboring country of Mexico.
“Lucid Motors is building the luxury automobile of the future, and we have an opportunity to become the global leader in automotive technology,” said Peter Rawlinson, the company’s chief technology officer. “We are confident Arizona is the ideal location to advance our innovations and will continue to provide an excellent platform for our success.”
Electric vehicles aren’t just limited to the sedan-sized cars, however. When most people think of semi-trucks that haul goods and products across interstate highways, noisy, diesel-fueled vehicles come to mind.
Nikola Motor Company is looking to change that vision and introduce a new option for businesses that need to move their goods across the country: semi-truck vehicles that run on hydrogen-electric technology. Nikola began looking for a new design and manufacturing headquarters facility specifically for these electric vehicles at the beginning of 2017.
Phoenix is site of new Arizona Research & Development Center of Nikola Motor Company, maker of the Nikola One semi-truck.
After a yearlong search that included nine states and 30 different site locations, one state stood out from the rest. “Arizona has the workforce to support our growth and a governor that was an entrepreneur himself. They understood what 2,000 jobs would mean to their cities and state,” said Trevor Milton, Nikola’s CEO and founder.
Arizona’s well-developed talent pipeline, pro-business environment, low cost of living and access to major international markets also were mentioned by Milton as key factors in Nikola’s decision to bring more than $1 billion in capital investment to the region by 2024.
And the electric vehicle companies choosing to set up shop in Arizona aren’t just limited to those that drive on our roads and highways.
Eviation, an Israeli startup whose mission is to build the industry’s first all-electric aircraft, recently chose Prescott for its U.S. headquarters. After debuting the Alice Commuter—the company’s zero-emission regional commuter aircraft—at the Paris Air Show in 2017, Eviation was ready to find a U.S. location. Arizona ultimately offered the ideal environment for the company to scale and succeed. Thanks to Prescott’s proximity to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Eviation also will have access to some of the most talented engineers being trained anywhere in the world.
As technology gives rise to the next generation of transportation options, Arizona is well-prepared to act as a launching pad for innovative companies. As a result, electric vehicle companies will continue to park their operations in the state and shape the future of mobility—whether on land or in the air.
Sandra Watson is president & CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority and co-publisher of TechConnect.