In February, Peoria City Manager Carl Swenson was quoted on the Aviage Systems website saying, “Our EDIS (Economic Development Implementation Strategy) business attraction strategy is demonstrating that Peoria is a good partner for high-tech business. We have planned and worked smartly to get our city to the point where these types of industries want to move here. This is another example of how our efforts are paying off.”
Aviage Systems, whose long name is GE AVIC Civil Avionics Systems Americas Inc., signed an agreement Jan. 20 with the City of Peoria that will, hopefully, result in 30 or more jobs that pay more than $50,000 a year.
This past week, July 16, a ribbon-cutting ceremony made it clear this was a big deal. Gov. Doug Ducey was one of the speakers at the ceremony along with Mayor Cathy Carlat, whose excitement clearly indicated this company’s move to her city was, indeed, a big deal.
Arizona House Speaker David Gowan, Sen. Judy Burges, Majority Whip David Livingston and House Transportation Committee Chairman Rick Gray also attended the ceremony.
Ducey told the crowd that the Aviage investment proved that Arizona is “not just one of the best places in the country, but one of the best places in the world” to do business. He said Arizona was excited to be the selection of the company’s first stateside operation.
Ducey said Arizona’s thriving aerospace and defense industry would soon be the best in the world. He said the state is home to 1,200 aerospace and defense companies, a $58 billion industry employing 52,000 Arizonans.
The governor thanked Aviage for its commitment to Arizona, and praised the Legislature for being dedicated to making Arizona the best.
Carlat said, “It is just such a pleasure to be here today to share this moment with you,” she said as she looked to Jim Daily, Aviage CEO. “Peoria is here to support you, to walk alongside you. Out of a multitude of cities, Aviage selected Peoria as its base. I am convinced Aviage could not have picked a better place.”
She said with all of the talented residents in Peoria, Aviage would have no problem finding highly skilled employees who would “knock your socks off.”
Carlat said, “We’re carefully putting the pieces in place to grow a stronger economy in the Valley.”
Daily credited part of the Peoria selection for its site to Carlat, saying, “The first thing that struck me was Mayor Carlat. Twenty days in office, she was personally engaged.”
The ribbon was cut and everyone moved inside to look at the layout of the building. Three system engineers talked about the kind of work they do with Aviage.
As Tony Vasquez explained, “At this location, we design integrated avionics systems – the brains of the aircraft.”
Vasquez is a Peoria resident, and he was joined in the conversation by Glendale resident William Safi, and Sun City West resident Paul Fisher. All three are systems engineers and all three said they were very happy to be in Peoria.
Patricia Daily, Aviage Systems CEO Daily’s wife, and Stephen Hall, of Transact Commercial Furnishings, chatted while sitting in an indoor seating area, complete with a ramada. Both remarked about the seating area design which is a breakout area that creates “a casual meeting environment.”
Daily said, “I can see ’10 minutes to hash this out’” as a good way to describe how employees could use the ramada, instead of having to make an appointment to use a larger conference room, or avoid talking in the hallway.
It is what is being accomplished within the walls of the building, however, that will decide the company’s effect on Peoria’s economy.
As explained in the Feb. 10 council meeting, which formalized a Jan. 20 agreement, the agreement with GE AVIC Civil Avionics Systems Americas Inc. (Aviage Systems) calls for a total economic development assistance package valued at $1.228 million, payable upon completion of the terms over the next five years. The half-cent sales tax fund will pay $628,000 of that total, with the remaining $600,000 coming from the Economic Development Fund.
Aviage proposed to lease approximately 5,000 to 6,000 rentable square feet of office space within the city and anticipated increasing the premises by approximately 5,000 additional rentable square feet in a future expansion.
At the council presentation, Economic Development Services Director Scott Whyte said, “Target industries are very important to us. Part of our strategy is to focus on technology innovation companies.”
In its presentation, Aviage proposed to create at least 30 full-time, high-value (annual salaries in excess of $100,000) advanced degree (bachelor’s degree or higher) permanent systems and/or software engineering positions with Aviage at the premises and in connection with the project.
The city agreed to reimburse Aviage, as a one-time payment, $100,000 for tenant improvement costs incurred in customizing a workplace in an existing building in the city. In return, Aviage was required to provide proof of a three-year lease or contracted improvement costs, and commence full-time operation of its project.
Additionally, the city agreed to pay Aviage $30,000 for each position up to a maximum of $900,000 for up to 30 positions “to support and compensate Aviage for its commitment to establish the project in the City of Peoria.”
The city also agreed to pay Aviage $5,000 as a one-time payment for each employee of Aviage who relocated from outside the West Valley and purchased a single-family residence in Peoria. The limit on this payment is 30 employees, or $150,000.
If Aviage requests, the city will assist with federal immigration visa application and approval process to bring qualified workers from outside the United States.
At the city’s sole cost and expense (not to exceed $78,000), a professional consultant of the city’s choice will be provided to assist Aviage in an application to be designated as a Foreign Trade Zone.
As part of its operation in Peoria, Aviage plans to “build and establish a core engineering team within the first year of operation, and work directly with key commercial aircraft original equipment manufacturers as a tier one supplier to those aircraft manufacturers, and within three years to develop a next-generation avionics software system.”