From sports to technology to that bullet train to Tucson we’ve always wanted, peer into the Valley’s collective future through this 20-page package of prognostication.
By Jessica Dunham, Craig Outhier, Robrt L. Pela & Madison Rutherford
by Jessica Dunham & Craig Outhier
Buckeye will have more people than Chandler.
Where growth is concerned, the experts always find a way to underestimate Metro Phoenix. Back in 2014, on the tail end of the Great Recession, a United Nations urbanization report projected Greater Phoenix “to have 4.8 million residents” by 2030. We crossed that mark in 2021. Similarly, a U.S. Census report in 2010 concluded Phoenix would not pass Philadelphia to become America’s fifth-largest city by population until 2034. That happened in 2017. However, the Valley is certain to slow down a bit. After all, a modern metro cannot enjoy 10 percent annual growth (as we did in the 1950s) or even 2.25 percent growth (as we did throughout the past decade as the nation’s fastest-growing metro) forever. Many Valley cities are now focusing on “quality” or “controlled” growth that prioritizes community and quality of life over monster numbers – though some ravenous Valley municipalities will have those, too. See below for current and projected populations.
Some facts and projections to ponder while considering growth in the Valley.
Currently, about 35 percent of the Valley’s present population lives in Phoenix, 34 percent lives in the East Valley, 22 percent in the West Valley and 10 percent in Pinal County.
Most of the projected growth over the next 25 years will happen in the West Valley, where the total population will exceed that of the East Valley by 2047.
Pinal County towns like Florence, Coolidge and Maricopa will also experience profound growth, and will become de facto Metro Phoenix suburbs.
Source: Maricopa Association of Governments
HEALTH + DEMOGRAPHICS
by Jessica Dunham & Craig Outhier
We’ll be older… and browner.
Until recently, Arizonans lived slightly longer on average than other Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that changed between 2019 and 2020, when the average life span for an Arizona resident abruptly fell more than 2 years to 76.3 years – slightly lower than the U.S. average. In an interview with Cronkite News, Will Humble of the Arizona Public Health Association said the reason behind the decline in life expectancy was “flat-out COVID-19.” He also told KJZZ: “When you have a hospital system that’s overwhelmed, and ours was in crisis standards of care in July 2020, a lot of people died because they couldn’t get care they really needed.”
As we emerge from the pandemic, the average lifespan in Arizona is likely to rebound to pre-COVID levels. And 60 will still feel like the new 50, because the average age of our community as a whole – the average age of living people, not dead ones – is rising. This from Jim Chang, Ph.D., the state demographer for the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity.
Chang’s forecast for 2055 indicates Greater Phoenix will see about 306,000 people older than 85, as compared to just 81,000 now – a massive 227 percent increase that far outstrips the 40 percent rise predicted for the general population. He also forecasts 1.5 million folks over the age of 65, which isn’t too far behind the 40-60 age group, estimated to be about 1.6 million by 2055. The 2020 Census Bureau reports that the 65 and older population has been the fastest growing demographic since 2010, increasing 34.2 percent nationally and 48.4 percent in Arizona.
As for what we’ll look like, Metro Phoenix seems destined for diversity – or, at least, a roughly even distribution of white and Hispanic residents, with a growing number of Asian Phoenicians, according to Chang’s model.
Race Distribution Forecast 2055
How the roughly 7 million people predicted to live in Greater Phoenix in 2055 will break down racially, according to the State Demographer’s office.
We’ll work longer, too.
As life expectancy extends (barring future pandemics), so too will life stages. The good: Your carefree 20s trickle into your mid-30s. The maybe-not-so-good: Retirement starts later. Reviewing 21 years of data, Gallup reported a significant, steady increase in the age at which people retired, the effect of an increasingly healthier, more active population, as well as jobs that are less physically demanding and the financial incentives associated with waiting to tap into Social Security until age 70. Not interested in employment past 65? Ben Lytle, author of The Potentialist: Your Future in the New Reality of the Next Thirty Years and the founder, chairman and CEO of Anthem Health, says not to worry. The Paradise Valley-based Lytle posits that there’s great potential – hence the name of the book – for individuals to navigate the momentous changes coming. “You’re going to live longer and work longer, but you’ll also stay healthier longer,” he says. “It’s where the science is headed: technologies around prevention, detection of diseases earlier, using doctors more efficiently.”
• A quick “Phoenix 2050” Google search pulls up all manner of frightening – if clickbait-y – headlines declaring that climate change will render our city uninhabitable. It’s guff, of course, but doomsayers aren’t totally wrong. It’s hot, and it’s getting hotter – and that represents an imminent public health concern.
• Heat-related deaths are one example. According to the Maricopa County Department of Health, there were 339 heat-associated deaths reported in 2021, a 70 percent jump from 2019, exacerbated by a sharp increase in the number of unsheltered residents. In response, the City of Phoenix created the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation, the first publicly funded position of its kind in the U.S.; Miami announced a similar office this year.
• One of the new department’s areas of concern: heat-related seasonal affective disorder, a phenomenon revealed by PHOENIX in the 2016 investigative article Summertime Blues, which showed that suicides and assault crime rates are highest in the Valley during its two hottest months: July and August.
Valley science will help push the average age past 100.
As a “growing hub for medical care, medical and technological research,” the Valley will play a role in maximizing human longevity potential, says Max More, who led Scottsdale cryogenics firm Alcor Life Extension Foundation for two decades before recently assuming an emeritus role. “As whole-genome decoding becomes ever-cheaper… Phoenix is well-positioned to see major growth in personalized medicine.”
If the numbers prove correct, and our population thrives deep into our sunset years, you’ll be happy to know you’re in the right place for medical research and best-in-class health care.
Phoenix is expected to add 88,000 health-care jobs over the next 10 years, more than health-care hubs Minneapolis, San Francisco and Seattle.
Funding in the health and wellness sector in Metro Phoenix has grown 33 percent year after year, for a total of $232.6 million invested in 40 local innovations.
Source: Greater Phoenix Economic Council
The Phoenix Bioscience Core claims the highest concentration of research scientists and professionals in the Southwest. The Valley has more than 140 health-care startups.
Source: Greater Phoenix Economic Council
Mayo Clinic ranks as the 12th best hospital in the nation.
DEVELOPMENT + DOWNTOWNS
by Craig Outhier
Downtown will have air taxis. And more people.
People actually live Downtown now. That a was a major takeaway from the last decade, when Downtown – commonly defined as the square mile of urban development between Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street, with Roosevelt Street to the north and Jackson Street to the south – doubled its residential population to 22,000, transforming a once-moribund city center into a lively cultural stew that no longer resembles the “after” shot in a zombie apocalypse movie. According to Devney Preuss, CEO of Downtown Phoenix Inc., the growth only accelerated after the pandemic. “About a third of the new residential units we’ve seen since 2000 were built over the last three years… so we know the urban core provides a quality of life people covet, even [post-pandemic].” With 3,000 more residential units due to come online through 2025, Downtown could realistically double its population again within a decade. As for that flying taxi: American Airlines ordered 250 units in September for use in U.S. cities, with a possible ETA of 2025.
Future dTPHX hot spots
Devney Preuss of DTPHX, Inc. believes Margaret T. Hance Park is an “underutilized urban asset” that will receive revitatlization funds and investment: more festivals, more events, more art installations.
Phoenix could have a new tallest building: the 535-foot Astra Phoenix (pictured in rendering on the opposite page with State Forty Eight signage). The project is on hold pending a zoning hearing.
On a strictly personal level, “I’d love for Downtown to have a 24/7 all-night diner like the kind you find in Chicago and New York City,” Preuss says. We couldn’t agree more. Get on it, restaurant friends.
More downtown stories
Perhaps no Valley city has more drastically remade its image over the past decade than Tempe, where a colony of sleek office buildings along Tempe Town Lake has added a modern, steely jawline to a city traditionally known for its Long Wong’s and raging keggers. “We’re transforming… still a college town, but also a business town,” says economic development director Donna Kennedy, who points to three future plot points in Tempe’s story.
Tempe Streetcar: Being landlocked and smaller has played to [Tempe’s] benefit,” deputy economic development director Maria Laughner says. “It forced us to take a harder look at sustainable areas and adapt to the environment around us… while maintaining high-quality amenities.” Exhibit A: This 3-mile Valley Metro extension, which opened for business in May and aims to relieve campus-area congestion.
Hayden Flour Mills renovation: Tempe is partnering with Valley development firm Venue Projects to bring restaurants, shops and more to the mill’s iconic but long-disused silos. ETA: 2024
South Pier: Think a Santa Monica Pier in the desert, compete with Ferris wheel, pedestrian trails and ziplines. ETA: 2025
“What [people’s] minds go to… when you mention Glendale is not always positive,” city manager Kevin Phelps concedes. But he has a plan to change that. Hired six years ago to rehabilitate the West Valley city and balance its famously red-stained books, Phelps is leaning into density, jobs and a revitalized downtown. “What will save downtown is not my generation. It’s young individuals and families. And we want to create things that will entice them.”
New City Hall: Phelps and his colleagues are moving out of City Hall next spring for a “total remodel of the downtown campus… we’re really going to take the skin off the thing,” he says.
Concerts and events: Moving away from once-a-year monoliths like Glendale Glitters, Phelps aims to stage live events “no less than three times a week” in the revamped downtown area.
Westgate, phase X: As part of the “live, work, play” principle, Phelps is zoning 20 acres of city land near big-box complex Westgate Entertainment District for “high-density housing and mixed-use,” giving nearby attractions like VAI Resort (pictured) – which will be the state’s biggest hotel when it opens in 2023 – a built-in consumer and employment base.
While mature, near-built-out Valley cities debate infill, mixed-use and economic diversification, growth-minded Buckeye offers a throwback glimpse of the Valley’s development heyday. Headlined by Jerry Colangelo’s 100,000-home Douglas Ranch development, the West Valley city anticipates 300 percent growth over the next 20 years. Which isn’t to say it will all be 3BR/2BA sprawl. One Buckeye project that catches our eye: A 20,000-seat cricket stadium announced in July by Valley development firm The Mangat Group. No word on where they plan to find 20,000 cricket fans.
Gen Z will be more entrepreneurial than previous Gens.
“The median age of business owners is going to continue to decline,” says Local First Arizona founder and CEO Kimber Lanning. “I think we’re going to see diversified ownership – more worker-owned cooperatives and more shared ownership.
ARTS + CULTURE
by Robrt L. Pela
There will be waaaaay too many murals.
It’s an exaggeration, but only a small one: Downtown Phoenix will someday soon become one gigantic mural. The prevailing corporate mania for “cultural engagement” and “street credibility” will continue to mushroom. Thus, no side of any building that isn’t already covered in public art will remain untouched. Each will become a commissioned canvas and all of them will blend together into a single colossal outdoor art exhibit.
“That’s not necessarily a bad thing,” artist and Phoenix arts maven Pete Petrisko says. “The sheer number of murals Downtown is a cultural draw and an opportunity to inclusively promote artwork.”
However, inclusivity sometimes means less-than. Joining Jane Goat’s gorgeous saguaro-scape on the side of the Hyatt Regency Phoenix; Hugo Medina and Darrin Armijo-Wardle’s “Malinda” near the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel; and Nomas, Casebeer, and Jenny Ignaszewski’s polka-dotted portrait of Wallace and Ladmo over on First Street will be a slew of amateur attempts commissioned by undiscerning developers and assayed by art students who own paintbrushes. Because, sadly, not every building owner has an eye for art.
Company politics will play a part, too, as local muralists will be passed over in favor of huge corporate-bought artists from other parts of the country. Still, we’ll have the occasional exquisite specimen – like Maggie Keane’s memorial to the Birmingham church bombing at Jefferson and 12th Street, or Isaac Caruso and Jesse Yazzie’s excellent portrait of city councilman Calvin Goode set against a sparkling Phoenix skyline at Second Street and Roosevelt – to mitigate the awfulness.
Phoenix will finally get a decent Laotian restaurant.
And maybe even a Cambodian one. And maybe even in the West Valley? “I think the cultural diversity of the dining scene will improve and spread to other parts of the Valley,” says restaurateur Julian Wright (Pedal Haus Brewery, Sake Haus).
Grand Avenue Be Gone, M’Lady
The Grand Avenue arts district will be gobbled up by out-of-town developers bent on building more mid-rise rentals to accommodate the vast sea of residents we’re expecting any minute now. Landholders Beatrice Moore and Tony Zeh, who spearheaded Grand as an arts district and have kept developers from invading, retire, sell their properties and move away. Unable to afford newly jacked-up rents, artists and shopkeepers will head elsewhere. Here are our three likeliest candidates for new Valley arts districts.
Abandoned antique shops make perfect galleries, and many have upstairs apartments where artists can live while creating new art.
Grant Street warehouse district
ASU’s Grant Street Studios has already made its mark here, alongside a pile of private artist studios and Bentley Projects’ Warehouse215. Did someone say, “fine company”?
Tolleson’s Paseo de Luces district
Home to the West Valley Fine Arts Council, a slew of local art expos and performances, and rather a lot of public art (including a seven-sculpture commission called Paseo de Arte), this one’s a no-brainer.
More Pela Predictions
Alice Cooper will launch a globe-spanning farewell tour that will fill stadiums for three years. The Don’t Sit Down ’Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair Official Farewell Tour will begin and end with dates in Phoenix and find both superstars and former members of The Earwigs joining Cooper onstage. Following the tour, Cooper will retire to Laveen, change his name back to Vincent Furnier, and open an empanada stand.
A bigger “Nation.”
Having already purchased formerly locally owned The Van Buren music venue and concert promoter Stateside Presents, multi-billionaire entertainment conglomerate Live Nation will buy up the rest of the live music venues in the city before moving on to restaurants and coffee shops, becoming the largest purveyor of local food and entertainment in town and announcing its prominence with a concert featuring Petula Clark and Korn at the former Ak-Chin Pavilion, now renamed Live Nation Music Hall.
The play’s (not) the thing.
As theater companies scramble to option plays and musicals that are more inclusive, ticket sales will decline. Artistic directors will blame various virtual distractions and the fact that post-COVID audiences have fallen out of the theater-going habit, and will trim their seasons to include fewer shows, most of them about non-gender-specific people struggling to be seen in the New World. In other news, avant-garde troupe Stray Cat Theatre will continue to thrive.
TRAVEL + TRANSPORTATION
by Jessica Dunham & Craig Outhier
We’ll finally get that bullet train to Tucson.
When the $1 trillion infrastructure bill was signed into law in 2021, Amtrak received $22 billion, the largest federal investment for the company since its inception. Why do we care? Because Amtrak, along with the Tucson and Phoenix mayors, proposed to use a portion of the funds for a train line between the two cities, operating three trips every day. “From a purely economic development perspective, this new service will yield important benefits throughout our region,” Tucson mayor Regina Romero told KGUN9 news, hinting at the long-anticipated “mega-metro” linking Phoenix and Tucson along the I-10.
Granted, Amtrak’s proposal isn’t immediately calling for maglev or other ultra-fast formats. Instead, the company would use existing Union Pacific freight track to host the Phoenix-Tucson line, building new passenger depots in Buckeye, Downtown Phoenix, Queen Creek and other towns along the route while matching the standard two-hour drive time to Tucson. Not terrifically fast, but the upshot: better for commuters and multi-taskers, and ETA-friendly. The first train could launch in three years, according to Amtrak.
And that won’t be the end of it, we predict. Connecting to the fastest-growing city in the U.S. will be a game-changer for the stubbornly growth-averse Old Pueblo. Offered more than a single, truck-congested highway, residents in both cities and the many growing communities along the I-10 corridor will embrace the train and its favorable carbon footprint, removing 200,000 annual drivers from the road. Ultimately, Amtrak will upgrade the line with one of its new Acela trains. Top speed: 160 MPH.
Light Rail Update
If the Phoenix Transportation 2050 Plan comes to full fruition, there will be impressive expansions to Valley Metro’s light rail network. Think more east-west connectivity and stations in convenient destinations like Paradise Valley Mall – which by that time, will be the fancy live-work-play hub PV, currently under construction.
Northwest Extension: Connects existing light rail station at 19th and Dunlap avenues with Metrocenter Mall via 1.6 miles of new track, with eventual plans to continue east to PV. ETA: 2024
South Central Extension: 5.5-mile project will create a loop with existing light rail in Downtown Phoenix, then follow Central Avenue south to Baseline Road. ETA: 2024
Capitol Extension: From Third Avenue, will connect existing light rail with the state Capitol area on 19th Avenue via loop on Washington and Jefferson streets. ETA: 2026
I-10 West Extension: Will connect the Capitol to Ak-Chin Pavilion in West Phoenix and many points between with 9.2 miles of track. ETA: 2028
Predictions for future air travel in the Valley.
You’ll fly nonstop to Mexico from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. On the heels of its busiest August in history (119,403 passengers), Gateway is forging ahead with its multimillion-dollar terminal expansion (ETA: January 2024) and air-traffic control tower upgrade – both of which will help the airport fulfill its goal of 50 percent more passenger volume over the next decade, along with more carriers and route options.
Power-lifting and pillow mints at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The 20-year plan includes efficiency improvements, like a new taxiway, a longer center runway, more gates and additional concourses, plus traveler-friendly perks like a high-end hotel and fitness center inside the airport. Expect smart tech, too, like floor-to-ceiling windows with artificial intelligence that automatically adjusts to sunlight.
The private jet revolution will become the private jet republic. According to aviation data tracker FlightAware, luxury jet passenger service has grown 22 percent since 2019. For Valley passengers, that translates to options like JSX, which offers hop-on service (read: arrive at the airport a mere 20 minutes before boarding) from Sky Harbor on 30-seat luxury jets, and Set Jet, a membership-based charter program with flights out of Scottsdale Airport.
WATER + ENERGY
by Jessica Dunham
We won’t run out of water… anytime soon, that is.
Phoenix chiefly relies on water from two sources: the Salt and Verde river basin, and the Colorado River. While climate change is wreaking havoc on the Colorado River watershed and throwing its future into uncertainty, the good news is this: The Salt and Verde are less sensitive to the effects of climate change than the Colorado and are better equipped to rebound from a long-term drought, according to water utility Salt River Project (SRP), citing research from Arizona State University and federal agencies. “SRP’s history shows that during severe prolonged drought when reservoir storage is low, a single wet winter can refill its reservoir system – and this characteristic of the SRP system is not expected to change, even with anticipated 21st-century warming,” SRP director of water supply Bruce Hallin says.
Runoff via the Salt and Verde rivers feeds the SRP system and generally occurs in the late winter and early spring – earlier than it does on the upper Colorado River Basin. Consequently, SRP streamflow is more stable and experiences less evaporative loss. SRP manages seven reservoirs, which typically hover at 65 percent capacity, and the efficiency with which it delivers water ranks among the highest of all U.S. utilities – more than 96 percent of the water diverted at Granite Reef Dam and its service area makes it to Valley consumers.
However, a minority of Valley consumers – 400,000 residents, all in the North Valley – are served exclusively by Colorado River water. In the event that resource becomes scarce, or gone altogether, the City of Phoenix has launched a $280 million Drought Pipeline Project. When completed in 2023, the underground steel pipeline will transport 75 million gallons of water per day from the Salt and Verde rivers to homeowners in North Phoenix.
All this isn’t to say that water scarcity won’t be a problem as the Valley expands. But our faucets are unlikely to go dry.
On a per capita basis, at least, Phoenicians are using less water, not more, than they were 30 years ago. “We’re a growing population with new development, which means we have newer and more efficient appliances,” City of Phoenix water resources management advisor Cynthia Campbell says, citing a 30 percent reduction in average personal water consumption. “We’re keenly aware of the value of water, and aware of what we can do in our own lives to be water-efficient.”
Energy Extra: Carbon-Free by 2050?
Palo Verde Generating Station produces an astonishing amount of power – 3,810,000 kilowatts, according to Maricopa County, making it the nation’s largest single source of electricity. No wonder electric utility APS calls Palo Verde the cornerstone of its Clean Energy Commitment, an ambitious goal of 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050. But nuclear won’t get us there without help from solar. Viewed as a model for future solar investment, APS’s in-the-works Agave Solar Plant near Buckeye will offer 150,000 kilowatts of capacity to the grid when it goes online in 2023 – enough power for more than 24,000 homes.
Each of the below produces roughly 2,400,000 kilowatt hours, enough energy to power roughly 2,000 homes for an hour.
It’s all the rage among the Valley’s biggest employers.
American Express has a goal of net-zero emissions by 2035.
Arizona State University’s solar program contributed to the university reaching its goal of becoming carbon-neutral, with zero greenhouse gas emissions from campus operations.
Intel aims for net-zero emissions by 2040.
Meta, aka Facebook, partners with SRP to utilize solar for Meta’s new Mesa data center.
Phoenix Sky Harbor plans for net-zero emissions by 2040.
by Craig Outhier
We haven’t seen the last McCain in higher office.
Of all the Celebrity names half-seriously bandied around as future Arizona political candidates – e.g. Larry Fitzgerald, Curt Schilling, QAnon Shaman Jake Angeli – the one that feels most credible is Meghan McCain. The Xavier College Prep alumna and daughter of late Senator John McCain has massive recognizability thanks to her daytime TV talk show career and hillocks of family money to sustain a gubernatorial or Senate run. Plus, aren’t we Americans suckers for dynastic power structures when push comes to shove? True, her brand of centrist, sensible conservatism is not especially fashionable in Republican circles these days, but that could change if the current wave of Trumpism results in a losing cycle or two – a scenario that could also open a window of opportunity for other old-school Republicans like Jeff Flake. “It would take a sea change among the Republican voting base,” says Valley pollster and KTAR commentator Mike O’Neil. “The Republican party would have to make itself back into something resembling what it used to be..” Meghan would fit the bill – and so would her 36-year-old brother, Jack McCain, a U.S. Navy veteran with a low-key but dignified public profile.
3 Rising Stars
Who can say what a “rising star” means in the era of Kari Lake and Mark Finchem? They sort of broke the math. But here’s our best shot at predicting which up-and-comers have the right stuff for higher office.
Athena Salman : She had an absentee problem during the pandemic and weirdly passed on a Congressional run in 2022, but the state senator from Tempe still has the CV for D.C.
J.D. Mesnard: One suspects the four-term state legislator, one of a handful of moderate Republicans who survived his primary in 2022, is biding his time. Our prediction: Secretary of State.
Katie Raml: Before Lake, a career in politics probably never occurred to the ABC15 anchor. But now? There’s gotta be a little “If that nutball can do it…” in her thinking. Guv or U.S. Senate.
Larry Fitzgerald runs for Arizona governor.
The former Cardinals star topped a 2021 OH Predictive Insights poll of potential candidates for statewide office, but says he has no aspirations. We’ll see. Odds: 6-1
Jeff Flake takes a shot at the Oval Office.
Who knows? Maybe the former U.S. Senator is out for good. But he’s the ultimate Never Trump poster child, and moderates would certainly have his back. Odds: 10-1
Paul Gosar swallows his own tongue.
Somehow dumb enough to attend an event thrown by white nationalist Nick Fuentes, the U.S. Rep from Prescott is the Lloyd Christmas of Congress. Odds: Even
Prediction Extra: Parity by 2028?
As recently as 2006, the GOP held a 13-point lead over Democrats in registered voters in Arizona – a gap that now stands at 2 points.
Teachers will become Arizona’s most powerful political endorsement.
Behind Save Our Schools Arizona executive director Beth Lewis, educators in the state “have their most organized and motivated leader in a generation,” says pollster Mike O’Neil of O’Neil Associates. “She’s the real deal… and [Save Our Schools] will make the difference for candidates consistent with their beliefs.”
TECHNOLOGY + INDUSTRY
by Jessica Dunham
We’ll do OK with microchips…
Some have touted Phoenix as the next Silicon Valley. That’s probably on the wishful side. But tech manufacturing is looking like a long-term economic strength. Buoyed by stable energy – the second most reliable power grid in the nation, according to a CNBC study – and $58 billion in new federal incentives for semiconductor manufacturers, the Valley has become “one of the world’s top destinations [for] microchip production,” according to news website fDi Intelligence.
In Chandler, Intel is adding two new $20 billion chip factories, the first of the firm’s “foundry line” that will manufacture chips for other semiconductor companies and offset future global chip shortages. Additionally, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) – an Apple supplier – is building a $12 billion plant in northwest Phoenix that will be the first to mass-produce 5-nanometer chips in the U.S. when it opens in 2024.
Though other U.S. cities – like Taylor, Texas, which recently scored a $17 billion Samsung plant – will challenge us in the drive to move production back to American shores, local officials are bullish. “Phoenix will be the place global companies flock to,” predicts Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Commission. “There’s been a brand shift for a place once known for building homes and malls to a place now known for building technology.”
… but crush it with our missiles.
Denied Silicon Valley-style dominance in microchips, Arizona may yet corner the market in next-generation super-weapons. In September, two Arizona defense companies – Tucson-based Raytheon and Chandler-based Northrop Grumman – were awarded a nearly $1 billion federal contract to develop experimental hypersonic missiles than can defeat any known surface-to-air defense schemes. Envisioned to operate at speeds exceeding Mach 15 (3,800 miles per hour), the weapons are deemed necessary to counter similar systems purportedly developed by Russia.
ASU will be the first U.S. university to offer VR classes.
“Over 40 percent of all ASU students were in online degree programs last year,” points out Arizona Republic education reporter Alison Steinbach, and she envisions the innovation-centric university being an early adopter of virtual reality. “That’s something [the university] has started to do already, and I don’t know if it’s going to take hold more broadly, but I wouldn’t be surprised, given where things are moving.”
EVs in the EV
The electric vehicle (EV) revolution is coming to the East Valley.
Currently, LG Energy Solution is constructing a $1.39 billion factory in Queen Creek to make batteries for electric vehicles (EV). Only the company’s second standalone facility in the U.S., the plant will supply its EV customers – including Tesla and Nikola, which is building electric trucks in Coolidge – with cylindrical cell formats.
Nikola isn’t the only fledgling Arizona tech firm looking to blaze a trail in the EV truck industry. Mesa-based Atlis Motor Vehicles unveiled an EV pickup truck prototype last year the firm says can travel 500 miles on a single charge and will retail at $45,000. The company reported pre-orders of 60,000 units and hopes to begin delivery by 2023.
Down in Casa Grande, California-based luxury EV startup Lucid is developing a multi-phase factory on a 590-acre site that will potentially churn out 400,000 vehicles a year. The first Lucid Air sedan is expected to roll off the line in 2023.
PHX Tech Facts
48 tech companies relocated to Greater Phoenix from 2017 to 2022, creating 8,261 jobs and investing $14.5 billion.
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale ranked 10th among U.S. metro areas in net tech job growth in 2021.
Greater Phoenix expects 18.2 percent job growth in technology sectors over next 10 years.
3 Likely Scenarios forLocal Media
Hollywood starts making movies in Arizona again.
In 25 years, when the Valley is hosting a revolving door of big-budget film sets, we’ll thank the Arizona tax credit signed into law earlier this year. Mimicking programs in the production hotbeds of New Mexico (Breaking Bad) and Georgia (Walking Dead, the Marvel Extended Universe), the Arizona Motion Picture Production Program aims to revive our once-proud film industry by refunding a portion of expenses to anything shot and edited within our borders. Who knows? If Steven Spielberg makes another movie about his childhood in Phoenix (The Fabelmans, coming out this December, but filmed in New Mexico) maybe he’ll actually deign to shoot it here.
The Arizona Republic goes all-digital.
As the Valley’s 132-year-old newspaper of record, the Republic fulfills a vital and enduring mission. But that doesn’t mean you’ll forever wrap your fish with it. This past year, the Republic’s parent company, Gannett, started rolling out digital-only editions of some of its most prominent titles, including the Akron Beacon Journal, which no longer offers a print version on Mondays. It’s not hard to envision a near-future in which the Republic – where average daily circulation dipped to 109,000 in 2021, from 433,000 in 2000 – follows suit.
ASU becomes an elite film school.
Christened just last year, The Sidney Poitier New American Film School is ready for its close-up. Conceived to nurture a homegrown field of filmmakers, digital designers and media creators, the school is based at the ASU @ Mesa City Center complex in Mesa, which boasts Dolby-certified screening rooms, a recording studio, two soundstages, virtual reality Dreamscape Learn pods and more to help tyro filmmakers learn emerging mediums like “extended reality” – an entertainment form that engages all five senses at once.
by Jessica Dunham & Craig Outhier
Our kid’s K-6 school will have a Dollar Tree in it.
Granted, we’re going out on a limb just a bit with this one, but it speaks to a scenario that credibly lies in wait for the Valley’s bedraggled public school system.
For the last two decades, students have been fleeing traditional public schools in Arizona. Most have enrolled in charter schools, which have flourished in the state thanks to aggressive deregulation and charter-friendly legislation. One out of five Arizona students now attend a charter school, according to federal data, the highest rate in the nation. And of all publicly funded schools in the state – charters are technically public schools, remember, albeit privately managed – 28 percent are charter, higher than the U.S. rate of 7 percent, per the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Whether you’re for, against or neutral on the topic of charter schools, one thing is undeniable – in large and growing numbers, they tend to stress the traditional public school model by siphoning away students and, ipso facto, funding. The effect would presumably intensify with HB 2853, the now-on-hold law to expand eligibility for Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA), which would open eligibility to all students to pay for other forms of non-public education (private school, homeschool, tutoring) via public funds.
Schools are essentially utilities – which is to say, they provide a service society has deemed inalienable and also require near-universal buy-in to function as an economic model. Take away enough students, and the model collapses. Create enough empty classrooms, and the school closes.
Or does it? Faced with under-enrollment, empty classrooms and untenable operating costs, schools in Washington and New York have begun to “co-locate” with charters and nonprofits – i.e. rent them space – with some considering local businesses to pick up the slack. Think of it as creative subletting: “Maryvale Elementary brought to you by Chompie’s.”
The alternative: Become a Libertarian paradise like New Orleans, which is now 99 percent charter, according to NCES. A voter referendum to pass or defeat HB2853, incidentally, will be on the ballot in November 2023.
Public school: A public institution for the purposes of offering instruction for preschool to grade-12 learners.
Private school: A non-public institution where instruction is provided for at least the same number of days and hours each year as public school.
Charter school: Public, state-funded schools with private oversight.
Magnet School: Part of the public school system, magnet schools exist outside of zoned school boundaries.
Homeschool: Non-public school conducted by a parent, guardian or other person who has custody of the student, with instruction provided in the home.
Micro-school: Tougher to define, these schools share common traits like small size, a mix of students from different grade levels, a curriculum personalized to students and often use of guides who assist with student-led learning instead of traditional teachers.
We’ll run out of primary-care doctors.
Due to consolidation within hospital networks, Will Humble of the Arizona Public Health Association says “the days of the old Marcus Welby, M.D.-type doctors in private practices are rapidly coming to a close… The lack of primary-care providers will continue to have a stranglehold on improving preventive care, especially in rural areas, [and] I think the shortage will get worse and worse.”
Reaching for Teaching
Teacher shortages are a thing in Arizona. One possible solution: expand the definition of “teacher.” That’s one feature of a new education model developed by ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, now implemented across P-12 schools in Mesa, the largest public-school system in the state. Called Next Education Workforce, the model aims to redesign the one-teacher, one-classroom format by bringing together teams of educators – some traditionally trained, some with lived experience – with an array of expertise in order to deepen and personalize student learning. “This question of, ‘Who is my teacher?’ will be harder to answer in the future, but in a good way,” says Brent Maddin, Ed. D., executive director of the Next Education Workforce Initiative. “Some might be classroom teachers. Some might look like coaches. Some might be grad students fluent in Mandarin. There are all sorts of people with talent to take on the role of educator.”
by Craig Outhier
The D-backs will win another World Series within five years.
You’re skeptical? You have reason to be. The Arizona Diamondbacks are a combined 151-233 over the past three seasons and haven’t made the playoffs since 2017. But also consider the recent emergence of proto-studs like Daulton Varsho (27 HRs in 2022) and Zac Gallen (12-4, 2.54 ERA) – and, most vitally, a robust farm system that MLB Pipeline ranked No. 4 in all of baseball last season. The first hot rod to roll off the assembly line, 22-year-old outfielder Corbin Carroll, mashed in his first taste of big league pitching last season (.260/.330/.500) and looks every bit the second coming of Mookie Betts. Other elite prospects, including 20-year-old shortstop Jordan Lawlar (who swept through four levels of the D-backs farm system last season en route to a .300/16 HR season) and No. 2 overall 2022 draftee Druw Jones (son of ex-big leaguer Andrew Jones and the No. 13 prospect in baseball) are close behind.
Yeah, we know – you can’t pin all your hopes on potential. But the D-backs have an emerging core of stars who are young and under contract for the foreseeable future, and the future hasn’t looked this bright since they brought on Randy Johnson in 1999. And we know how that turned out.
MLS: Rise of the Rising?
Phoenix is the largest U.S. city without a Major League Soccer franchise, and MLS decision-makers don’t seem in a rush to give us one. The league awarded expansion franchises to eight cities between 2017-2022 and Phoenix – despite its size and presumed cultural affinity for fútbol – was never seriously in the running. But we do have one last shot: MLS will field 29 teams in 2023, and league officials have stated their intension to make it an even 30, perhaps as early as 2025. How can Phoenix stand out against other cities angling for a franchise, thought to be led by Las Vegas and San Diego?
Above all other factors, MLS wants a demonstration of sustained fan interest, to fill 25,000 seats every other week. So getting behind Phoenix Rising, which is campaigning to be lifted into MLS from the minor-division United Soccer League (USL), is one way the average sports fan can help. Nearing the end of its 2022 season, the Rising is averaging 6,400 fans per home game in a pop-up facility (FC Soccer Complex at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler) that technically only seats 6,200, so that’s promising.
Success and star Management
MLS is also thought to prize on-pitch success and high-profile ownership. To that point, the Rising had a spectacular 2021 season, winning the USL Western Conference with a 20-7-5 record, though it is struggling through an also-ran 2022 campaign. It also boasts one of the USL’s most diverse and noteworthy ownership groups, including former Premier League star Didier Drogba.
Dedicated soccer stadium
Lacking a purpose-built soccer facility is a barrier to MLS entry, and converting an existing big-box sports venue – say, State Farm Stadium with its 75,000 seats – won’t cut it. The MLS hates the look and feng shui of empty seats and prefers stadiums in the 20,000-30,000 range. According to the Phoenix Business Journal, the league would also require Phoenix to build a covered stadium, since the MLS season takes place primarily in the summer. Estimated cost: $1 billion.
Future Phoenix 2015 Report Card
It was a little more than seven years ago that we first did the Jeane Dixon routine with our 2015 Future Phoenix issue. How did our prognostications pan out?
Pegging them “future stars,” we correctly predicted that then-State Senators Kimberly Yee and Katie Hobbs would both win higher office –boom! – but whiffed on fellow lawmaker Ed Ableser, who we thought would run for governor but now lives somewhere in Nevada. Grade: B+
Thus far, the Valley has not been forced to shed 2/3 of its population to combat water shortages, as envisioned by author Jon Talton. But our estimate of Phoenix’s population in 2040 (2.2 million) still holds. Grade: B-
That 1,000-foot skyscraper we envisioned for Downtown never materialized, and the City of Glendale did not convert Gila River Arena into a giant Walmart after the Coyotes left. Otherwise, spot on. Grade: C
“Blood-testing firm Theranos moves its main headquarters to Scottsdale and becomes the state’s sixth Fortune 500 company,” we wrote. Less off-the-mark: Our prediction that Lake Mead would drop under 1,000 feet and trigger water cutbacks. It’s currently at 1,045. Grade: D+
We dutifully predicted that Arizona Opera’s Riders of the Purple Sage would be a hit, and thought Valley superstar chef Kevin Binkley would have a James Beard Award by now (he hasn’t). And we still don’t have a Burmese restaurant. Grade: C