They didn’t take the same routes toward their respective success, but Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert will all end 2013 with a strong year in their economic development which brings hope for a fortuitous 2014.
Economic Development Marketing and Communications Director Amanda Elliott said 2013 was a successful year for Gilbert, highlighted by an incoming development project by Nationwide Realty, which could have a pronounced effect on the town.
The Rivulon project will take up approximately 3.1 million square feet adjacent to the Loop 202 freeway and sandwiched by Gilbert and Lindsay roads. Much of that square feet will go to build retail and office space which, upon completion, should double the amount of office space in Gilbert.
“We really don’t have anything that’s over 80,000 square feet,” Elliott said of the current situation.
Like Mesa, Gilbert also stepped into the university game with Chicago-based St. Xavier’s announcement it would build a campus in the town’s Heritage District. Anticipated to open in January 2015, the 87,000-square-foot campus will feature amenities such as nursing labs, student lounges and a parking facility for 300 vehicles.
“That was a really big win for us,” she said.
Both projects represent parts of a five-year plan the town came up with to spur development within its confines. This past year was the first of the plan, and Elliott said the last 12 months saw the town add 1,600 announced jobs and $194 million in investments.
It should help the town reach its five-year goal of 10,000 announced positions and $1.1 billion in investments, although Elliott said meeting that goal means finding that happy-medium between retaining commercially viable land and increasing the residential properties.
“We want them to be able to live where they work and work where they live,” she said.
Balancing the East Valley’s economic growth was the continued rebound of the housing market due in large part to the increased job growth. Maracay Homes CEO Andy Warren said the East Valley has done the best in that department in recent years.
It’s created a baseline for the housing market Warren said is based largely on four factors — consumer confidence, affordability, job growth and population increase — that have all contributed to the East Valley’s recent success. Maracay alone opened eight communities across the East Valley — Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Queen Creek — in 2013, the most the company had across the Valley.
“The way I look at it, we’re 24 months into a great recovery driven by economic fundamentals,” he said.
Economists who specialize in real estate project the market to make additional gains in the coming years, although at a more sustainable rate than the economic boon which led to the 2008 bust. The rest of the Arizona economy could move along more slowly, as a report by Research Professor Lee McPheters anticipates it will take an additional two or three years for a full economic recovery.
McPheters, who is the director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, anticipates the state will make slight gains in employment growth, personal income and population growth, but will drop in retail sales during 2014.
Despite the tepid report, the three East Valley municipalities project 2014 to be a strong year for their respective areas due in part to strong education reputations across all levels, and from continued gains made during what Tibshraeny called a “banner year.”
“It sets the stage for a great 2014 as well, and not just for Chandler, but the entire East Valley,” he said.
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