Gilbert Councilman Scott September

Gilbert Councilman Scott September said Gilbert gets a lot of bang for its 129,000 bucks in dues to the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

 

What does a $129,017 check to the Greater Phoenix Economic Council get for Gilbert – plenty it seems.

Town Council last Tuesday voted to renew its annual membership with GPEC for fiscal year 2021-22. Gilbert has been a member since 1991.

“Every year we vote on whether or not to fund GPEC,” Councilman Scott September said. “GPEC provides additional support to our economic development team here in Gilbert in bringing businesses to the community.”

September said when he noticed the item on the consent agenda, he asked staff for the value of what that $130,000 brings to the town.

“What they shared with me is that in the last five years, by being a member of GPEC, they brought about 2,300 jobs to Gilbert and the businesses they brought to Gilbert occupy 400,000 square feet of office space in our town that generates tax dollars,” September said. “I thought that was fairly significant – companies like Morgan Stanley and Deloitte and many other smaller and mid-sized firms.”

Council members Aimee Yentes and Laurin Hendrix, however, were not sold and voted against the contract.

“This is a contract I haven’t supported in the past and for similar reasons I’ve stated before,” Yentes said. 

“I don’t generally support contracts of similar organizations, partially because money is fungible (and) ultimately goes to activities that aren’t directly within the scope and benefit of the town, in my opinion – specifically to take positions at the Legislature that I think are contrary to taxpayers’ interest.”

None of the other council members commented on the issue.

GPEC calculates the membership fee for each municipality by using a rate of $0.4897 per capita based upon the Office of Economic Opportunity population estimate. For Gilbert with a population of 263,461 in 2020, the cost came to $129,017.

 A town staff report credited GPEC in fiscal year 2020-21 with helping lure to the greater Phoenix metropolitan region over 9,900 jobs, representing $594.9 million in payroll. 

The annual average salary for the announced jobs exceeded $59,000 and 55 percent of the total jobs are considered “high wage,” according to staff.

Additionally, as a member, the town has access to industry research – like labor market data and operational cost analysis – and has an opportunity to engage with brokers, contractors and developers, staff added.

Over the last five years, the town has partnered on eight locating projects that resulted in the 2,394 jobs and $123 million in announced capital investment.

Although coming out of a year where the economy was upended by the pandemic, GPEC in its action plan was confident it was well-positioned to attract new projects to the region with strategies such as direct company targeting campaigns and leveraging the recent investments of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Intel.

 Taiwan Semiconductor earlier this year began building a $12-billion computer chip factory in north Phoenix and Intel has announced plans to spend $20 billion to build two additional factories at its Chandler campus.

The two are major competitors in the global computer chip market.

The economic development organization’s proposed benchmarks for this fiscal year included bringing in 7,973 jobs and a payroll of $427.08 million.

There are 22 other member communities, including Maricopa County and East Valley municipalities like Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler. The organization’s approved city/county contract revenue for the fiscal year totaled $2.8 million.

GPEC and the members have identified targeted industries on a local and regional level, according to the action plan.

For the current fiscal year, GPEC will continue focus on: advanced business services; aerospace and defense; emerging technologies; healthcare and biomedical, manufacture and logistics; mission critical operations and software.

For Gilbert, the focus includes aerospace/aviation and defense, advanced business and professional services, finance and insurance, healthcare and education services and clean and renewable technology.

Neighboring Queen Creek’s focus included agritainment/destination tourism, healthcare, I.T. and advance manufacturing while Chandler is aiming for advanced business services, corporate/regional headquarters, advanced manufacturing, software development, automotive technology and aerospace/aviation. 

Mesa’s focus was on standard and advanced manufacturing, including medical device, automotive technology, aerospace/aviation/defense, cyber security, healthcare/life sciences and research and development.

Gilbert also pays membership dues for four other organizations.

For the current fiscal year, it’s paid $100,800 to League of Arizona Cities and Towns; $44,863 to Maricopa Association of Governments; $106,001 to Arizona Municipal Water Users Association and $3,400 to Arizona Municipal Power Users’ Association.