The new hotbed of innovation and business development may be right here in Chandler.
Through Chandler’s growing “entrepreneurial spirit,” as well as its diversity of business, the community has weathered the economic storm of the last few years — and come out ahead, the city’s economic development director, Christine Mackay, said at a Chandler Chamber Economic Update Forum this week.
“Chandler really didn’t see the downturn the rest of the state saw. And that is because we’re so well diversified. We’re not just heavily entrenched in high tech. We have advanced business services. We have our data centers. We have our incubator. We have our Gangplanks and our universities. We’ve got telecommunications. We’ve got aviation and aerospace. So while all the areas were hit, it wasn’t one or the other that was hit significantly,” she said.
Mackay went on to point out some of the new businesses coming to Chandler or those that have opened in the past few months.
Infusionsoft is opening in December. The company is going to occupy the first speculative office building in Chandler since the recession when it fills 92,000 square feet at Allred Park Place, located at the northeast corner of Price and Willis roads.
Digital Realty Trust Inc. nearly doubled its space in the Price Corridor when it added more than 260,000 square feet last year.
The city is also bringing companies into Continuum, its science and technology park being developed at 2501 S. Price Road, around a former Motorola building.
Think of it as a mini Silicon Valley, with plans to bring high technology, biomedical, aerospace, renewable energy and similar types of businesses to one spot. It includes lots of walking paths and water features. It began in 2010 and is now really taking shape.
CyrusOne, a one-million square foot data center, broke ground at Continuum in the late spring.
Down the street, Intel will complete construction of its new chip plant at the end of this year, but it won’t open until late 2013, Mackay said, as Intel prepares the facility’s clean rooms.
“We are seeing significant increases in our market. Our job growth is growing further and further,” Mackay said.
Not only are new companies opening in Chandler, but new businesses are being born.
Chandler’s Innovations Science and Technology Incubator added another 24,000 feet this month, bringing the total to around 60,000 square feet. The facility offers “wet and dry” lab space for start-up companies doing research and development.
As soon as Terry West saw the incubator, along with his founding team at Serious Integrated, he knew the company had to locate there, he said.
West’s company creates touch screens that can be used in a variety of products, from military applications to washers and dryers. A Scottsdale company is using the technology when it installs personal car washes in people’s garages.
“When you walk in here, you feel you’re on an Apple campus,” West said of the feel and energy at Innovations.
Innovations was created out of a former Intel building — one where West and several of his management team used to train in.
It’s the Intel connection that’s creating a lot of new ideas in Chandler, West believes, because when people leave Intel, they come out thinking, “What happens now?”
“All of the sudden you’ve got folks on their second major career and saying, ‘We’re not going to work for somebody else. Let’s go build something,’” he said.
All three of the company’s founders, as well as its newly hired CEO, are former Intel employees.
And it’s not just tech companies in Chandler. Shoe Thrill opened in downtown Chandler this month, a business created by a Hamilton High School graduate. Several restaurants — Bourbon Jacks, Can’t Stop Smokin’ BBQ and Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ — all opened this year.
The University of Arizona now has a presence in Chandler. ASU is moving in, as well. TechShop is partnering with ASU in the city’s former Public Works building.
TechShop will also be open to the public so anyone with a membership can come in and use equipment for cabinets, electronics and more. Those facilities will be open in the spring.
There are still holes, Mackay pointed out, but she sees them as opportunities for new businesses. Her team knows of openings with the former San Marcos Hotel (which went into foreclosure) and the former Covance and Bashas’ facilities. There’s also an “urban site” available for residential dwellings in downtown, she said.
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