Goodyear Flite

A pre-WWII water tank anchors Goodyear Flite, which is transforming from its early days producing blimps and fighter pilots to a business park home to cutting-edge technology. 

Flite Goodyear, which cranked out fighter jets and tranquil blimps in the early days of the West Valley, is taking off again.

Daryl Burton, owner of Reliance Management of Phoenix and of Flite Goodyear, said the campus is growing fast from 60 tenants. “At the end of this year, we’ll probably have 80.”

Ultimately, he expects 120 to 150 companies here.

Though some of the tenants employ large work forces, “Most of them are smaller. The vast majority of our business is entrepreneurs,” Burton noted — adding he does not expect the expansion at Flite to cause traffic problems.

Goodyear is celebrating its 75th birthday in 2021; Flite was around to see the city get off the ground.

“That plant was there before the city of Goodyear,” said Burton. “The city of Goodyear started in 1946. That plant was there in 1942.”

In a transition from plant to campus, the Flite business park is a blend of rugged, World War II-era buildings and cutting-edge technology. “Repurposing” is a word that trips off Burton’s tongue as he describes the ways Flite stays rooted in its history while attracting companies that are producing next-generation products.

Icon, an electric vehicle manufacturer, is one of the Flite Goodyear tenants expanding operations.

One of Icon’s neighbors is Unmanned Vehicle Technology, a drone training company that would probably make WWII jet pilots shake their heads in wonder.

Blending the past and future is the wide scope vision of Flite Goodyear.

Burton and Reliance bought the 100-acre property snug against the Phoenix Goodyear Airport in 2017, after Lockheed Martin closed shop.

“We’ve been really working hard on the property for the last 24 months,” Burton said.

While 2020, which may go down in history books as “the pandemic year,” was brutal for many businesses, Flite accelerated its take off as a business park.

“For us, 2020 was fine because we happen to be in the industrial real estate business,” Burton said.

Home to more than 60 companies, Flite Goodyear recently landed expansions of PSG and CAVCO. PSG, which specializes in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technology, is expanding from 10,000 to 30,000 square feet. 

PSG expanded from five to 40 employees over the last few years. “PSG (makes) satellites with military applications … and windshields for fighter jets,” Burton said.

Also at Flite Goodyear, CAVCO West, a modular home builder, expanded to more than 250,000 square feet. 

“CAVCO West has found success at Flite Goodyear,” said Paul DeRoo, vice president of CAVCO West’s Southwest Region. He said location is the key: “Being located near technology innovators, available labor in the West Valley, the Phoenix Goodyear Airport and Interstate 10 makes Flite Goodyear the right place to expand.”

While saying he is “thrilled about company expansions for PSG and CAVCO,” Burton also talks about “accelerating business growth.”

“We just have done about eight new leases,” he noted. “We took an office building Lockheed used to occupy and reimagined it as a small tenant building. We have a tech company, a medical bed company, a foundation construction company — we just finished building out and we’re about 60% occupied.”

And the business park plans even more expansion.

“We haven’t done any new ground up (building), but we have land to do that,” said Burton.

Early days

The property’s history dates back before World War II, when the U.S. Navy started construction of the Litchfield Naval Air Station. During the war, the plant manufactured thousands of B-24 Bombers for the Navy’s Pacific Campaign. 

In 1948, the Goodyear Aircraft Company purchased the plant and refocused its efforts on radar technologies. 

This is also where the Goodyear Blimp and many of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s floats were made.

“The thing that makes Flite Goodyear different is the buildings range from 1942 to 1986. Most of the industrial buildings were built in the ’40s and ’50s. We have two buildings that are former aircraft hangers — sawtooth buildings might see them around the Midwest,” Burton said.

“When Lockheed moved out, we renovated those buildings. They originally made aircraft during the Second World War, then moved into radar and satellites. Now we’re repurposing them for office space.”

Maintaining the site’s history was crucial to the company during Flite Goodyear’s $25 million renovation. 

“We repurposed a lot of historic things. We kept the aviation theme — as (Goodyear Mayor) Georgia Lord is fond of saying, ‘Daryl, you could have just bladed the whole thing and taken the regular industrial road.’ I’ve taken the road less traveled,” Burton said with a chuckle.

Burton has properties throughout the state. He said the city of Goodyear has facilitated the expansion of Flite.

“The Goodyear staff is great,” Burton said. “They’re accessible. They return calls. Christopher Baker, the head of the Planning Department, never takes more than 15 to 20 minutes to return an email. The mayor is a big supporter of ours. She visits the site frequently, likes to walk around the campus.

“Everyone seems to like the fact we’ve kept the history.”

One of the tenants expanding summed up what this place is all about.

“Flite Goodyear is an ideal location for PSG,” said Joseph Marvin, president and founder of the company. “Significant advances in radar sensing technologies were invented here going back to Goodyear Aerospace. We are proud to build on the shoulders of those giants in today’s ‘Information Age.’

“The Flite Goodyear campus is a place where many technology advances were achieved. This place inspires us to extend those achievements into the future.”