Nearly 50% of Maricopa County’s growth over the next 25 years is projected to occur in the West Valley.
In order to accommodate a population growth of more than 1 million people, according to John Graham — WESTMARC board member and Sunbelt Holdings president and CEO — economic development strategies are focusing on infrastructure, roads, water and sewer.
Graham gathered alongside other WESTMARC members, elected officials and expert speakers at the 2019 Economic Development Summit on May 15 to discuss future growth in the West Valley and learn about water, transportation and other developments needed to sustain that growth.
WESTMARC, also known as the Western Maricopa Coalition, is a public-private partnership of the West Valley’s business and education sectors founded in 1990. The coalition’s membership is comprised of the cities of Avondale, Buckeye, El Mirage, Gila Bend, Glendale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Peoria, Phoenix, Sun City, Sun City West, Surprise, Tolleson, Wickenburg and Youngtown.
“You can imagine all the things we need to add. It’s a formidable task, but one that I know — with the past — is something we’re up to,” Graham said.
Graham added WESTMARC is also working on strategies to attract Class A office space — the highest-quality office space — and connect with advanced industries to generate jobs and retain workers in the West Valley. Because 62% of the West Valley’s workforce commutes to jobs in other parts of Maricopa County, strengthening the job market is mission-critical, Graham said.
And looking forward, Graham said the future of the West Valley is bright.
“There’s certainly a lot of heavy lifting left, but I’m really optimistic about it,” he said.
Water resources experts at the summit also expressed optimism about the future — the future of water, that is.
Cape Powers, Peoria’s planning and operations manager, said a tremendous amount of work has gone into securing water in central Arizona.
“When you look at SRP, the infrastructure that’s put in place there; when you look at CAP and the canal and all of that; and then there’s the groundwater; all the redundancy; the long-term storage credits and all that that’s gone into it, you feel better and better about it over time,” Powers said.
And Laura Grignano, Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CAGRD) manager, said the recent passage of the DCP (drought contingency plan) — a plan that stabilizes the Colorado River system — a system that 40 million people from seven different states and Mexico rely on — will promote even more water security.
“That DCP provides the near term security for the region. It wasn’t easy, but we came together in the Arizona fashion of collaboration … and forming new partnerships. We got the job done for Arizona,” Grignano said.
“I think that’s a great example of how we can come together as a community, as a region, as a state to make sure that our water resources continue to be healthy and to provide that strong economic future for Arizona.”
Transportation experts discussed ongoing projects and technological impacts that will also strengthen Arizona’s economic future.
Glendale Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff, Valley Metro RPTA board member, said opportunities have expanded.
“We’re in a rapidly changing world as far as technology and choices available to the general public. We also have a population that’s more open to different forms of transportation,” she said.
Those different forms of transportation — including Rideshare, Uber and Bikeshare — will ultimately increase safety, according to transportation panelist Bob Hazlett, senior engineer project manager for the Maricopa Association of Governments.
“Safety, I think, is where a lot of this is going, and being aware of the safety that these vehicles are going to bring and how to be able to take some of the human error, if you will, that comes through driving; that some of that might be mitigated where we can have a much safer system,” Hazlett said.
And technology panelist Thad Miller, assistant professor for ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society, said while there is a disconnect between cities — at both a regional and national level — how they interpret emerging technologies and the need for them, there is an opportunity to work together due to their collaborative nature.
“There’s nothing about the technology itself that will necessarily be safer or better or decrease congestion or decrease emissions, but how it’s the public and private sector could work together with the communities to deploy that technology in ways that creates public value, including economic development,” Miller said.