The Top 40 East Valley Employers list provides us with a snapshot of the East Valley economy.
These large, private-sector employers help drive the local economy. Their impact comes not only with the jobs these large employers provide but also indirectly as well.
Other businesses thrive by doing business with these large employers. Still other firms serve their employees.
But as is the case with any picture, you can’t get everything in the frame.
In the case of this snapshot, there’s a big elephant lurking just outside the border — residential real estate.
In the two years since we ran our first Top 40 East Valley Employers list, the housing market has boomed, fueled by population growth, low interest rates, and, relative to other metro markets, low prices.
For the most part, companies that build homes, sell homes, broker mortgages and move families are too small to make these kinds of lists.
None made this one. But the impact of the real estate sector on the local economy is undeniable.
If you compare this year’s set of Top 40 employers with the one we ran in 2002, there are some noticeable differences. Companies and sectors that were tied to population growth did well.
Health care. Retail. Financial services.
They all play a larger role in the East Valley employment scene than they did in 2002.
High-tech manufacturing — except for defense-related industries — took a hit.
And because those were high-paying jobs, replacing them with say retail doesn’t make for a pretty picture.
Finally one other element is largely missing from this snapshot.
That is the industry that many believe is our future — biotech.
Political figures have likened our push into biotech to Motorola’s arrival here after World War II.
We have health-care providers that are involved with biotech and a mail-order pharmacy on the list.
But only one company whose primary business could be considered biotech, Medtronics, makes it on the list.
Biotech has a way to go to catch Motorola — even after Motorola downsized and spun off its semiconductor division.