Forward-thinking Cities Harness Tech and Innovation Energy

Donna-KennedyThought Leader Q & A with Donna Kennedy, Tempe Economic Development Director |

Tempe’s innovative spirit runs deep – starting with the city’s founder more than a century ago and continuing today with cutting-edge tech businesses, a world-class university lauded for research and innovation, and a rising tide of entrepreneurs. As the state’s “Silicon Desert” reputation continues to grow, Tempe Economic Development Director Donna Kennedy talks about the city’s successes and what makes the larger Phoenix East Valley region so attractive for tech companies looking to launch, expand or relocate.

What makes Tempe a hub for tech and innovation?

Tempe has been the favorite home for innovators since 1894, when our community was founded by Charles Trumbull Hayden, who created a business out of finding a safe way to cross a then-raging river and then harnessing that river’s energy to mill grains.  That innovative spirit has been imbued in our community spirit. Since our city’s birth, we have been the home to some of the most original, daring, and smart companies large and small.

Tempe is an attractive choice today for many reasons:

  • The cluster of like-minded businesses allows companies to collaborate, share resources, and find the best talent.
  • An active downtown full of historic buildings, restaurants and shops, just steps away from a lake for boating and a mountain for hiking.
  • Creative arts and sports offerings, with college sports, theater, Spring Training baseball, and public art.
  • Arizona State University provides not only research and development partnerships, but also thousands of qualified workforce members who are available for internships or jobs.

How is the tech sector spurring economic development in the city?

There are more than 18,000 tech jobs in Tempe. Beyond the investment that tech companies make in our community in terms of locating here, the tech sector provides high quality, high paying jobs. These jobs allow people to spend in our community, whether for gas or lunch or for improvements to their homes. Tech companies also work with other businesses to buy goods and services.

What can cities do to better position themselves for attracting tech companies?

The most important resource for most tech companies is staff. By having the kinds of amenities that people like, such as good housing, exceptional leisure facilities and strong education opportunities, a community can begin to attract tech companies.

Incubators and co-working spaces, as well as a variety of low-cost office space, can help new ideas eventually become big companies. It’s why in Tempe, we opened BRiC, Tempe’s Business Resource and Innovation Center, as well as FABRIC, Tempe’s fashion incubator.

How is the Phoenix East Valley region poised for more growth as a tech and innovation center?

There is something for everyone in the East Valley. From cities with land available for large campuses to cities with urban opportunities, the Phoenix East Valley is a tremendous place for tech companies large and small. Our freeway system and transit options make it very easy to commute from one area to the next.

Why is a robust tech and innovation sector vital for the region as a whole?

Tech is today’s world and will be tomorrow’s. The economy and workforce is changing. More tech in a community means stronger, lasting companies, and companies that create products that can change the world for the better. Tech changes which products and services are needed and how they are received. A forward-thinking community with a lot of tech can be at the forefront of those changes.

Learn more about this thriving PHX East Valley community here.