Keyed tightly to the Valley’s burgeoning tourism industry and its growing reputation as a major commercial core are the transportation businesses that ferry vacationers, corporate leaders and packages in and out of town.
Tempe-based US Airways is not only one of the largest local employers, it is central to the economic health of the entire state, according to at least one East Valley business leader. Then-Dial Corp. CEO Herb Baum said when then-America West Airlines faced potential liquidation after 9/11 that the hometown airline was crucial to the future of Valley commerce.
Since then, the local carrier used government loans to right itself, merged with twiceits-size bankrupt US Airways, and nearly did it again with Delta Air Lines. While America West took over US Airways, it retained its Tempe team and headquarters but adopted the bankrupt carrier’s name.
Today, US Airways has 2,799 employees in its East Valley headquarters and nearby customer service, reservations and information technology centers.
The carrier also employs another 7,840 people at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport,
Overall, US Airways hired 3,250 new Valley employees in 2006, said Valerie Wunder, airline spokeswoman.
The airline moved its reservation system, which had been outsourced, at least partly inhouse, spreading some of those new jobs into the East Valley.
And it added more employees at the airport and in Tempe to support its suddenly tripled size.
And there is more to come.
“As for 2007, we continue to hire to support our merger, our expansion and our growth, and (we) anticipate numbers similar to those hired in 2006,” Wunder said.
In fact, the company is expected to make a decision later this month about the location of a new operations center.
Most of US Airways’ recent and planned employment expansion may be in airportbased positions, and because Sky Harbor brushes up against Tempe, the airport, while technically in Phoenix, offers a huge job base for East Valley residents.
“The airport is one of the largest economic engines for the state with an annual impact of $26.3 billion, according to a 2003 study,” said Deborah Ostreicher, Sky Harbor spokeswoman. “And a high number of those people are from Tempe. They pay their taxes in Tempe and spend their money in Tempe shops and Tempe restaurants.”
In fact, the busy airport provides more than 31,000 jobs, Ostreicher said.
Most of those workers are employed by airlines or air travel-related businesses, she said. Fewer than 900 are Phoenix employees.
Florida-based DHL also likes the East Valley.
The international and domestic shipper has a call center in Tempe and a 24-hour data information center in Scottsdale.