Officials: Grand Canyon University businesses may revitalize Phoenix neighborhood

PHOENIX – Grand Canyon University has launched a new program to provide students with business experience outside of the classroom.

The private Christian university has created multiple businesses run by graduates as well as some current students. These include three companies based mainly on the school’s west Phoenix campus.

Grand Canyon Beverage Co. sells coffee, tea and snacks, like gourmet doughnuts.

“We’re excited, and we’re content to see the students enjoying themselves, but we definitely have a long way to go,” General Manager Brennan Williams said.

Grand Canyon University said in a statement that the businesses also may help economic conditions in the school’s neighborhood near 35th Avenue and Camelback Road. The U.S. Census track, which encompasses the square mile surrounding the school, has a median household income of $35,500, which is about two thirds of the amount for Maricopa County, according to Census Reporter data.

“When (the students) leave here, and they go off, they’ll have in their mind that the level of poverty that exists in this neighborhood doesn’t need to exist,” Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller said.

Grand Canyon Beverage Co. has one location in the student union, and officials plan to open another on campus. They are considering a third off campus.

“A coffee shop is such a great, unique area where we can really bridge GCU and the community,” Williams said.

The university owns the businesses, but the students run them – and the students will have a say in how the school distributes the revenues, according to a spokeswoman. The school also plans to open a resale store and a business that sells promotional items.

Some of the neighborhood residents said they have seen improvements in the area.

Isaac Otero said he has lived in the area for 15 years and he has “noticed that the apartments look a lot better in the area of Grand Canyon University.”

“Plus, the streets around it are a lot cleaner compared to how it was, maybe, two years ago,” he said.

In the future, the university plans to expand the job opportunities to non-students to include more residents from the area. This would ultimately give the children of those employees free tuition to the school, officials said.

The school’s 300-acre campus is undergoing a 10-year, $1 billion expansion.