2021 In Review: A Year of Record Economic Wins for Arizona

Record Jobs Announcements, Technology And Advanced Manufacturing Momentum Mark Historic 2021

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For Arizona’s economy, it was a year of record. Record projected new jobs announced. Record projected investment from businesses. Record venture funding received by startups. And one of the fastest recoveries in the nation.
Celebrating A Transformative Decade
In February, the ACA celebrated its 10th anniversary since legislation was signed creating the agency. Since its creation in 2011, the ACA has successfully won more than 980 competitive projects from companies that have committed to creating just more than 200,000 projected new Arizona jobs and investing over $5.8 billion in our state – far exceeding agency goals. In addition, more than 320 companies have established headquarters in the state during that time. Read the special In Business Magazine coverage celebrating 10 years here.

Watch Arizona’s Economic Year In Review below:

“In 2021, Arizona experienced record jobs expansions in every corner of our state,” said Sandra Watson, President and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority. “Intel announced, and broke ground for, Arizona’s largest capital investment ever. We attracted historic wins in advanced industries like semiconductors, electric vehicles, batteries, aerospace, biotechnology, software development, and much more. The state recovered all jobs lost during the pandemic, while our workforce grew substantially beyond pre-pandemic levels. And we saw historic policy achievements spearheaded by Governor Ducey and our state legislature to catapult Arizona’s competitiveness. We are grateful to all our partners who work alongside us to grow and strengthen Arizona’s economy, and we look forward to building on our electric momentum in the year ahead!”

Below are highlights of 2021:

Business Development
During calendar year 2021, the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) successfully won more than 90 competitive projects from companies that committed to creating more than 23,500 projected new jobs while investing over $27 billion in the state. The totals represent a record year for economic development since the ACA’s establishment.

Company expansions took place in both rural and urban parts of the state, with highlights including:

Leading the National Recovery
Arizona’s recovery from the pandemic vastly outpaced the rest of the nation in 2021. In November, Arizona recovered the total amount of jobs lost during the early months of the pandemic – making it just the third state to reach that milestone.

According to the Office of Economic Opportunity, Arizona’s workforce reached pre-pandemic levels in March, and has added people every month since. There are now more than 60,000 more people in Arizona’s workforce than February 2020 for a total of more than 3.64 million workers. In addition, Arizona’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.7% in November, down 2.1 percentage points since June. To find a lower state unemployment rate, you’d have to go back to March 2008.

Also in November, labor market analyst EMSI ranked the Phoenix region no. 1 in talent attraction, the second year in a row and 4th time in six years.

Arizona received high marks in Business Facilities’ annual rankings report, including placing in the top-ten for Best Business Climate, Tech Talent Pipeline, Solar Power Jobs and Electricity from Solar; placing in the top-five for Aerospace/Defense, Semiconductor, and Population Growth Rate; and placing no. 1 for Foreign Direct Investment.

And in June, Arizona was awarded a prestigious “Gold Shovel” award from Area Development Magazine for the state’s “success in terms of new job creation and company capital investment” in 2020. In addition, TSMC’s announced $12 billion investment to build a semiconductor fabrication facility in Phoenix was named one of six “Manufacturing Projects of the Year.”

Supporting Small Businesses
Arizona furthered efforts to support the state’s all-important small business community.

In October, the ACA held its milestone 200th Small Business Boot Camp. Launched in April 2020 as a six-week program to help small businesses respond to the immediate impacts of the pandemic, the Small Business Boot Camp has developed into a comprehensive resource for small businesses. Over the past year and a half, more than 10,000 attendees have participated in sessions featuring presentations from more than 130 community partners.

In addition, in August, the Governor’s Office and ACA launched the Back to Work Small Business Rehiring and Retention Program, which helped small, locally owned or operated businesses hire and retain employees. The program offered to fund up to $10,000 in expenditures for employee hiring bonuses, relocation bonuses for employees that are moving to take an open position, and employee retention bonuses.

Fueling Startup Success
In December, the ACA announced that 10 companies from a pool of more than 100 were selected as Awardees for the 2021 Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC), capping a process that began nearly five months earlier. Since 2011, 120 companies have been selected as AIC awardees from over 2,000 applicants, representing a combined portfolio value of more than $1.4 billion.

After a turbulent 2020 interrupted by the pandemic, Arizona’s innovation community bounced back stronger than ever. In the fall, the ACA helped support events such as Arizona Bioscience Week (October 4-6), the 2021 Southern Arizona + Business Expo (October 6), Venture Madness, Arizona’s longest-running pitch competition (October 6-7), UNMET Arizona VC Conference (October 7-8), the Governor’s Celebration of Innovation Awards (October 13) and the Venture Ready Accelerator Graduation (October 14).

2021 also set a record for venture investments in Arizona startups, and it needed just three quarters to do it. Data from Venture Monitor showed a combined investment total of $979.5 million just through September, a record.

Leading to Advance U.S. Semiconductor Competitiveness
On September 28, the ACA, in coordination with participating industry and higher education partners, launched the National Semiconductor Economic Roadmap (NSER). Following months of planning, the inaugural NSER working session kicked off at the ACA on October 28, with more than 50 in-person and virtual attendees representing private industry, academia, trade groups, federal government partners and eight states. The convening kicks off a year-long initiative to craft an industry-developed blueprint to advance the competitive position of the United States for semiconductor investment across the supply chain.

Advancing Workforce Excellence

In March, the State of Arizona, Pinal County, City of Casa Grande, and Central Arizona College launched a new training center to prepare Arizonans for jobs in high-tech industries. The state-of-the-art facility, named “Drive48,” features cutting-edge robots and multiple hands-on training rooms, which are currently outfitted to prepare workers for jobs in automotive manufacturing.

The facility received national attention in September when the National Governors Association held its 2021 Fall Workforce Symposium in Phoenix. Representatives from more than 23 states and territories heard from local leaders in industry, government and higher education about the partnerships and programs in place to maintain a robust, high-tech talent pipeline, including touring the Drive48 facility in Coolidge.

Forging New Partnerships
The ACA fostered new partnerships this year to grow economic development opportunities.

In August, the Navajo Nation and ACA announced a commitment to promote Navajo Nation as a major international film and media destination. The partnership aims to build a foundation of generational opportunities in the film and media industry and more fully capitalize on Arizona’s unique film and media attractiveness.

In addition, in October, the ACA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Taiwan’s Bureau of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs to further efforts to establish or expand operations and supply chains in Arizona or Taiwan.

Bolstering Arizona’s Competitiveness
In June, the Arizona Legislature passed and Governor Ducey signed a historic budget agreement, one that catapults Arizona’s economic competitiveness to the top of the class. The budget significantly simplifies Arizona’s income tax, including reducing the top rate from 8%—one of the highest in the nation—to 4.5%; provides tax relief for all Arizonans; avoids a painful 77% tax increase on small businesses; improves commercial and industrial property tax treatment; and continues to invest in key priorities such as new roads and bridges, K-12 education, universities and community colleges, public safety and more.

Investing to Connect All Arizona
In November, Governor Ducey announced a $100 million commitment to expand high-speed broadband to unserved or underserved areas of the state, making it one of the single largest broadband investments in state history.

The program, known as the Arizona Broadband Development Grant Program, will enable local communities to construct or improve broadband infrastructure that connects Arizonans in their homes and serves schools, libraries, small businesses, public safety operations and more, with funding coming from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Furthering Breakthroughs Through the Institute of Automated Mobility
Established in 2018, the Institute of Automated Mobility (IAM) broke new ground this year while developing new partnerships to increase roadway safety.

In August, Cox Automotive Mobility announced it will join IAM with focus areas that include systems integration, data capture and sharing, and smart infrastructure deployment.

In October, the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) became the newest member of IAM. MAG’s work will focus on deploying and evaluating scalable, safe and technologically developed products through pilot projects and other efforts.

In addition, in September, members of the IAM team were awarded by SAE the 2020 Trevor O. Jones Outstanding Paper Award for the best written paper relating to IAM’s pioneering work on autonomous vehicle safety metrics. The prestigious award, established in 1992, recognizes research that provides technically new and innovative contributions to the existing knowledge of transportation electronics.

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