(Source: AZCentral) – Jerod MacDonald-Evoy: Chandler airport is a hub of activity for private and student pilots, and the city is looking to grow jobs at the airpark surrounding it. James Smith, the city’s economic development program manager, calls the swath of 9 square miles in southern Chandler the city’s “last frontier.”
The Chandler Airpark is one of the city’s five employment corridors and it offers an advantage over areas like the Price Road Corridor: space. The airpark is one of the city’s last areas where 80-acre parcels still exist for development. The airpark got a boost when Loop 202 from McQueen to Gilbert roads was completed in 2006, but the recession hit two years later. Recently, work began on a large office building at the airpark and city officials see renewed interest.
Airparks can be job hubs
The airpark is home to 262 businesses and nearly 7,800 jobs.
Airparks can be job hubs. The Scottsdale Airpark boasts one of the state’s largest employments centers with 2,900 businesses employing more than an estimated 51,000 people in just under a 9-square-mile area, according to its website.
Falcon Field in Mesa has approximately 100 businesses on the airport with over 1,300 jobs, according to Mesa spokeswoman Dee Anne Thomas.
The airfield plays a pivotal role in Mesa’s economic future with large aerospace and defense agencies calling the area home. For example, aircraft manufacturer Boeing builds its state-of-the-art Apache attack helicopters there, Thomas said. But cities are trying to make their airparks more than aerospace hubs.
Entrance to the Chandler Municipal Airport. (Photo: Nick Oza/The Republic)
Developers ‘believed in the area’
About two-thirds, or roughly 3,300 acres, of the Chandler Airpark is developed or under construction. That leaves some 1,600 acres available for growth, Smith said. He said it has taken a while to fill out the area but the city has “had some developers that really believed in the area.” Chandler-based Cambridge Financial Services is in the midst of building its second office building at the airpark, expecting to lease to multiple tenants.
Crews broke ground the first week of October on the two-story, 65,000-square-foot office building called the Stearman. The offices on four acres at the northeast corner of Ryan Road and Stearman Drive should be completed in May. Cambridge Financial Services also owns a 33,000-square-foot building just east of the site.
Companies like FedEx also call the airpark home. The FedEx’s ground transportation center, which opened in 2015, is a major distribution hub for the Southwest, Smith said.
The activity at Chandler Municipal Airport pales in comparison to the air traffic of Sky Harbor, which saw over 400,000 takeoffs and landings last year. Chandler had approximately 220,000 total flights in that time period, according to Federal Aviation Administration data.
However, the Chandler airport doesn’t offer commercial, passenger service. Many of the flights are from flight schools and private pilots, Airport Administrator Chris Andres said.
Last year, Mesa’s Falcon Field had about 260,000 flights, and Scottsdale Airport had about 158,000 flights last year. Both Falcon Field and Chandler is largely a mix of private pilots, flights schools and small charter flights. Scottsdale has a strong emphasis on corporate and private-jet traffic.
Chandler sells its demographics
Ericka LeMaster, vice president of commercial real estate for Alliance Bank of Arizona, said businesses considering relocating to Arizona often look at the Chandler Airpark first. And she sees that growing. “It meets all the criteria businesses are looking for,” she said.
The younger population, coupled with large spaces available and easy commutes is often very attractive to businesses, LeMaster said.
But the East Valley, with strong demographics in cities such as Mesa, Tempe and Gilbert, provides plenty of competition. When showing areas to prospective businesses, LeMaster said she often shows them locations throughout the East Valley.
“We’re going to go to the East Valley because that’s where our talent pool is,” LeMaster said.
Chandler’s five employment corridors
The airpark area is among Chandler’s five employment corridors.
Downtown: Chandler’s oldest employment corridor, as the city was built around the downtown area. The area has 90 businesses with a total of approximately 2,500 jobs.
Uptown Chandler: Among the smallest employment corridors. The area is east of Loop 101 and north of Chandler Boulevard but mostly is concentrated along Arizona Avenue. The area contains small businesses and saw its greatest growth from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. The area has 445 businesses and approximately 11,500 jobs.
West Chandler: The area grew because of its accessibility to Interstate 10, with significant development in the 1990s. Originally, it was a distribution corridor but now focuses on technology, manufacturing and back offices. Bordered by I-10 on the west and Loop 101 on the east, the area has 632 businesses and approximately 27,701 jobs.
Price Corridor: Began in the late 1960s with Rogers Corp. and grew with companies such as Motorola in the 1980s and Intel in the 1990s. The area is touted as the city’s “technology crown” and experienced its greatest growth in the 2000s.The area boasts 538 businesses and 36,117 jobs.
Airpark area: The city’s youngest employment corridor, it began in 2003 with Cardinal Health. The area is home to 262 businesses and 7,769 jobs.