Arizona Advancing Toward Sustainability

The state is excelling in the semiconductor and advanced manufacturing sectors and has targeted growth in renewable energy.

By Roneshia Thomas
From the March/April 2023 Issue

Home to over 4,000 manufacturing facilities, Arizona has been leading the way in manufacturing across a variety of industries. Just last year, the state brought in $41 billion and 31,000 new jobs for Arizonians. A report released by the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity projects that there will be 541,770 new jobs by 2031—an annualized growth rate of 1.6%, more than three times the U.S. rate.

The state not only excels in manufacturing but is also at the forefront of renewable energy as a leader in solar power. Earlier this year, JA Solar announced that it plans to invest $60 million to build the nation’s first solar module manufacturing facility (see sidebar below). The Phoenix facility will produce high-performance photovoltaic products.

(Photo: Adobe Stock)


In 2022 Arizona saw record investments and “Made in Arizona” became a repeated slogan with breakthroughs across industries including semiconductors, electric vehicles, batteries, aerospace, renewable energy, and technology. To enhance the growing semiconductor industry Arizona created the National Semiconductor Economic Roadmap (NSER). NSER is a 10-year plan, launched in 2021, that focuses on driving semiconductor innovation through collaboration across four domains: infrastructure, supply chain, workforce, and entrepreneurship.

In January, before ending his second term, former Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced a $30 million allocation to establish six advanced manufacturing training centers facilitated by community colleges across the state to help drive the manufacturing industries of Arizona.

In the January/February issue of Business Facilities, Arizona was recognized as a leader in manufacturing employment. November 2022 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the state ranked first for year over year job growth (8.32%), with more than 15,000 manufacturing jobs added through November. Arizona also ranks among the top three states for the fastest jobs recovery in manufacturing, adding more than 17,000 jobs since the pre-pandemic peak.

Flagstaff, AZ: Sustainable Development Solutions

As the world begins to posture itself for a more sustainable future, cities across the nation are trying to find a balance between sustainable actions and smart development. The City of Flagstaff is one such example that has expertly navigated this perceived dichotomy, to generate truly inspiring results in both areas, and that positively build off one another.

For example, the City of Flagstaff has made it a point to implement a carbon neutrality plan by 2030—an aggressive goal that looks to shape the future of Flagstaff. However, the economic development team has been able to leverage this plan, attracting like-minded businesses that will produce global sustainable solutions and products. One such business is UACJ Whitehall Automotive Industries (Whitehall).

Arizona Sustainability
Heritage Square is a gathering place located in the heart of historic downtown Flagstaff. (Photo: City of Flagstaff)

Whitehall is an automotive manufacturing company that is helping pave the way for an affordable and robust electric vehicle market. Their factories fabricate many components, including the frame of electric vehicles for major companies including Tesla and Lucid Motors. Whitehall fits the bill perfectly for a desired Flagstaff company that creates high-quality, low-impact jobs for the community. These shared values, coupled with state and local incentives, and a booming economy helped attract Whitehall to Flagstaff. Whitehall strengthens the supply chain for the electric vehicle market, which will inevitably lower prices and create additional options for consumers, getting more and more people into electric vehicles. Whitehall is expected to produce 350 jobs and estimates over $65 million in capital investment, that will be injected into Flagstaff. This is just one recent example of how sustainable practices are creating a foundation for immense economic development in northern Arizona.

Another strategy that Flagstaff has employed is inviting entrepreneurs to bring their environmentally minded business ideas to a pitch competition for up to $30,000 in business development cash and awards through a program called Innovate Waste: The Carbon Neutrality Challenge. The pitch event started in 2019 as a partnership between the City of Flagstaff Economic Development and Sustainability Offices, Northern Arizona University, Coconino Community College, the Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD), and Moonshot@NACET which oversees operations at the business incubator and accelerator. The idea originally invited entrepreneurs to divert material from the landfill and convert it into a business product or idea that would result in a new business and new jobs in Flagstaff. The invitation still focuses on diverting material from the landfill, but also invites entrepreneurs to create a business that contributes to carbon neutrality. In 2022, there were two winners: Restoration Soils and Crosswalk Labs.

Restoration Soils is dedicated to recycling all sorts of materials from construction waste to food waste and everything in between. Restoration Soils is growing its business by working directly with area manufacturers specifically food manufacturers that produce material that can be challenging for traditional waste treatment systems. Restoration Soils is growing already as they are developing their systems to meet the needs of industry and of the consumer.

Crosswalk Labs is able to help communities and geographies to meet their climate goals by providing real-time emissions information. So often, people and governments want to know how their efforts and policies are impacting the environment but are not able to get a solid answer to that question. Crosswalk Labs uses its proprietary Vulcan Software to provide real-time data regarding emissions.

While these two businesses continue to grow in Flagstaff, another round of Innovate Waste: The Carbon Neutrality Challenge is in full swing and looking forward to awarding other innovators. It is an exciting time for sustainability and economic development, and Flagstaff has illustrated that these two philosophies can work hand in hand. This concoction has proven to generate compelling results that greatly enhance the economic environment and produce sustainable progress in an efficient and effective way.

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Avondale: Planting The Seeds of Sustainability

What was once a sprawling farm town in Arizona’s West Valley has now grown into a booming city within the modern-day metropolis of the Greater Phoenix area. The City of Avondale has held fast and true to its roots, focusing on long-term, generational growth, and flourishing into the forward-thinking community it is today.

As an eco-conscious city, Avondale businesses are at the forefront of reducing their environmental footprint, opting to operate sustainably. From adopting water-wise landscaping and low-flow water fixtures, switching to energy-efficient LED lighting, and upgrading to EnergyStar appliances to installing rooftop solar panels, sourcing supplies locally and regionally, and creating products from recycled materials, Avondale businesses are certified green!

Going green comes in many shades, as can be seen by the variety of programs and projects the city has implemented. Among them is the Green Business Program. To become “Green Business Certified,” a business must prove they are currently employing sustainable practices in the areas of water conservation, energy conservation, pollution prevention/air quality, and waste reduction/recycling. Businesses complete and submit an application, followed by an on-site visit performed by the City’s Sustainability Office. Upon approval, the business is awarded a framed certificate, signifying the business’ commitment to the community and beyond.

Businesses are encouraged to obtain the certification, making them eligible to receive additional support and promotion from the city. Recipients are featured on the city’s website, included in the quarterly city magazine sent to all Avondale residents and highlighted on the city’s social channels. Additionally, each year, a business is recognized as the Green Business of the Year at the city’s signature event, State of the City, giving them a platform to engage and educate the community at large.

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Among Avondale’s green businesses are trailblazers like OnePointOne, the high-tech, indoor, vertical agriculture business that uses 90% less water than traditional farming, in addition to sophisticated AI robots. Then there are hyper-local, small business owners, like Coldwater Coffeehouse and Bakery, a co-op cafe in Avondale’s Historic Old Town district. Remodeling an old farmhouse with high-efficiency upgrades, and retrofitting the backyard for their regenerative farming practices, these Avondale natives are able to produce fresh farm-to-table ingredients for their customers. Whether businesses are born and bred in Avondale, expand, or relocate to the city, Avondale’s seeds of sustainability will continue to bloom for generations to come.

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