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Report names ASU a factor in rapid expansion of Phoenix's tech market

Phoenix is one of the fastest growing tech hubs in the United States

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An Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering building is pictured on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2005, at the Brickyard in Tempe.

Phoenix is one of the most rapidly expanding tech markets in the U.S., and part of that expansion is credited to ASU, according to a new report published by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and CBRE

The report, titled “The Greater Phoenix Tech Story,” said that metro Phoenix now has roughly 500 software companies and an estimated 85,060 high tech jobs as of 2018, which is a 12.3% increase over five years.

The report cites ASU’s presence as one of the several factors that contributed to making Phoenix a growing tech hub. 

The report said, “Tech companies can leverage the large and talented workforce fueled by Arizona State University, the largest engineering school in the nation, where 24,000 engineering students are enrolled.”

Kristen Stephenson, vice president of research and analytics for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and one of the authors of the report, said that ASU does a good job training its engineering students to be ready for tech jobs.

"The skills training ASU provides, especially in engineering, is critical to these companies, because in order for a company to grow and find success in an area they need to attract a talented workforce," Stephenson said.

Francine Hardaway, co-founder and partner at Stealthmode Partners and a coach for hundreds of early-stage startups in Phoenix for over 20 years, said that having talented young people in an area is very important for the growth of companies.

"Young people start startups and work at startups," Hardaway said. "They have the risk taking, optimism, spirit and creativity that startups need to be successful."

The report also cited ASU’s fifth consecutive No. 1 ranking as the most innovative school in the country by U.S. News and World Report

Stephenson said the ranking is important because ASU's record of innovation and creative programs is a driving force for a lot of companies that move into the area.

"Innovation is very important for tech companies, and when we are attracting new companies to the area, it's important to them that the workforce in the area has a matching culture of innovation," Stephenson said.

James Collofello, vice dean of academic and student affairs at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, said that they try to produce a lot of students with an "entrepreneurial mindset."

"Our goal is to promote innovation as much as possible both in our classes and in our different programs," Collofello said. "We think that puts our students in a good position to not only start companies but also be an 'intrapreneur' working for startups."

In addition to ASU producing a lot of talent in the area, Hardaway believes the growth of the ASU community and campuses have played a large role in Phoenix's recent tech boom.

She said that when ASU moved some of its programs and students to downtown Phoenix, it helped grow the area into an ecosystem full of shops, stores and bars that young workers wanted to be a part of.

"If Phoenix was like it was 10 years ago, it wouldn't matter how much young talent graduated from ASU, because they would all move to Silicon Valley," Hardaway said. "But ASU's expansion has helped make Phoenix a lively place where young people actually want to live and work."

Stephenson agreed that Phoenix is doing a better job retaining graduates from ASU than ever before, saying that "more students actually want to stay here."

Stephenson said that is important because Phoenix needs to keep building on its momentum in order to catch up to the next tier of cities like Austin and Denver.

"We just need to continue doing what we're doing, and ASU is going to keep playing such a critical role in that," Stephenson said.

"The Brickyard" by Ken Sweat is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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