Microchip Technology employs about 900 in its Chandler headquarters and another 600 in nearby Tempe, close enough to keep even more of Chandler’s high-income residents conveniently employed.
The company hasn’t had to lay off workers in five years, despite the sour economy, said Michelle Ragsdale, Microchip spokeswoman.
“And we expect to be able to withstand the remainder of the recession with that strategy,” Ragsdale said.
That’s good news for Chandler since the microprocessor giant is one of the city’s top job generators.
Chandler’s 10 biggest private employers are heavily weighted in advanced technology and finance fields.
But a family-owned grocer and a regional hospital ensure diversity of jobs and industries, which are critical elements in a recession-ravaged economy.
Together, the top 10 employ more than 26,000 people. That’s 21 percent of the estimated 124,000 jobs in the city, according to city research.
And the biggest employers are in the highest-paid industries, with technology mega-star Intel alone accounting for about 11,400 positions.
Those high-income professions drive the city’s economy, spawning the diversity of housing options, shops, restaurants and other smaller businesses that serve a vibrant, growing community, said Christine Mackay, Chandler’s economic development director.
And while eight of the biggest private employers could be classified as technology-centered, they span several diverse industries, from semiconductors to wireless services to aerospace, she said.
Chandler basks in the glow of top job generator Intel and dozens of smaller but equally high-end businesses that serve the microprocessor giant and related companies, but the city has made a concerted effort to diversify its employer base in recent years, Mackay said.
“In the late 1990s, it was predominantly semiconductors,” she said.
City leaders recognized that “the way the semiconductor industry goes, so goes Chandler,” Mackay said, and that was a big concern, even though the field was huge and flourishing.
So the city targeted other high-income industries, especially aerospace, financial services and bio-technology, she said. And Chandler’s courtship counts several successes.
Orbital Sciences, which develops space and satellite launch systems at its Chandler campus, is undergoing a major expansion that will add at least 300 more jobs.
Wells Fargo set up shop and expanded in Chandler. So did Countrywide Home Mortgage, which was purchased recently by financial services giant Bank of America. Bank of America also is expanding and updating a data center next to its newly acquired Chandler operation, Mackay said. While the data center won’t add many jobs, it will mean significant capital investment, she said.
Verizon Wireless consolidated several Valley operations into a 170,000-square-foot, $20 million Chandler headquarters in 2004. The regional center provides support for customers throughout the southwest and western United States, as well as training, administration and other employee services.
More than 1,500 employees work in the regional customer service center and another 200 have overflowed into a nearby regional sales headquarters, said Steve Sprague, director of customer services.
Most important to the city, Verizon is flourishing — and hiring.
“We’re in maintenance mode now, so we’re not hiring in large capacity,“ Sprague said. “But in our center, we’ve added 300 this year.”
Among the Chandler top 10, only 77-year-old family-owned grocery business Bashas’ seems to have been severely wounded by the poor economy.
The company has closed a couple of stores in Chandler and about a dozen statewide, slashed a few hundred administrative jobs and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The Arizona-only supermarket chain competes with large national chains such as Safeway, Fry’s parent Kroger and retail giant Wal-Mart in the always-low-margin supermarket business. Analysts expect even more Bashas’ locations to be shuttered if the recession lasts much longer.
Bashas’ said it expects to emerge from bankruptcy as a leaner version of itself.
Overall, the city’s employment base is about as good as it can be in the turbulent economic times, Mackay said.
“I think the companies we have are the strongest,” she said.
But Chandler isn’t twiddling its thumbs and waiting for the economy to come back to grow jobs.
Mackay is aggressively recruiting coveted companies, those with high-salaried jobs and capital investment to boost the city’s business base.
Top on her list of targeted industries are bio-technology, nano-technology and sustainable energy technologies, she said.