Education, labor force also a key to growth, panel told
By Callan Smith | Rose Law Group Reporter
Transportation development is a necessity for Pinal County, Jim Belfiore, president of Belfiore Real Estate Consulting told Friday’s Pinal Partnership panel.
Belfiore was joined on the panel by Bill Honsaker, managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle Americas and moderator Jordan Rose, founder and president of Rose Law Group, who noted there is a regional transportation tax that might be on the November ballot to expand Pinal County roadways.
Belfiore said voters need to pass it for increased infrastructure.
“Transportation and infrastructure are the biggest keys to continued growth and success in Pinal County,” Belfiore told the gathering at Gold Canyon.
“Development flows when new freeways and infrastructure come in, which can be seen in the Phoenix area,” Belfiore said.
Honaker said Maricopa County saw a significant change when road systems started going in, having a tremendous effect on residential, commercial and retail throughout the greater Phoenix area.
“Employees need to get to and from work and manufacturers that have truck transportation need to be able to get to freeways quickly,” he said.
Honsaker, who specializes in industrial real estate, said Tractor Supply Company chose Casa Grande over Buckeye to house its new western distribution center at Central Arizona Commerce Park because of the proximity to I-10 and I-8 and the ability to fill jobs. The company bought 100 acres and built 600,000 square feet with potential expansion to about a million square feet.
Pinal County projects
PhoenixMart in Casa Grande, which is under construction, encompasses several hundred acres and a million-plus square feet, has announced it’s getting more and more tenants for the business-to-business sourcing model.
“I’m hopeful that it continues and becomes wildly successful,” Honasker said.
A potential development for the county is Fortune 500 company, LKQ Corporation, which is looking at the Casa Grande area for a 150-acre, 100,000-plus square foot auto parts and salvage operation.
There’s also Dreamport Villages, a potential (yet undisclosed) very large project working with the Arizona Commerce Authority looking to locate in Pinal County, and the Lucid Motors mega-project, which at full build-out is a 700-million-dollar development.
“To have one of these in an area is amazing, to have four, five, six of them showing up . . . in the press is putting a huge spotlight on the county,” Honsaker said.
Both Belfiore and Honsaker stressed that Pinal County needs more housing to entice large employers to locate there. “One of the first things that a site selector looks at is if there is a workforce nearby” said Honsaker.
Belfiore said he is very optimistic about the future of Pinal County with all the new development and abundant land.
“There is an opportunity to growth two, three, four times as fast as Maricopa County because not only are there developments, there are jobs coming, and there’s affordability in the housing marketplace,”
Growth is occurring in the Maricopa housing market, where builders have 13 active communities, Belfiore said. He also indicated that within the next 24-36 months there is great potential for new homes as builders are looking at buying lots in Casa Grande, Maricopa, Florence and San Tan.
Public charter schools create competition, which has done wonders for areas such as Queen Creek, San Tan Valley and the East Valley. “When [schools] goes in, developments pop up around them,” Belfiore said.
Both Belfiore and Honsaker suggested that large employers want to build next to areas that have some sort of educational excellence, which in Arizona means competitive public charter schools.
Belfiore said that over the next four to six years’ labor presents an issue nationally as the country reaches full employment, creating the question of who will fill those jobs.
Attracting millennials was a question raised by an audience member.
Belfiore and Honsaker said millennials want the newest in a housing product and will sacrifice square footage to get what they want.
Belfiore talked about creating a sense of place and undergoing some sort of “place-making” to attract millennials. He suggested that Pinal look at the Mesa Arts District and downtown Gilbert for great examples in creating community.
Honsaker suggested making it easier to attract interesting users that millennials support, such as a “craft beer brewery.”
Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith asked about growing the labor pool for the developments moving into the county.
Honsaker said he believes as long as much needed housing development in Pinal County continues; the workforce will help entice large employers resulting in reverse commutes from Mesa, Chandler, Queen Creek and elsewhere.