Several influential business and development figures in the Phoenix Metropolitan area met in Phoenix Nov. 15 to discuss exciting upcoming improvements and potential in the West Valley
Valley Partnership, which dubs itself “The Valley of the Sun’s Premier Advocacy Group for Responsible Development,” held its monthly Friday morning breakfast at the Phoenix Country Club, hosting several members to answer panel and audience questions about what to look forward to.
The organization’s President and CEO Cheryl Lombard said the amount of growth throughout the West Valley, and even more potential access to come soon, made the decision to host an area-centric event in November easy.
Among the panelists were Don Bessler, chief capital investment officer for the City of Glendale; David Krumwiede, executive vice president of Lincoln Property Company; Kelly Patton, senior economic development consultant, Arizona Public Works; and Nic Fischer, vice president, Merit Partners. Each provided a different perspective on what is most exciting about the area’s development.
Fischer views additional roads as a positive for the West Valley. Loop 202 is set to open in December, and the 303 has undergone expansion plans, too. Though nobody is certain of their future impact, Fischer said the roads could open up several opportunities with easier access from other parts of the Valley.
“If you think about the travel time from places like Avondale, Tolleson or Buckeye, to the far Southeast Valley, in a way those were two communities never really had any connectivity. So, to think of what the 202 will offer, in terms of labor, but if you think about the employees making the commute from there or from the inner city and the impact on them, it’s only going to help,” Fischer said.
While it would be nice to have more opportunities for tourism and commuters from other parts of town coming into the western cities, Bessler said the main focus, particularly in Glendale where he is focused, should be on keeping the area’s residents there for work
Panel moderator Rusty Kennedy said about 34 percent of the Valley’s insurance and financial workers live west of Interstate 17, but only about 12 percent of the jobs they hold are in the area. There are many ways, Bessler said, of attracting more of these workers to stay local.
He said areas like Westgate – which according to him attracted more than 10 million visitors last year – and other entertainment options are crucial, not just for jobs but for the happiness of the local residents. This is especially so because he said having a younger population, like millennials, entering the workforce could drive positive change.
“They’re getting great value for the investments they made out here in the residential community, this idea we spoke about, not commuting all the time to get to work. That all matters to them,” Bessler said.
While more expanded infrastructure opportunities in all areas of the West Valley are almost always seen in a positive light for the residents there, those in charge of dispersing and maintaining natural resources and energy like Patton have to consider the risk of overdevelopment.
In her mind, events like this breakfast meeting are crucial. Organizations like APS need to be in constant contact with the potential areas of growth, so issues from development or location can be taken into consideration before businesses and development deals are addressed early on.
“Working together and collaborating, having those necessary conversations with not only the businesses but also the others around there is really important. It’s also pre-planning based on where they think the growth is and identifying problems or potential pitfalls before they actually happen,” Patton said.
Krumwiede added there were other environmental issues to take care of in the process of expansion.
“Not necessarily just the West Valley, but really valley-wide, it’s our air quality. It needs some serious help and attention, and I know we’re trying to battle that. But, it’s not making an impact, and it’s actually getting worse, so we need to figure out solutions for the benefit of all of us,” he said.
In building and expanding upon a large area, there will be other concerns, like capacity, water allotment and safety and even the perception of the West Valley as “somehow worse off” than the other parts of town.
However, Lombard said the West Valley is on track toward great success in the coming years.
“After seeing both the Loop 202 and 303 head toward their completion in the West Valley, we’re experiencing a tremendous amount of economic activity along this corridor has developers from across the state looking to invest in the area,” said Lombard.
“Thanks to a responsible infrastructure plan and strong leadership from West Valley elected officials, we are seeing the area start to take off and attract even more companies, residents and investors.”