Ahwatukee could be seeing as many as 1,200 new jobs over the next three years as local companies expand and new ones pick the community to set up shop – but City Hall still needs to address critical infrastructure issues by reconsidering further light rail expansion.
That was the word from Sam Stone, city Councilman Sal DiCiccio’s chief of staff, during an address to the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce’s Champions Day breakfast recently.
Ahwatukee’s job growth is part of an uptick in employment in Phoenix overall. He said hiring is up 3.1 percent over last year. The Phoenix metro area now has 2.1 million people in the workforce, with construction up 13,000 jobs and manufacturing recording a 7,400-job increase.
In Ahwatukee, businesses will develop or improve nearly 110,000 square feet of commercial space.
That includes a proposed South Mountain Medical Center – a two-story, 40,000-square-foot building planned for the north side of Chandler Boulevard at 50th Street – and another 27,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space across the street in a development called The Shoppes at 50C.
Charles Schwab in Ahwatukee plans to hire 600 engineering technology workers at its Ahwatukee location, Stone said.
“The jobs average more than $90,000 in salaries,” he said. “The company said it wants to take advantage of the enterprise technology experience that is one of Phoenix’s technology strengths.”
Schwab is the second biggest employer in Ahwatukee, with 690 employees, while Dish Network is the leader with 769.
Other big employers in the community are United Health Group, with 639 workers; Cyracom, with 484 employees providing phone and video interpretation services; and the financial services company FiServe, with 460 employees.
In addition, Ahwatukee-based VisionGate is starting the final clinical trials for a non-invasion, diagnostic technology that detects lung cancer before it forms, and the company is testing the treatment to prevent the cancer.
“This is unique in medicine to develop both the diagnostic and treatment protocols,” Stone said.
Stone said that to ensure growth, “infrastructure is critical to ensuring our community and businesses can continue to thrive.”
“But our roads are crumbling,” he said, calling attention to his boss’ efforts to take the funds from light rail and use that to hire more police and repave all Phoenix streets.
“Ahwatukee receives no light rail dollars or benefit, but every part of our city – including Ahwatukee – will benefit from these infrastructure improvements,” Stone said.
A few days after Stone’s address, DiCiccio himself hailed a related move in City Hall, where Mayor Thelda Williams and two other Council members asked City Manager Ed Zeurcher to put on the agenda for its next council meeting a request for staff to study the use of Transportation 2050 revenues to accelerate the city’s road maintenance program and cancelling further light rail expansion.
Currently, streets are maintained on a 10-year cycle, and DiCiccio has been seeking a reduction in that cycle to eight years, Stone said.
But an even bigger issue is getting money to ramp up street and other infrastructure work, as well as hiring more police.
The letter from Williams, Vice Mayor Jim Waring and Councilwoman Debra Stark to Zuercher means that they wanted the issue of a city staff study to come up for discussion and action by City Council at its meeting Aug. 22.
DiCiccio was buoyed by the letter.
“It looks like we are getting somebody’s attention at City Hall,” he said.
“This is a good first step, but I’m still going to hold the politicians’ feet to the fire,” DiCiccio added. “The last time we did this, the motion failed. I’m hopeful that will change, but simply asking staff to look into this plan isn’t enough. Our roads are a disaster – and becoming more and more dangerous. We need to fix our streets now, not just talk about it.”
The three Council members who wrote the letter said that if their colleagues today approve that the study begin, they expect it to be completed by Sept. 19.