Thursday, March 5, 2009

NE Phoenix working as Valley's hub

Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ) - Friday, May 16, 2008
Author: RICHARD KELLEHER , The Republic

Fifteen Fortune 500 companies and a "new city center" from Loop 101 to Carefree Highway are the predictions of a visionary who foretold of the Desert Ridge/CityNorth growth a decade ago.

Walter "Skip" Brown was the administrator responsible for purchasing land for Paradise Valley Unified School District until his retirement two years ago. He still keeps an active ear to the ground on northeast Phoenix growth.

Nearly 10 years ago, he accurately predicted that Reach 11 would become "Phoenix's Central Park." Brown said all of Phoenix would move north. This was before the CityNorth project was envisioned.

After reading a networking book by local author Larry James, I decided to reconnect with Brown and get his insights for the near future of northeast Phoenix, nearly 10 years after I first encountered his visionary projections.

We discussed the Desert Ridge mantra of "Live, Work and Play." It was my contention that the area is rife with low-paying positions, like retail, janitorial and maid service at Desert Ridge's resort.

Brown the visionary had a totally different perspective. He envisioned firms such as American Express; Sitix, the wafer manufacturing plant at Tatum and 101; and Mayo Hospital all drawing Fortune 500 companies to the area. He pointed out that PetSmart joined the Fortune 500 in 2007 and is located in the corridor he sees as the future of Phoenix. Phoenix added one-third more Fortune 500 firms in 2007 over 2006, jumping to six located in the state; two in north Phoenix.

"Why wouldn't someone move here?" the visionary said of Fortune 500 companies moving to northeast Phoenix. He said the area is a transportation hub -- including airports such as Dear Valley and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, both of which he called "underutilized" -- has terrific weather and has a plentiful supply of data networks. He mentioned he had the privilege to tour the former Arizona Republic/Phoenix Gazette building on Van Buren Street, which he describes as a telecommunications wonder with all the telecom equipment located in that building alone. There are similar telecom projects throughout metro Phoenix that will attract industry -- and Fortune 500s.

"We need to nurture them," Brown said about the relationships needed to attract Fortune 500s. He said he believes that task will fall to the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. He realized government agencies have development departments, but Brown sees the chamber taking a leadership role in bringing new businesses or expanding current companies, such as PetSmart, to move them into the Fortune 500.

He said the state will auction two large parcels of land in the area for more development. He said home builders such as Pulte have projects planned throughout the region. He believes this area will grow beyond anyone's expectation.

Because he grew up in Phoenix but went to college at the University of Arizona, he also sees growth for the state in the corridor between Tucson and Phoenix.

While sitting in Kierland Commons, he looks at the townhouses and those still being built. "This is working so well ..." and he trails off in his thoughts as if to indicate the growth throughout northeast Phoenix is included in that "working so well."

Richard C. Kelleher is a media relations specialist living in northeast Phoenix. Reach him at

SEE SIDEBAR: "Whither northeast Phoenix?," page 29.

SEE RELATED STORY: "District 2 boasts amenities coveted by families, employers," page 29.