Arizona: Creating The Future

The manufacturing base continues to expand across Arizona, while tech resources support emerging needs.

By Donna Clapp
From the September / October 2023 Issue

In 2021, the State of Arizona, Pinal County, City of Casa Grande, and Central Arizona College opened a new training center aimed at preparing Arizonans for jobs in high-tech industries. This state-of-the-art program, named “Drive48,” features cutting-edge robots and multiple hands-on training rooms where technicians train for jobs in advanced manufacturing.

Drive48 represents a collaboration among government, industry, and academia to bolster the state’s workforce training. The facility serves the state by providing a training center for high-tech manufacturing jobs in fields such as automotive assembly, advanced manufacturing, heavy equipment, and others. Guided by the pioneering spirit of the 48th state, Drive48 steers the next generation of talent to advance skills and power the manufacturing industry.

More recently, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs announced two workforce partnerships to provide advanced skills training in rural areas. The new training programs, known as Future48 Workforce Accelerators, are the first of up to six Future48 Workforce Accelerators to be overseen by the Arizona Commerce Authority in coordination with higher education and industry partners.

These are among the moves in Arizona toward workforce development for manufacturing, technology, and other sectors growing in the state. Arizona has been recognized as a leader in manufacturing employment growth. 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 that month. 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.

Industrial Talent Booms In Arizona

Move over Texas and California. There’s a new leading destination for industrial growth—Arizona. According to an August report from Commercial Edge, the Phoenix area surpassed Dallas-Fort Worth and the Inland Empire in California as having the largest supply pipeline for industrial property, with more than 58.8 million square feet of industrial space under construction.

The authors write, “Phoenix is currently experiencing a manufacturing boom and is receiving an influx of activity from companies that have been pushed out of Southern California.”

Arizona Manufacturing
Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, TSMC Arizona executives, and workers sign a model workplace safety agreement at TSMC’s Phoenix operations on August 4, 2023. (Photo: Arizona Commerce Authority)


That Arizona now boasts the nation’s largest capacity for new industrial facilities should come as no surprise. In recent years, the Grand Canyon state has experienced an explosion of construction jobs, an all-important labor sector powering America’s manufacturing resurgence.

Between 2017 and 2022, Arizona experienced the second-fastest construction employment growth in the country at 35%, behind only Idaho, and more than triple the U.S. rate (Lightcast). Arizona added over 50,000 construction jobs during the five-year period, the fourth most of any state.

The fast-growing state shows no signs of slowing down. The Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity estimates Arizona will add nearly 37,000 construction jobs by 2031. The effort to meet, and exceed, this target is getting help from innovative state programs like the BuildItAZ initiative. The effort, announced by Governor Katie Hobbs in August, aims to double the number of construction and trades registered apprentices in the state by 2026.

“Our fast-growing population and world class universities and colleges combine to make Arizona the nation’s premier workforce destination.”

— Sandra Watson, President/CEO,
Arizona Commerce Authority

“We are working to build the most robust workforce in the nation, unmatched by any other state,” Governor Hobbs stated at the initiative’s rollout.

The event took place at the sprawling construction site of semiconductor leader TSMC, which is investing $40 billion to build two fabs in Phoenix, facilities that will house North America’s most advanced semiconductor technology for mass production. The site supports more than 12,000 local construction workers daily.

Arizona excels at building the high-tech factories of the future, one of many reasons global manufacturers like Intel, TSMC, LG Energy Solution, and Virgin Galactic are advancing projects in the state. Another reason is the state’s premier ability to provide the skilled talent needed to operate these facilities.

Arizona’s three state universities (Arizona State University, The University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University) offer the nation’s largest, single state engineering enrollment. Since 2011, engineering enrollment at Arizona’s universities has grown by over 230% to over 37,000 students, led by ASU, ranked the most innovative university in the country eight years in a row by U.S. News and World Report.

The thousands of Arizona graduates entering the state’s workforce every year are complemented by plenty of new arrivals. Maricopa County, home to the Phoenix area, led the nation in the number of new residents added last year according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Our fast-growing population and world class universities and colleges combine to make Arizona the nation’s premier workforce destination,” said Sandra Watson, President and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority.

As companies across the globe look to the United States to build new factories and warehouses, they are prioritizing speed. Markets that can support fast build-outs and scale talent quickly stand to gain the most. Arizona promises to rise to the top of any decisionmaker’s list.

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