Chandler is becoming a financial services hub, and is expected to land more major location and expansion projects, economic development professionals say.
The city frequently surpasses major metropolitan areas in the Southwest in attracting financial services companies’ headquarters and operations.
On Tuesday, Countrywide Financial Corp. announced its plans to triple the size of its Chandler operation and expand its work force to more than 2,500 people from about 500. Upon buildout, its campus will encompass 26 acres at Chandler Boulevard and Ellis Street.
It joins Wells Fargo, Toyota Financial S ervices, AmeriCredit and Charles Schwab, which already have major operations in the city. Wells Fargo eventually will have 2,000 employees at its Chandler operation, while Toyota Financial Services has about 500 workers and AmeriCredit has about 1,500 workers. Charles Schwab’s operation is a data center and includes a smaller work force.
Chandler has tried to diversify its economic base beyond high tech, and financial services is a attractive sector because of the quality of jobs and it’s a clean industry, Mayor Boyd Dunn said.
It’s not surprising that more companies in this industry are choosing Chandler, he said.
"It’s accessibility, transportation and being close to the airport, and the high-end retail, and also having residential opportunities for the employees so they can live near where they work," he said. "It just fits together very attractively."
Beating out other major metropolitan areas, such as Dallas, which was the case with Countrywide’s expan- sion plans, means Chandler, which has an estimated population of 220,000, has arrived as a larger city, Dunn said.
"We can be a destination, we can be compared to cities like Austin, Texas," he said. "We can compete with the major metropolitan areas and not only in the country, but the Southwest. What I’ve found is these companies don’t look at incentives any longer necessarily. They’re looking at the quality of life . . . all those types of things because they know they have to keep their employees happy."
Becky Jackson, president and CEO of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, has 30 years of experience in the banking industry and said she understands why financial services companies are gravitating to that city.
"The cost is probably a lot less expensive than it would be in a place like Dallas or someplace like that, so you’ve got great land opportunities, great transportation and great access, good school districts and the city is a very well-run city," she said.
"The jobs are very good for the population. Our annual income for our city is very strong. When Wells Fargo decides to move their entire operations headquarters here to Chandler, it speaks very highly of our city."
Wells Fargo chose Chandler, in part, because it’s a "really growing and vibrant community," spokeswoman Marjorie Rice said.
"And then there is access to the I-10, it’s close to the airport and there are a lot of other highways down there," she said.
The East Valley and Chandler offer advantages to financial services companies looking to locate headquarters and/or major operations, said Brad Smidt, vice president of business development for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
"We’re seeing a lot of companies, in the financial services arena especially, that are looking at this area . . . because of our lack of any natural disasters," he said. "We don’t have the tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes and ice storms that you might see in other parts of the country."
Other draws include quality of life issues, such as schools, attractive neighborhoods and access to retail, as well as transportation access and a quality labor force, Smidt said.
"They want to get up to the San Francisco region or Dallas, or back to the Northeast, and the airport is a great location to do that," he said. "Also, our telecommunications and power infrastructure are also some of the best."