Chandler is home to some of the biggest names in technology and innovation—from Intel to Waymo to Microchip Technology to Northrop Grumman to the small businesses throughout the city focused on entrepreneurship and disruption of the status quo.
Innovation is at the core of Chandler’s identity, officials said. Economic development officials in Chandler said 23% of the city’s workforce is in the innovation economy—much higher than the national average, which sits at about 10% and even the East Valley average, which is at 14%.
To honor the city’s history with innovation and set a tone for Chandler’s future, the City Council unanimously voted to change the city’s tagline to “Community of Innovation” in a resolution the council approved in 2019 that updated the city's tagline, logo and strategic framework.
“It goes back decades,” Chandler Economic Development Director Micah Miranda said. “Having Rogers Corp. and Intel and Microchip and Boeing and all of them having a presence in the East Valley, and in Chandler specifically, solidified our community as we know it today. They were the early roots.”
Now, five out of Chandler’s six target industries, as identified by the city’s economic development department, directly touch innovation and technology in some way. Chandler lists its key industries as: autonomous vehicle research and development, aviation and aerospace, business and financial services, health care and bioscience, high-tech manufacturing and development, and information technology and software.
And city officials say that innovation has spurred from the big employers and led to startups and small businesses in Chandler that use technology and innovation every day.
An environment for innovative business
Intel is celebrating its 40th year in Arizona in 2020. The company, with 12,000 Arizona employees, has an economic impact of $8.3 billion statewide and $23 million in capital investments.
“Arizona—and Chandler in particular—is a great place to do business and a great place to live,” Intel Public Affairs Director Elizabeth Shipley said. “We opened our first Chandler manufacturing facility in 1980; there were many factors that contributed to that decision, from the proximity to our California headquarters, the presence of a skilled workforce and the availability of natural resources.”
Intel continues to invest in Arizona and in Chandler. The company is completing construction of a $7 billion project on its Fab 42 facility, which is now operational, and is planned to be among the most advanced semiconductor facilities in the world, according to Intel officials. The project is expected to create an additional 3,000 jobs.
Shipley said at an economic development event hosted by the Chandler Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 4 that for every one job at Intel, it generates 5.6 other jobs in the community.
“In the four decades we’ve been developing and manufacturing technology here, Intel has encouraged an ecosystem of innovation that is helping to make our community a vibrant place to live and work. We’ve seen suppliers set up operations in Arizona, and we’ve seen Intel alumni go on to start their own new businesses,” Shipley said.
Waymo, a subsidiary of the Alphabet company, began driving its autonomous vehicles—vehicles without drivers—in 2016. Since then, the company has expanded its footprint in Chandler to support growing operations in the region with a 30,000-square-foot addition to a previously existing 40,000-square-foot facility. The now 70,000-square-foot facility houses all of Waymo’s operations and support teams.
“The city of Chandler has been [welcoming] and great partners to work with as we’ve introduced our self-driving technology to the public,” said Julianne McGoldrick, a Waymo spokesperson, in an email. “One example of this is a partnership we launched with them in June 2019: an autonomous vehicle ride-hailing program for city employees to evaluate productivity while commuting and potential fleet cost savings.”
McGoldrick said the city also established the first autonomous vehicle ride-hailing pickup and drop-off zone in the country.
“Waymo would definitely recommend Chandler as a great city for innovative companies,” McGoldrick said. “We’ve found local residents and leaders are open to collaborating to try to solve city challenges for transportation.”
The city’s collaboration with Waymo also reflects why Chandler is a “Community of Innovation,” said Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke.
“Technology is a massive part of Chandler, and our moniker of ‘Community of Innovation’ reflects the companies we have here, whether it’s Intel, Northrop Grumman, Rogers Corp. or others,” he said. “We look at innovation as inclusive of that, but also looking at how we as a city can innovate. We want to be a city that looks for great ideas and takes steps to implement them as well as attract businesses and entrepreneurs with those ideas.”
Fostering innovation and entrepreneurship
The city of Chandler has been funding an incubator for several years designed to help entrepreneurs in technology-based businesses get off the ground.
Chandler Innovations, sponsored by the city and powered by Moonshot at NACET, exists to take entrepreneurs through what they call “tracks” that teach them everything from marketing to testing viability for their products.
Diana White, CEO of Chandler Innovations, said that of the participants in the incubator, all are tech-based and innovating.
“Chandler has just rebranded as the ‘Community of Innovation,’ and so there are a lot of tech-savvy people who live here; there are a lot of ideas here,” White said.
The city funds the incubator at $250,000 annually; as of February there were 31 companies in the incubator, White said—the highest Chandler Innovations has seen in years.
“Our people are risk-takers and trying new things,” Miranda said. “The goal of the city is to provide them with resources to try new things.”
Skynetwest President and CEO Noah Ruiz has completed the first two tracks at Chandler Innovations with his company. Skynetwest specializes in data retrieval using unmanned aerial systems.
“I saw somebody on the news using drones to make money; I started a company; and now I work with that guy I saw on the news,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz started Skynetwest in 2015, and before that he was working at a manufacturing plant fixing machines.
“Chandler Innovations is a perfect opportunity for entrepreneurs to understand what they are getting themselves into,” Ruiz said. “It is definitely a good place to bring talent and hold talent in.”
Miranda said the city believes strongly in its entrepreneurs and innovators and will continue to work to attract businesses in its six key innovative industries to the city of Chandler.
“We have a historical background in technology; we have a great and stable municipal government, a school district that performs well, and when all those things get thrown into the blender it creates an environment where ideas can thrive,” Miranda said.