Doing Business in Greater Phoenix, U.S.A. - Chapter 3: Greater Phoenix Overview



Phoenix is the capital city of Arizona. Situated in the south-central region of Arizona, it is surrounded by 20 cities and towns that together, make up the Greater Phoenix region. This area is the most heavily populated in the state, and represents 70 percent of the state’s economy.


With already 4.2 million people, Greater Phoenix’s population is expected to grow to a whopping 6.9 million in the next 20 years. That means we’re outpacing the national rate more than three times over. In just the past year, more than 150,000 people moved to the region from around the world. The Greater Phoenix region is young too – with an average age of 35, we are two years lower than the national average.


The political system in Arizona mirrors that of the federal government – consisting of Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches. The Legislative branch has a 30-member Senate and a 60-member House of Representatives; each legislative district is served by one senator and two representatives. Legislators serve a two-year term and are limited to four consecutive terms in one chamber. The legislature sets state law and budget.

The Executive branch in Arizona consists of the governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, attorney general and superintendent of public instruction. These individuals may serve for two consecutive terms. Arizona is one of seven states that does not have a position of a lieutenant governor. The governor is the top position in the state and may approve or disapprove of every bill passed by the state legislature. The secretary of state is the leader of the office that keeps official records for the state; the secretary of state is also the acting governor when the governor is absent from the state. The state treasurer is the chief financial officer for the state, managing the state’s finances. The attorney general submits and defends lawsuits on behalf of the state and issues formal legal opinions. The superintendent of public instruction oversees the public education system in Arizona.

In addition to those positions, the state also has a Corporation Commission. Arizona is one of only 13 states with an elected commission. As in other states, the Corporation Commission oversees public utilities and grants or denies rate adjustments. However, in Arizona, the Commission oversees the process of companies incorporating or registering to do business in the state; the Commission also registers and oversees security offerings.

The other branch is the Judicial branch, which is the court system in Arizona. The Superior Court of Arizona is a statewide trial court. The state Court of Appeals has the jurisdiction to review trials and decisions appealed to them. The state Supreme Court is the highest court in Arizona, often reviewing cases from the lower courts. This court has five justices: A chief justice, vice chief justice and three associate justices.

At the local governmental level, there are several counties and municipalities within each state. Each of the counties in Arizona is led by a county Board of Supervisors, consisting of three to five members; Maricopa County, in which the majority of Greater Phoenix is located, has five supervisors. The Board of Supervisors guides the work of the county manager who oversees the operations of the county.

Municipalities are the other, smaller component of local government that includes cities and towns. Cities and towns govern areas such as planning, economic development, public works, parks and recreation, and housing. Each municipality elects a council and a mayor to influence direction of the city and to pass ordinances. Many cities and towns have a city manager that runs the day-to-day operations.


Seventy percent of the state’s gross product is concentrated in the Greater Phoenix region. The gross domestic product (GDP) of Greater Phoenix recently measured $173 billion, ranking it 16th among all metropolitan areas in the United States.

Employment in Greater Phoenix has nearly doubled over the past 20 years. The latest total non-farm employment in the region was 1.8 million people. While the recent U.S. recession impacted growth in the Greater Phoenix region, employment is expected to rebound in the coming years with an expected total non-farm employment of 2 million people by 2016.

The professional and business services industry is the largest industry sector in Greater Phoenix, boasting 16 percent of the total employment. Government (including federal, state and local employees, as well as public education employees) is also a major industry in Greater Phoenix, with 13 percent of total employment. Health care and retail each employ 12 percent of the local workforce. Five other industries (hospitality, manufacturing, finance and insurance, construction and wholesale trade) each employ more than 5 percent of the workforce.

Within the manufacturing industry, Greater Phoenix has a strong concentration in the high-tech sector: Major employers include Intel, Honeywell, Boeing, General Dynamics, Orbital Sciences and Freescale Semiconductor. Thousands of suppliers that support these companies are also located in the region.

Greater Phoenix is home to Fortune 500 companies such as Avnet, Freeport McMoRan, Republic Services, PetSmart and Insight Enterprises. High-profile companies such as GoDaddy, Apollo Group, Swift Transportation, Knight Transportation, Fender and U-Haul are also headquartered in the region.

Other major employers in Greater Phoenix include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and American Express. Greater Phoenix is also home to international companies, including BMO Harris, Cemex, Henkel and SUMCO Corporation.


Greater Phoenix has long been a center for technology and innovation. The region’s modern economy, built on high-technology semiconductor and aerospace and defense industries, includes world-class companies like Intel, On Semiconductor, Freescale, Boeing, Honeywell and others to the region. Greater Phoenix’s educational assets have provided a talent pipeline and research capabilities that have sustained these industries for decades.

In addition to being a high-technology center for mature industries, the region is home to one of the most entrepreneurial climates for emerging technologies in the country: The nationally renowned Kauffman Foundation ranked Arizona No. 1 in new business startups, Greater Phoenix is 3rd in the number of entrepreneurs per 1,000 per people, and Inc. magazine ranks Greater Phoenix among the top 20 cities in startups.

While industries like semiconductor and aerospace and defense remain important sectors of the regional and state economy, new nascent industries, catalyzed by the region’s high-tech base, university-driven research, and entrepreneurial spirit are emerging. Some of the region’s burgeoning high-tech clusters include clean technology, information and communications technology (education technology, health IT), and personalized medicine.

The region’s universities play a major role in developing technology and driving innovation. Arizona State University, the region’s flagship public research institution, has research strengths through:

  • The Global Institute of Sustainability, the world’s first and largest solar testing and certification project
  • TUV Rheinland Photovoltaic Testing Laboratory, the National Science Foundation’s only engineering research center focused on photovoltaics
  • The Biodesign Institute, whose research centers around biomarkers and biosignatures
  • The Fulton School of Engineering

Greater Phoenix is also home to a number of medical education and research centers, including the University of Arizona’s Medical School and Northern Arizona University’s allied health programs at the downtown biomedical campus, ASU-Mayo Clinic medical school, and medical education at Midwestern University and A.T. Still University. The market is anchored by top healthcare and treatment institutions such as Mayo Clinic, Banner MD Anderson, Cancer Treatment Centers of America as well as Dignity Health and its nationally renowned Barrow Neurological Institute.


Arizona’s talented workforce stems from a continuous pipeline of graduates, many of whom began kindergarten in Arizona and continued on to earn a post-graduate degree here. For the thousands of people who move here each month, Greater Phoenix offers a diverse school system with multiple options for elementary, secondary and post-secondary education.

Primary and Secondary Education

Just in Greater Phoenix, there are more than 350 high schools, 200 middle schools and 700 elementary schools. Parents have options for either public or private primary (kindergarten through 8th grade) and secondary (grades 9 through 12) schools for their children. Generally, children attend the public school closest to where they live; however, Arizona’s policies tend to favor school choice, and this gives parents the option to send their kids to a different public school or enroll them in a charter or private school.

Greater Phoenix has recently experienced impressive growth in the amount of charter schools. A charter school is a publicly funded independent school established by teachers, parents, or community groups under the terms of a charter with a local or national authority. Arizona’s charter schools account for some of America’s top-ranked public schools.

Community Colleges

Community colleges provide technical training and education to prepare students for entrance into careers or to complete bachelor’s degrees at universities. The Maricopa Community Colleges network is the largest network of community colleges in the U.S. It includes 10 colleges in the Greater Phoenix area, along with two skills centers and numerous education centers that are focused on meeting the needs of the business community and the citizens of Maricopa County.

Maricopa’s new corporate college was established to quickly develop and implement training solutions for new and existing Arizona businesses based on specifically identified needs.

Together, the community colleges in Maricopa County offer roughly 1,000 occupational programs (degrees and certificates), about 40 academic associate degrees and a more than 10,000 courses. These colleges are the largest provider of health care workers and job training in Arizona, making them a significant resource for the business and health care industries.


Greater Phoenix is home to several major colleges and universities including Arizona State University (ASU), University of Arizona’s (UA) Downtown Phoenix Campus, Thunderbird School of Global Management, Grand Canyon University, University of Phoenix (UOP), Maricopa Community Colleges (MCC) and more.

Arizona State University: With four campuses across Greater Phoenix, ASU is the number one producer of bachelor’s degrees in the United States. It has more than 70,000 students enrolled and offers more than 250 undergraduate degree programs as well as programs for Master’s level and Ph.D. level work.

Ranked in the top tier of national universities by U.S. News & World Report, ASU is home to some of the best business and engineering programs in the U.S. and produces top labor talent. The school is tied with Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley for the number of Fulbright scholars produced.

University of Arizona: With its main campus located south of Greater Phoenix in Tucson, UA also has a major presence on Downtown Phoenix’s biomedical campus, including the University of Arizona College of Medicine and College of Pharmacy.

Thunderbird School of Global Management: Thunderbird School of Global Management consistently ranks #1 in the world in international business education and among the top 10 worldwide in executive education. It is the oldest and largest graduate school for international business in the United States. Thunderbird produces global managers who are distinguished by a global mindset that allows them to work successfully with individuals from diverse cultures and to manage effectively in different social, economic, and political environments. Thunderbird is sought out by individuals and companies worldwide.

A.T. Still University: Home to the world’s first osteopathic medical school, established in 1892, A.T. Still University (ATSU) is a multidisciplinary healthcare educator providing graduate and professional programs in osteopathic medicine, dental and health sciences. The unique educational model combines high-quality education and a commitment to community service by partnering with Community Health Centers, a cornerstone of the University’s clinical training initiative.

Midwestern University: Midwestern University offers programs in health sciences, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, optometry, veterinary and dental. Its approach includes extensive hands-on experience in outstanding clinical rotations geared toward a compassionate perspective toward patients and a 21st century health care practice. University of Phoenix: University of Phoenix (UOP) has 20 years of experience in online education and is the largest university for online education in the country. Headquartered in Greater Phoenix, its students study in more than 200 locations, as well as through online programs available in countries around the world.

Grand Canyon University: Grand Canyon University (GCU) is a premier private, Christian university in Greater Phoenix that offers a variety of degree programs through the Ken Blanchard College of Business, College of Education, College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, College of Arts and Science, College of Theology, College of Fine Arts and Production, and College of Doctoral Studies.


When evaluating Greater Phoenix, consider that the region is served by 14 airports, including Phoenix Sky Harbor International, the sixth-busiest airport in the country and serving more than 40 million passengers annually and with more than 1,200 daily flights. Also, the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, the second-largest commercial service airport in the region, with its 11-acre cargo apron and three extensive runways capable of accommodating any cargo aircraft in the world, is ideally situated as an attractive and lower-cost solution to other traditional air cargo ports for wide-body aircraft to fly nonstop to Asian and European destinations.

Modern infrastructure and continuous investment in transportation translate to a region that is easy to navigate. The region has a lightrail and bus rapid transit system, rail terminals with trailer and container capabilities, and a sophisticated highway system, including interstate routes that stretch to Los Angeles, the Midwest, Mexico and many other large markets. In fact, a company can reach about 30 million customers within a one-day drive. Connectivity within the market through a continually expanding freeway system, local bus routes and light rail allow a company access to a large labor pool.

The region is also serviced by two rail systems, Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, allowing companies to transport goods efficiently.


In a state that’s just over 100 years old, Greater Phoenix is among the nation’s largest metropolitans and offers a chance to witness growth and change before your eyes. It’s a unique, special place that’s easy to live in and make your own.

More than 150,000 people from all over the globe moved to this region last year and are enjoying year-round sunshine, desert and mountain landscapes, educational assets (for their children or for higher education opportunities), four professional sports teams and a thriving arts and culture scene. When you expand business to the Phoenix area, you can hike Camelback Mountain before work, meet friends for lunch at the world’s top-ranked pizzeria and catch an Arizona Cardinals game in Glendale or go to one of the many museums and theatres after work. Hundreds of independently owned restaurants, bars and boutiques embody the heart of Greater Phoenix.

Arenas, museums, hiking trails, golf courses, spas, universities, shops, restaurants – even street performers – dot the lines of Greater Phoenix’s 21 bustling cities. Newcomers find awe in the region’s diverse terrain, getting a taste of the Wild West throughout. Greater Phoenix residents can also reach pine trees and snow skiing within a two-hour drive or go fishing in one of many amazing lakes in and around the region. Arizona hosts almost 40 million overnight visitors per year, and nearly 13 percent of those are from places outside of the United States.

This Guide – Doing Business in Greater Phoenix, U.S.A. – can be downloaded at

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