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June 17, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

AZ Technology and Innovation: Mesa High Tech Corridor

  |   Video
  • The city of Mesa is looking to set up a high-tech corridor on land near the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and a factory owned by Apple Inc. Mesa City Councilman Scott Somers and Barry Broome, President and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, will discuss the proposal for a new high-tech corridor in Mesa.
  • Scott Somers - City Councilman, Mesa
  • Barry Broome - President and CEO, Greater Phoenix Economic Council
Category: Technology   |   Keywords: technology, innovation, mesa, arizona, tech, corridor, land,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona Technology and Innovation looks at the city of Mesa's efforts to set up a high-tech corridor near the Phoenix-Mesa gateway airport and Apple's new manufacturing plant. Here with more on the plan is Mesa city councilman Scott Somers, and Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. Good to have you both here. Mesa -- is this like what they have in Chandler, something similar in Mesa?

Scott Somers: Chandler is certainly an inspiration. They have had tremendous success in that community, we hope to replicated it with all of the advantages we have in the Mesa gateway area.

Ted Simons: Let’s talk about exactly where this is. It is out by both Apple and Gateway correct?

Barry Broome: Correct, it’s going to be, obviously Price Road set the tone for the advanced industry and manufacturing corridor in the east valley. That is a maturing corridor. We need to continue to drive that kind of investment in the market. This new corridor will take advantage of the Grand Canyon investment that is being made in Mesa. It leverages Arizona State University at Polytechnic, which is becoming a spectacular educational institution. Phoenix Mesa Gateway, juxtaposed between two airports, and hopefully we will get additional opportunities because of Apple's presence.

Ted Simons: I think we have a map here. It is obviously going to be called the Elliott Road Corridor. What is there now?

Scott Somers: What we have right now is tremendous infrastructure assets. We have water, wastewater, sewer. We have dark fiber, available for communications. We have significant infrastructure from SRP in power. And that is one of the biggest assets that we have had to help attract Apple, because companies like that need to have a power supply.

Ted Simons: And, but, again, is this empty land right now? Is this waiting for something to happen here?

Scott Somers: It is shovel ready land. That is what this process is trying to do. And so what we have created is a zoning overlay that matches the vision that Mesa has created over really the past six to eight years to say we want development, but one of the road blocks oftentimes is how long that process takes to go from land through zoning and permitting. We are trying to cut that down, too.

Ted Simons: How much are you cutting that down? How much input are you going to have now?

Scott Somers: Essentially what we're doing, cutting potentially months off of this process by taking this corridor and creating a zoning overlay and what that would say is that if you bring in another Apple or big company, rather than having to go through an entire zoning process, we're going to do that up front, put the zoning in place, and if you bring in this company and match the -- match the vision, all you have to do is sign the paperwork and the zoning is enacted.

Ted Simons: What if I have my eye on the Elliott Road Corridor and I don't match the vision.

Scott Somers: Well, you, as a property owner, you still have the right to go through the zoning process. So, if you want to do big-box stores, you have the right to come to the city council, go through the planning department, come to city council and say this is my vision for this property, and here is why I think it is better.

Ted Simons: These overlay ideas, and getting everyone on the same page for something like this particular industry, how important is that?

Barry Broome: Well, what it does, and in the case of Mesa, a similar model that we used around Eastmark with the DMV development over there. We went from Gaylord, where we were able to convert Apple almost in the same planning exercise. What you want to be able to do with developers, your development partner has to be the right partner. You have to have the right development partners at the table, people like D.L. Withers, east valley, doing good things in that community for a long time, and you want to create a vision around the development. And then you want to give the flexibility for people to make decisions. In the case of Apple, we had, you know, to make decisions on land and variances. We had to deliver permits within six days. What Mesa did with DMV at Eastmark, made it accessible for us to move as quickly as we needed. Timing market issues on development really important in the next three to five years.

Ted Simons: In terms of protecting land out near Gateway, how difficult is that?

Barry Broome: I will tell you, they have done a great job. Mesa has done a great job. We catch a lot of heat, you know, protecting employment centers is really the most important planning objective that should occur within our communities. There is always a temptation to move real estate in a quick turn because there is pressure on people to get returns, but the communities have both a right and a responsibility to maintain the employment corridors.

Ted Simons: We are seeing a map right there. Mesa technology corridor runs east/west there from apple over to the 202. You see obviously the airport, ASU Polytech to the south. Is this basically a natural process now that the price as Barry calls it maturing, but there is probably not a heck of a lot available there and all of the sudden you have Elliott road ready to go.

Scott Somers: Certainly the east valley is growing. Chandler -- eventually that is going to build out. There are going to be more opportunities in Chandler and Tempe as they go vertical in some instances. But really what this is is a realization that this area, which we have dreamed for a long time was going to be a high-growth employment corridor is finally coming into its own with the investment of infrastructure.

Barry Broome: Yeah, and it’s overbuilt infrastructure. One of the things that communities do too often, they build their infrastructure too small. What I really like about this corridor is that it is -- it is really overbuilt. It will be able to handle an Apple plant, a TESLA, any kind of infrastructure from a power/water stand point can be met in this corridor. There are also great services coming out of the east valley community. Mesa in particular. Water and sewer, utility folks, are very well respected. SRP, you know, was actually under construction for Apple before Apple closed on the building. So, there is a great infrastructure. It is overbuilt, which we prefer, and there is a mindset to get things done.

Ted Simons: What are homeowners saying in the area? It looked like the height requirement was 150, restriction feet along those lines. Are there many homeowners out there, and, secondly, if there are, what are they saying?

Scott Somers: They're saying that they enjoy the jobs, and, of course, they're looking at the plan to make sure that their home investment is protected. But you have a natural barrier here with the power line, so it creates several hundred feet of buffer between these buildings and those homes.

Ted Simons: Power line to the north, south, east, west --

Ted Simons: Well, it would be to the south of the homes and to the north of the --

Ted Simons: And as far as a time table for this new ordinance, overlay, what are we looking at here?

Scott Somers: Right now we are going to go through the zoning process. The public will have an opportunity to look at it and make comment. So the next few months, we -- we should see it. Probably by September.

Ted Simons: Idea of focusing, last question here, focusing an area on one industry in particular, at least the trending -- is there a danger there? What happens if the next mouse trap is built and all of the sudden we're looking at all of these things that are close to -- you know, little far-fetched there, but can you have too much of the same thing in one spot?

Barry Broome: Well, you can, but, you know, I will give you an example. If you build the infrastructure right and you do the right things -- you know, we had first solar, 1.2 million square foot facility. When the company restructured because of solar demand and other challenges in the industry, one thing that we said to Mesa officials, we have the best piece of infrastructure in the United States, who would have dreamt it would have turned into Apple. Staying in the advanced manufacturing space is always the right strategy, too. And, you know, these industries like to be with each other. They like to be next to each other. They like to share precompetitive relationships around technology and manufacturing processes. You have to commit yourself to it and be disciplined and maintaining the planning and zoning objectives of the corridor.

Ted Simons: Alright, the Elliott Road Corridor. We will keep an eye on that. Good to have you both here.

Scott & Barry: Thank you.

Five-Year Freeway Plan

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  • The State Transportation Board recently voted to move forward with Arizona’s Five-year Transportation Facilities Construction Program. The vote gives the go ahead to work on six major road projects in Pima County and four in Maricopa County. Scott Omer, Director of the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Multimodal Planning Division, will discuss the plans.
  • Scott Omer - Director, Arizona Department of Transportation’s Multimodal Planning Division
Category: Government   |   Keywords: government, freeway, plan, five year, arizona, vote,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The state transportation board recently voted to move forward with a five-year highway construction program. The vote gives the go-ahead for major projects in Maricopa and Pima counties. Scott Omer is the director of the Arizona department of transportation's multimodal planning division. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Scott Omer: Thank you.

Ted Simons: This is a five-year highway construction program and basically it was okayed, correct?

Scott Omer: That's true. The department itself develops the five-year program on an annual basis. We prepare that for our state transportation board to approve it. The department's responsibility is to prepare the projects that we would like to see constructed, transportation board passed by statute with approving and adopting the program.

Ted Simons: Basically blueprint.

Scott Omer: Yes, this is our implementation plan for the year. It is like our business plan of what types of specific transportation projects we want to build in this year.

Ted Simons: And specifically and important to note here, designates funding, correct?

Scott Omer: It does, yes, it does.

Ted Simons: We’ll look at some of the projects in Maricopa county especially and some of the concerns regarding funding, but it looks like there is an emphasis on preserving existing highways, am I reading that right?

Scott Omer: That is true. When we went through the recession, glad that it is starting to turn around a little bit, a huge reduction in the amount of funding available for transportation projects nationwide and it hit Arizona very hard. We reduced our total funding for transportation by hundreds of millions of dollars, and, you know, last year it was $350 million. We had to take funding away from our program. As a result of that, it really has made the department focus and put an emphasis on taking care of our existing transportation system, and preserving our assets. So, preservation of the system doesn't necessarily excite a lot of people, but it is our responsibility to take care of our existing pavement and bridges that we have.

Ted Simons: It looks like a 3% increase in preservation funding, something along those lines?

Scott Omer: We are trying to target the preservation program to make sure that we're keeping our existing infrastructure acceptable.

Ted Simons: Is there some plan for a steady increase over the years ahead?

Scott Omer: We developed -- this is our first year of developing a tenure place five-year plan, which means we have to be specific on the amount of funding, and the next five years we plan out the types of projects that we want to see. We increased the amount of preservation funds in that timeframe.

Ted Simons: Before we get to these, discuss if you will, your relationship with the Maricopa Association of Governments, with MAG -- did they decide and did you implement? How does that work?

Scott Omer: We have a great relationship with Maricopa Association of Governments, or MAG. Their responsibility is to identify the specific projects they would like to see constructed in the time frame and our responsibility at ADOT is implement those. But it is their responsibility to choose the projects and we work very, very well together.

Ted Simons: The south mountain freeway, $1.4 billion allocated for construction and we don't even know where that is going to be, do we?

Scott Omer: The study will be completed at the end of the year and it will give the specifics about exactly where the project is and how we're going to be implemented over the long term. We have a good idea. The project is not new. It has been around for a long time. People understand where the alignment is probably going to be. But we can't say the specific alignment until the study is completed at the end of the year.

Ted Simons: You have to make sure that the money is there once it is completed.

Scott Omer: Exactly right. We can't build anything without the funding in place.

Ted Simons: Looks like Grand Avenue and Bell Road interchange as well.
Scott Omer: We have $30 million allocated for that specific interchange. Any time you look at an interchange, traffic interchange in an urbanized area, such as along Grand Avenue, it is a large cost. You have utilities to relocate and right of way to purchase. Any time you look at construction in those areas, the cost is pretty high.

Ted Simons: Loop 303, I-10 interchange, along with I-10, 32nd street all the way to loop 202. Those projects will cost money as well. Money being the operative word. Talk about how the projects are prioritized especially with funding so difficult these days.

Scott Omer: MAG prioritizes those projects. On a statewide basis, we link long-range plan with the capitol program and prioritize projects based on system performance, similar to the way that MAG would do it. We let system performance dictate where we should invest our limited amount of revenue on to the projects themselves.

Ted Simons: Describe system performance. What does that mean?

Scott Omer: To me it is a combination of the condition of your assets. What does your payment look like and what do your bridge conditions look like? Do you have congestion? Do you have sufficient resources to maintain and preserve? You put all those together and that’s system performance.

Ted Simons: You referred to this earlier. The impact of what seems to be stagnant vehicle tax, stagnant gas tax revenue, decreased federal funding, that’s almost got to be topic A over there isn’t it?

Scott Omer: It is. Honestly, if we continue to have just the existing transportation revenue that we have today it is going to be very hard to expand our transportation system. We will be preserving and maintaining it for years and years. If we don't come up with a new revenue stream, we are not going to be able to expand our system the way we would like to and the way we need to. The department, through the effort called the key commerce corridors, we’ve started to identify a potential for a new revenue stream. We completed a study. It is on our web page. Hopefully we will have an opportunity to speak with the public more about it. We need to look at investing in our transportation system. We're talking like a $20 billion investment over the next 20 years to really get us focused on bringing jobs to our economy. That is what we should be doing. That is part of the transportation's mission, too.

Ted Simons: We certainly have the next five years a better indication of what is going to happen there in terms of funding and construction. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

Scott Omer: Thank you.

Sustainability: Water and Growth

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  • Arizona Municipal Water Users Association Executive Director Kathleen Ferris will discuss why groundwater cannot sustain Arizona’s growth. She will talk about why the state needs to limit new wells, curb groundwater use for new residential subdivisions, and promote smart growth on land with access to renewable water supplies.
  • Kathleen Ferris - Executive Director, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association
Category: Sustainability   |   Keywords: sustainability, water, growth, supplies, groundwater, limit, wells,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: In our continuing look at sustainability, we focus tonight on Arizona's groundwater supplies. Joining us to talk about groundwater preservation ideas is Kathleen Ferris, executive director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association. Good to have you here.

Kathleen Ferris: Thank you for inviting me.

Ted Simons: Groundwater can't sustain Arizona growth.

Kathleen Ferris: Absolutely not.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Talk to me more.

Kathleen Ferris: So in 1980 , landmark law, groundwater management act, we did it because we were mining our groundwater supplies at alarming rates. Groundwater is a finite supply. It is not renewable. What we have to do is use that as a savings account not on growth dependent on water day in and day out.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask about that. The 100-year assured water plan, supposed to make sure that you can build it but you have to find it and it has to be there for -- is that not working?

Kathleen Ferris: No, it is working fabulously. The problem is as we grow more, there will be more and more pressure to find new water supplies to sustain that growth. And the choice is not to go back on pumping groundwater, the choice is to find other renewable water supplies, build infrastructure and to drive growth to where the renewable water supplies are.

Ted Simons: What are we seeing as far as new wells right now? Is it going crazy out there?

Kathleen Ferris: Most of them are in California drilling -- most of the well drillers are in central California drilling wells. The reason it is not going crazy here is because we have the groundwater management act. New wells are highly regulated, but what we have -- the bigger problem is that we have people that have rights that predated the groundwater code or have new permits to withdraw groundwater, and they get to withdraw groundwater and they don't have to replenish it or any way transfer to renewable water supplies.

Ted Simons: Some home building in Chino valley concern for folks regarding the Verde river and reservoirs there. Talk to us about that.

Kathleen Ferris: That is a real difficult situation. The Prescott area needs imported water in order to not -- in order to achieve the goals of the groundwater code, which is safe-wield, no more water is pumped out than is replenished annually. They're allowed under state law to pump groundwater in a different basin and transport it –the problem is the groundwater is connected to the base flow of the Verde river, and the Verde river, as you know, supplies water to the Salt River Project and eventually to member cities, Arizona municipal water users cities.

Ted Simons: You talk about the fact some of this is grandfathered in. How deep in the weeds do you get with some of these things? Drilling here, you’re worried about there.

Kathleen Ferris: Here is the thing. The groundwater code started where we were. And then -- and grandfathered in users and tried to move forward prospectively. We were overdrafting our groundwater supplies in the central Arizona area by 2.5 million acre feet when the groundwater code was passed. That is enough water to serve like -- well, tons of people. It is ridiculous amount of water. Acre foot will serve 2 1/2 households. Today our overdraft is 178,000 acre feet. That shows you how successful we have been. We have been phenomenally successful. But there are pressures. There are pressures because all of those residual pumpers are going to continue to pump and the department of water resources projects that we will be in overdraft by about 200,000 acre feet by 2025. That is enough water to serve 1,000 people.

Ted Simons: What is the answer for this? What -- in terms of management, in terms of finding new water sources?

Kathleen Ferris: The answers in my mind are this. First of all we have to put limits on where new wells can be drilled. We have to stop people from being able to drill wells that impact water supplies stored underground by other users. We have a law that allows you to store excess -- treated wastewater underground, and that is a great thing, but the law also allows the person who stored that underground to go somewhere else to pump it. So, there is this disconnect between where the water is stored and where it is pumped, and this will eventually exacerbate our groundwater problems. We have to close that disconnect. We have to push people to withdraw the water where they store it. We've also got to in advance of growth find renewable water supplies and build the infrastructure to bring it where it is needed.

Ted Simons: Describe renewable water supplies.

Kathleen Ferris: Renewable water supplies are surface water supplies, and treated wastewater. Believe it or not. Which is becoming a huge source of water.

Ted Simons: I know that this is necessary -- doesn't necessarily deal with what you are talking about. Sierra Vista -- everyone wants to keep the San Pedro river as it is. But you have a development down there and a judge kind of threw a monkey wrench into everything saying, yeah, groundwater is one thing, but you can't mess up the river, too. What was that all about?

Kathleen Ferris: Here is what it is about. There is something called the general stream of -- determine when you can pump groundwater and when that affects stream flow. It has never been resolved. The department of water resources issued a permit, certificate of insured water supply to this development to pump groundwater. The Federal Government and San Pedro area have a reserved right under federal law to surface water. The question is will that pumping affect that reserved right? The judge said we don't like what the department did. We feel like this reserved right needs to be protected, and we don't want to see land owners 20 years down the road not having any water.

Ted Simons: Right, right. Last question here, is there the political will to address this issue and to say no when people want to continue or add wells?

Kathleen Ferris: There has to be. Absolutely has to be. Our economic prosperity depends on the -- keeping the groundwater code in place. And managing our water supplies for the future. And we have done such a good job. We would be so foolish if we -- if we changed what we have. We have to enhance it, make it better.

Ted Simons: All right. Great information. Good stuff. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Kathleen Ferris: You're welcome. Thank you.