Leaders launch Phoenix Forward to encourage business growth

Phoenix officials said local business expansion makes up 80 percent of new jobs.

City leaders plan to help facilitate that growth and support business needs through the Phoenix Forward initiative, which launched Wednesday.

The initiative is a partnership between the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Phoenix, the Arizona Commerce Authority and Maricopa County.

Phoenix Forward plans to meet with businesses to gain an understanding of their operation and help with retention and expansion. They will assist with developing policy issues, analyzing industry trends, overcoming regulatory barriers and promoting the region for new companies.

The initiative was funded by $1.5 million from private investors and will focus on companies in four key sectors: transportation and logistics, advanced business services, health care and bioscience.

Sandra Watson, CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, said the Phoenix Forward initiative is about communication, collaboration and commitment to enhance the state’s economy.

“The idea of Phoenix Forward is to really help support existing businesses in the state as well as in the city and to ensure that they have everything they need in order to continue to grow,“ she said.

“If they have workforce issues, we can assemble a team to address workforce. If they are looking to export to outside markets, we can assemble a team to provide information and intelligence on various market opportunities for businesses.”

Todd Sanders, president of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, said the idea for the initiative began two years ago in an effort to understand how to support local businesses. The first thing they learned was that it had to be a collaborative process.

“We decided it was time to stop admiring the problem and to do something about it,” Sanders said at a news conference. “It means that the data we’re all collecting is going to come back to one central spot. We’re going to share it. We’re going to know what’s happening, and we’re going to know what’s out there.”

Russ Yelton, CEO of Pinnacle Transplant Technologies, said his company has identified new talent, explored several spaces to build a larger facility and received workforce training grants through the Phoenix Forward initiative.

“The support helps us in staying focused on growing our business and adding jobs to our community,” he said. “We have doubled our workforce to over 70 associates in the last 18 months and plan on hiring another 30 by the end of this year.”

Stanton said the area of economic development and job growth had been too siloed.

“If we are really going to grow jobs in this community, most of it is going to come from existing companies deciding to reinvest here in our community,” he said. “We’re going to be a much better partner to the business community as a result of this coming together.”