Week of September 20, 2004
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Countrywide's Arizona Gold Rush:
LYNE, Site Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing
Based in Calabasas, Calif., the financial services firm first came to that Arizona city in the Phoenix metro early last year. Since then, the company has rapidly expanded its local work force to some 500 employees.
Countrywide was ranked as the seventh fastest-growing U.S. company early this month by Fortune magazine. For the past two and a half years, though, it has exclusively focused its aggressive expansion efforts outside the Golden State, where the company has been headquartered since 1985.
"We are particularly excited about the opportunity to expand our presence in Chandler," said Patrick Benton, the company's executive vice president of administration. "As Countrywide has searched for new
Benton didn't discuss Countrywide's rationale for expanding outside of California during the Chandler expansion's announcement.
A company release about the Arizona project, however, offered more details about a policy that the company had articulated several times in the past. Countrywide, the release explained, "has focused the expansion of its central office facilities on other states - particularly Arizona and Texas - citing California's unfriendly and high-cost business climate as a major reason for looking elsewhere."
Florida, Nevada, Texas SitesThe project marks a big win for Chandler, a city some 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of downtown Phoenix that's probably best known as the home of almost 10,000 jobs for chip king Intel. Motorola , with some 3,500 local workers, is Chandler's second-largest employer, as technology-based companies account for more than 75 percent of the city's manufacturing jobs. Not for nothing has Chandler been nicknamed "the Oasis of the Silicon Desert."
Competed for Countrywide Expansion
But that oasis, local leaders decided four years ago, needed something more as well: diversification of the local business community to insulate the economy from high tech's well-documented boom-and-bust cycles. Chandler business recruiters in 2000 focused the efforts on financial services firms.
"Countrywide has been working with [the city's] economic development staff over the past two years, and it is exciting to see their corporate expansion plans focus on Chandler," said Mayor Boyd W. Dunn. "I want to thank our partners at the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (www.gpec.org) and the Arizona Department of Commerce (www.azcommerce.com) for working with us on this great project. This is a big win for our community - 2,500 new high-quality jobs for our residents."
In point of fact, it's Countrywide's total Chandler employment that will grow to some 2,500 employees, Benton explained. With the company's rapid expansion pace in its some 15 months of operations in southern Arizona, Countrywide has already created almost 500 of those total jobs.
Chandler was competing with locations in Las Vegas and Plano, Texas (a Dallas suburb), as well as several unnamed cities in Florida, according to officials with the City of Chandler Office of Economic Development.
Some of the competing sites offered cash incentives, they said. Chandler, however, landed the project without offering any subsidies whatsoever.
Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) hailed Countrywide's decision as "further proof of Arizona's competitive business climate, [and it] benefits the entire state. . . . We know that they will continue to find Arizona a great place to do business."
Expansion Will Triple Local SpaceCountrywide's Grand Canyon State business operations have certainly gotten bigger fast since the company first arrived in Arizona in April of 2003.
It was then that Countrywide purchased its first local structure, an 80,000-sq.-ft. (7,200-sq.-m.) existing facility that had been built by Los Angeles-based Lowe Enterprises Real Estate Group (www.loweenterprises.com). By July of this year, with its first building filled to its capacity of some 480 employees, the company decided to buy a second existing Lowe Enterprises facility, a 75,000-sq.-ft. (6.750-sq.-m.) building - a structure that will house about 450 of the new jobs added in the Chandler expansion.
Moreover, the company will build enough new space to triple its existing local square footage. Countrywide will build two new facilities, each one spanning 175,000 sq. ft. (15,750 sq. m.) on a 26-acre (10.4 -hectare) tract that's part of Chandler Commons Office Park. The purchase of the property is now in escrow.
By the end of next year, the company will increase its local employment to about 1,800 workers, according to Benton. Countrywide's newest Chandler buildings will house workers managing and servicing mortgage originations.
The new jobs will pay about US$40,000 a year, Benton explained. Positions in mortgage processing will require at least a high school degree and an associate's degree, he said.
Chandler Has Grown by Almost
700 Percent in 25 Years
Chandler looks like very ripe turf for
finding workers who fit that bill. With a median age of 31, Chandler
residents are well educated, with almost three-fourths having at least
some college education.
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