Goodyear seeking manufacturing jobs, corporate offices
by John Yantis – The Republic – Apr. 4, 2012
Goodyear is eyeing the transformation of sleepy Bullard Avenue to create a high-paying jobs and manufacturing corridor along a road that is now lined mainly with farm and untended fields. The corridor would be anchored on the north by the proposed Estrella Falls regional mall and on the southern end by the Phoenix Goodyear Airport.
The long-term vision for the Airport/Bullard Avenue Corporate Center Investment Zone is a string of manufacturers and offices similar to the Price Road Corridor in Chandler, where Intel, Orbital Sciences, Freescale Semiconductor and other technology-laden firms have a presence.
The goal over the next few years is to build a waterline and make landscape and other improvements so Bullard becomes attractive to developers, landowners and companies. Bullard would ultimately have a corporate-campus feel. “It just needs everybody working together on it to maintain the vision,” economic-development director Paula Ilardo said. “We’ve had developers who are very interested. They say ‘If we come, we’d like to do what you’d like to see here,’ which is very encouraging to us.”
The airport is supporting the idea. The long-range plans include moving corporate development to the western side of the airport, where a new entrance from Bullard would be built. About 1,800 employees work at the 789-acre airport. About 400 acres are still available for development. The airfield’s capital-improvement plan includes nearly $20 million in investments over the next five years, according to minutes from a recent Goodyear City Council meeting.
Some of the first improvements to Bullard are at least five years away when the intersections of Bullard and Yuma Road and Bullard and Van Buren Street are improved. The corridor is already mostly lined with a conduit and fiber optic network needed by businesses keen on high-speed data. Under the proposal, Bullard would be heavily landscaped, with medians and berms so passers-by wouldn’t notice a sea of parked cars. Some companies would back up to the Bullard Wash, giving companies access to a greenbelt. An effluent waterline that runs along the street could be used for decorative fountains and ponds.
One challenge will be to woo about a half-dozen major landowners between Yuma Road and Van Buren. Goodyear’s plans are years away from being feasible, said Don MacWilliam, who specializes in commercial real estate in the Southwest Valley. “But I think the vision itself is genuine,” said MacWilliam, senior vice president at Colliers International in Phoenix.
Although it may not be in the forefront of everybody’s mind today, trying to establish high-wage jobs in the West Valley is needed, MacWilliam said. “The majority of jobs that we’re seeing going in the Southwest Valley are your $10- to $16-an-hour warehouse fulfillment-type jobs,” he said.
The Bullard corridor is where the city is most likely to attract high-density development, officials say. The goal would be to land businesses where jobs pay roughly $42,000 or more annually, said Harry Paxton, Goodyear’s economic-development manager. Those employed in the target industries have enough disposable income for restaurants and other businesses in the mall area. “Having all those amenities nearby is usually what attracts the companies that have the higher-range salaries,” Ilardo said.
Goodyear, which is mostly known for large distribution centers, doesn’t want to be dominated by them, officials said. The goal of the corridor would be to land different types of industries. The city believes major office complexes will be built near the mall, along Interstate 10, on Estrella Parkway south of the freeway and in the Bullard corridor. Large distribution centers could still go along I-10 and on the outskirts of the city, officials say.
In the corridor, Goodyear hopes to see more examples like Sub Zero. The high-end refrigerator maker moved into warehouse space and upgraded the facility for manufacturing. “Those kinds of spaces can be built, and then manufacturing, which is usually higher wages, can go into those buildings,” Ilardo said, adding smaller distribution centers could go in the corridor.
“But if enough improvements are made, the value of the land there should probably go up enough that it would outprice distribution,” she said.
MacWilliam said the corridor will dovetail nicely with the commerce the city started near the future I-10/Loop 303 interchange. It’s also done well landing companies south of I-10 on Cotton Lane, he said. Goodyear may not land a big fish for its corridor like Chandler, but it has the potential to build warehouse space that could be turned into the manufacturing or heavy office uses, known as flex product, MacWilliam said. “The west side has zero flex product,” he said. “It really hasn’t taken off, but as you see the growth which is planned for the West Valley and all the available housing that could go to the West Valley, there’s certainly a need for that somewhere down the line if it’s in the right place.”