F. Economic Development Element

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The Economic Development Element provides guidance and direction for planning to establish a fully integrated municipal economy providing opportunity for residents to live, work and play. The citizens of Maricopa envision an economically prosperous, dynamic and sustainable community. One that offers a government structure that is welcoming and supportive of business and employment growth. Since incorporation, this vision has been one of the City’s initial goals in an effort to ensure Maricopa is more than yet another bedroom community in Arizona. Jobs, revenue and financial stability contribute to a municipality’s economic health. The Economic Development Element seeks to promote these attributes by planning for increased household incomes, improving the community’s jobs-to-housing balance, and by attracting expanded retail, commercial and industrial business within the City of Maricopa’s target sectors, as updated from time to time in the Strategic Plan for Economic Development.

2040 Vision: Maricopa is an economically prosperous, dynamic and sustainable community. It offers a government structure that is welcoming and supportive of business and employment growth. Members of the Maricopa Community at all levels embrace a shared vision, seeking opportunities to establish collaborative relationships with business, educational, neighboring and regional entities for their mutual benefit and advancing common economic development goals.

Sections of this Element:

  1. Introduction
  2. Assets & Advantages
  3. Economic Challenges
  4. Employment Centers & Corridors

Maricopa is a growing community that offers residents and businesses the experience of a small-town, rural atmosphere, tremendous quality of life, proximity to Phoenix and Tucson, and convenient access to major markets throughout the Southwest. To remain economically healthy over time, the City must recruit, retain and nurture the growth of a wide range of sustainable and competitive businesses.

Historically an agricultural community, Maricopa is emerging as a regional hotbed for the agritech industry. Maricopa is home to a thriving cluster of local agritech businesses and research facilities, including USDA Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center and the University of Arizona Maricopa Agricultural Center. Researchers at these centers are working to develop new technologies and solutions to problems faced by crop consumers and producers. Additionally, leaders in the renewable energy arena have also been drawn to Maricopa. Pinal Energy opened Arizona’s first ethanol plant in Maricopa and the City boasts one of the highest applications of residential solar per capita.

In the automotive industry, Maricopa is helping to pave the way in vehicle research and development. Volkswagen located their North American proving grounds in Maricopa, where they put vehicles to the test under extreme heat, particulates, and solar conditions. Nissan’s proving grounds are located within the planning area.

The General Plan recognizes the importance of retaining local business and fostering expansion. The community is under-served in most every industry group and currently experiences over $280,000,000 in retail leakage. The 2014 Maricopa Citizen Attitude Survey (performed by Raymond Turco & Associates) identifies that the lack of retail/industry was far and away the most frequent response as to the most important issue facing Maricopa. Lack of jobs/economy scored second of the most critical issues facing Maricopa.

The City has many assets to build upon and has focused on both recruitment of new businesses and also providing support and resources to existing businesses. As part of a focused effort to assist small business in the community, Economic Development staff participates in an outreach program to visit local small businesses to identify assistance needs, and share valuable resources and tools. Additionally, the Shop Local program is a multi-year initiative to stem retail leakage by raising awareness of the many benefits of shopping locally and encouraging residents to think of Maricopa first. The campaign is strategically timed to ramp up during the peak shopping seasons. This and a number of other programs are underway.

1. Introduction

Since incorporation, a number of exciting projects have been completed in Maricopa to better position the City to attract new business and employers. The opening of Central Arizona College’s Maricopa Campus, Banner Health Medical Center, a new City Hall and Police Administration building, and the Copper Sky Multigenerational/Aquatics Center and 98-acre Copper Sky Regional Park - a destination for sports, fitness, recreation and leisure activities in Maricopa. It also hosts regional athletic tournaments and community events, including the Salsa Festival, Merry Copa, Science City, Fishing Derby, Great American BBQ and Stagecoach Days. With a projected 500,000 visitors in its first year, it has become the center of activity in Maricopa. Copper Sky will also be a catalyst for economic development. To leverage the regional attractions at the complex and further the goals of the City, 18 acres of highway frontage has been reserved for future commercial and hospitality development. The vision is to transform the property into a high-quality mixed-use destination that compliments the Copper Sky Recreation Complex and delivers significant social and economic impact on the community.

The citizens of Maricopa desire a diverse and sustainable economy through the creation and maintenance of programs and services which expand tourism. Economic Development resources should be devoted to assisting the update of the PTOS Master Plan to align efforts with the Community Services Department. More specifically, to develop and implement strategies to expand tourism through recreation destinations and sporting events with regional and national interest as identified for Goal Objective G2.1.7.

Employment & Business Development Resources

The City has established Maricopa Economic Development Alliance (MEDA), a public-private partnership that supports the economic development efforts of the City. MEDA focuses on bringing together the business, government, education, and civic sectors to identify and advance forward-looking policies that facilitate investment, growth and workforce development. Another important resource established by the City is the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE), which is a local business incubator organization dedicated to assisting small businesses grow. These are accomplishments stemming from recommendations of the 2006 General Plan. MEDA and MCE will be instrumental in providing resources to accomplish many of the Economic Development Element goals and objectives.

The City engages other resources that are also instrumental in meeting the educational, training, and employment goals of the 2040 Vision and General Plan. Arizona Workforce Connection, a statewide system of workforce development partners, and Central Arizona College have partnered to create a one-stop center that provides a range of free services for Pinal County employers seeking access to skilled new hires or existing worker training resources.

Arizona Apprenticeship is a voluntary, industry-driven system of on-the-job training and related technical instruction, approved by the State of Arizona, sponsored by employers, employer associations, and jointly by management and labor.

Goal F1.1: Cultivate a climate of rich educational opportunities at all levels which support economic growth (refer to Schools for additional goals and objectives)
Objective F1.1.1: Partner with education institutions at all levels to develop competency-based academic programs tied to current and projected industry needs.
Objective F1.1.2: Prioritize recruitment of companies with incentivized training and education programs for their workforce.
Objective F1.1.3: Provide training that connects available retiree and senior workforce and skill sets with existing needs in the community.
Goal F1.2: Provide responsive and high-quality services and process support for businesses at all stages of growth
Objective F1.2.1: Enhance direct business support and training services through organizations such as small business development centers, chambers of commerce, and business incubators.
Objective F1.2.2: Solicit direct involvement of the business community in defining the language and intent of new rules and regulations.
Objective F1.2.3: Establish digital resource pages dedicated to issues affecting the startup of a business such as potential lending sources, how to write a business plan, what to do as the business expands or contracts, and where to look for business growth opportunities.
Objective F1.2.4: Develop programs that educate business owners and entrepreneurs on the basic components of operating a business, how to plan for growth, and how to structure a new or restructure an existing company.
Objective F1.2.5: Raise awareness of business assistance services offered by economic development organizations and government offices that work with businesses.
Objective F1.2.6: Establish a comprehensive resource center providing vocational counseling, job-readiness and placement assistance services that connect employers to a well-prepared labor force.
Objective F1.2.7: Proactively look to other communities and economic development organizations for best practices in business support programs and services.
Objective F1.2.8: Engage with the business community to identify shared concerns.
Objective F1.2.9: Streamline and simplify governmental permitting processes to assist businesses in locating or expanding within the community.
Objective F1.2.10: Develop a report or analysis of existing businesses, their growth potential, their current and anticipated needs and how they can be promoted for future growth.
Objective F1.2.11: Use local and statewide economic development agencies and tools to make the City a more competitive business location, to encourage private sector investment to create new jobs and expand the local tax base.

2. Assets and Advantages

The discussion below reviews Maricopa’s assets and ties these assets to specific areas of comparative advantage.

Whereas definitive data is hard to come by, and conditions are changing due to growth and an aging population, data and estimates from Census 2010 and the City of Maricopa 2013 Labor Survey allow for general comparisons. It should be noted that current data is not available, the figures included herein represent a ‘snapshot’ in recent history, and that steady growth has produced changes in the workforce, with particular emphasis on growth in the construction and retail sectors.

The labor study again identifies that the City of Maricopa has a highly educated and skilled workforce. This beneficial attribute will prove to be a positive economic development asset.

Nearly 80% of employed residents work outside of Maricopa, though residents desire to work closer to home or within the community. This is a great strength Maricopa offers to attract new business and should be leveraged in recruiting efforts. Additionally, Maricopa has an exceptionally educated workforce with incomes well above average. A Labor Survey was performed in 2013 and found the following competitive advantages:

  • Compared to the Greater Phoenix region, Maricopa has a relatively large percentage of residents in high wage jobs, earning between $50,000 and $100,000.
  • Maricopa has a relatively abundant concentration of residents with either a bachelor’s or graduate level degree.
  • Most residents own homes which facilitates workforce stability.
  • Maricopa residents currently work in a variety of industries, but when compared to the Greater Phoenix region relatively more work within higher value added (i.e. higher wage) industries such as manufacturing, finance and insurance, and medical professions. The community also has a relatively high concentration of engineers.
  • The above average workforce also commutes a longer distance to work. Many would prefer to be closer to home as new business development occurs. 85% of those not already working in Maricopa would take a similar job closer to home. 44% would change careers.
  • 97% favor employer recruitment.

Household Income

Household IncomeIncome and years of education are prime proxies to gauge skill level. Maricopa has a relatively large percentage of residents in high wage jobs (earning between $50,000 and $100,000) compared to the greater Phoenix area. As of 2014, the median household income was $58,338.

Goal F2.1: Recruit high performing and high quality companies that match the labor profile in the community and / or complement existing industries.
Objective F2.1.1: Ensure all future development infrastructures include fiber-optic and other desirable telecommunication facilities and utilities.
Objective F2.1.2: Partner with local Nissan and Volkswagen leadership to identify opportunities for, and recruit ancillary and complementary businesses, technology, and research and development firms to build upon the existing automotive industry in Maricopa.
Objective F2.1.3: Leverage existing uses and industries to pursue agritech and alternative energy related businesses to expand the “clean and green” portfolio within the City.
Objective F2.1.4: Undertake a detailed employment study to more specifically identify existing resident’s occupations, education, and skill sets to develop a strategically targeted business recruitment campaign.
Objective F2.1.5: Recruit services and industries that fill a gap in local business offerings and support other business activity.
Objective F2.1.6: Create and maintain a business attraction and expansion marketing program promoting the business climate of Maricopa.
Objective F2.1.7: Use local and statewide economic development agencies and tools to make the City a more competitive business location, to encourage private sector investment to create new jobs and expand the local tax base.

Labor Force

Maricopa offers employers access to a talented local workforce with a larger than average workforce-aged population. Maricopa’s labor pool is both young (average age of 31.2) and educated, with 46% holding a bachelor’s degree or advanced degree, and an astounding 89% having at least some college education.

Residents of Maricopa are employed in a wide distribution of industries represented with manufacturing, retail, finance / professional services, education, and medical / healthcare each having at least 10% of the employed residents. Most of these industries equate to higher wages for employees. Conversely, there is very little reported employment within categories such as restaurant/hospitality which has relatively low wages. Compared to the metro Phoenix as a whole, Maricopa has a higher percentage of manufacturing employment but a lower percentage of professional services.

Employment Characteristics

Figure 10 – Employment Commute Statistics (Graph 1)

Location Advantages

Maricopa’s proximity to the Phoenix metropolitan area produced a major residential growth spurt driving substantial population growth and associated growth in demand for consumer goods. SR-347 provides critical access to Maricopa from the Phoenix metropolitan area, serving as an “economic conduit” for the community. Maricopa serves as an intervening opportunity for almost all traffic to or from Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino and Ultra Star Multi-tainment Center.


Located between Phoenix and Tucson, Maricopa offers convenient access to major markets throughout the Southwest. Interstate 10, the southernmost coast-to-coast highway in the United States, is just 15 minutes from Maricopa along SR- 347 and directly connects to Phoenix, Tucson, and Los Angeles. Interstate 8, immediately south of Maricopa, runs west to San Diego and merges with Interstate 10 to the east. Maricopa is also centrally located along SR-238 and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway which provides east-west connections to Gila Bend and Casa Grande through Maricopa’s central business corridor.

According to the CAG RTP, Pinal County is strategically positioned to take advantage of the emphasis on the Sun Corridor, and northwest of Casa Grande (Maricopa) has been determined potentially viable as a warehousing mixing center. Potential I-11 through Maricopa’s planning area would enhance this opportunity for truck freight services and other trucking related facilities (e.g., servicing facilities, distributions warehouses, etc.)


Between 45 and 55 freight trains operate daily through Maricopa along the Union Pacific Railroad’s Sunset Route. This route carries nearly 20% of Union Pacific’s total freight traffic and stretches from Los Angeles to El Paso. In Maricopa, the route parallels the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and there are many available commercial and industrial zoned sites with potential for rail-to-site. See Section II E. Circulation & Connectivity E4.2.2 for additional goals and objectives.

Maricopa also offers passenger rail access and is the greater Phoenix area’s Amtrak hub. Amtrak’s Orlando-Los Angeles Sunset Limited has a scheduled stop in Maricopa, the only stop in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Refer to Goal E4.2 of the Circulation & Connectivity Element for heavy rail transportation strategies.


Maricopa is just 32 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, one of the 10 busiest airports in the United States. More than 100,000 passengers, 1,200 aircraft, and 800 tons of cargo pass through Sky Harbor each day. The airport is served by 17 major airlines with daily service to 80 domestic and 20 international destinations. Locally, the City is conveniently served by two smaller airports. The Ak-Chin Regional Airport is a publicly-owned public-use airport located in the eastern most portion of the City of Maricopa planning area, and directly abuts the City’s incorporated boundary. The airport site also is home to a number of local manufacturing and aviation related businesses and provides a local source for employment and commerce, though currently outside of corporate limits.

The second local airport is the Estrella Sailport, located in the northeast planning area and also abutting the city’s incorporated boundaries. Estrella Sailport is a privately owned public-use glider airport located seven miles west of Maricopa’s central business district. The airport covers an area of 640 acres and was the recommended site for City operated airport facilities in a 2007 Airport Feasibility and Site Selection Study performed on behalf of the City. Estrella Sailport is home to one of the largest glider training facilities in the United States and provides a unique opportunity for travel and tourism to Maricopa. Refer to Goal E4.3 of the Circulation & Connectivity Element for air transportation strategies.

Other Advantages


  • Desert climate; mild winters

Natural Environment

  • Wide-open spaces, beautiful views, night-sky viewing
  • Maintains high-level of environmental quality

Transportation Network

  • Situated on SR-347
  • Access to interstate highway network (I-10 and I-8)
  • Direct access to transcontinental Union Pacific Railroad
  • Amtrack Station


  • Low to moderate housing costs, attainable housing
  • Small-town ambiance, safety, quality of life
  • Easy access to nearby metropolitan goods, services and amenities.


  • Easy access to Central Arizona labor market
  • Easy access to goods and services regionally and nationally
  • Low to moderate site and operating costs
  • Land available for development; land zoned for Industrial and Commercial use

3. Economic Challenges

All communities and regions have obstacles to overcome and Maricopa is no exception. Some of these challenges are clearly more correctable than others.

Under-Served Population. Some of Maricopa’s biggest needs are for expanded retail services and medical facilities. Presently, residents demand for consumer goods and full-service medical services are met outside Maricopa, thereby economically ‘leaking’ revenues to other communities.

Proximity to Metropolitan Phoenix. This is a double-edged sword. The fact that Maricopa is near Phoenix means that it is in direct competition with Phoenix’s greater commercial sectors. The other edge of the sword being identified as a Phoenix-metro city significantly enhances market credibility.

Under-Utilized Commercial Centers and Corridors. SR-347 provides a central primary business corridor for the City. Significant improvements are in progress to enhance this corridor, both functionally and aesthetically with the funding of the SR-347 Overpass. This overpass along with proper planning of the surrounding land will provide greater connectivity between the Heritage District and Gin Site industrial park, to the anticipated Copper Sky Mixed-use development and larger contiguous commercial parcels of land along 347, south of the railroad tracks. The overpass alone will not ripen these corridor properties for development as they remain in the floodplain and are therefore less advantageous for development.

The City’s Economic Development potential is greatly limited due to a lack of available commercial, office, and industrial space in the commercial corridor. This condition will likely remain until a floodplain solution is implemented for the Vekol tributary. Refer to Section II H2.f Flood Control for additional details.

Work/Residence Separation. The metropolitan Phoenix employment centers drain off local demand for goods and services because of a combination of work commuting and shopping trips. The lack of local industry and retail businesses currently robs Maricopa of a potential tax base. The Goals and Objectives within this element are intended to address this reality to the benefit of the City.

4. Employment Centers & Corridors

Figure 5 Maricopa Growth Area & Employment map identifies lands within the community along the major transportation corridors that are suitable for employment based uses. Many of these sites have necessary industrial zoning to support major manufacturing, office, research and development and similar activities. Both existing employment areas, including the motor vehicle test facilities of Volkswagen and Nissan, and recommended future sites are included. By in-large, the SR-347 corridor offers the greatest opportunity for expanded retail and services in the near-term, based on existing infrastructure and accessibility. Once completed, the planned overpass improvement at the UPRR intersection could accelerate development south of the railroad tracks. Refer to Section II B3. Heritage District Redevelopment Area for additional economic goals and objectives.

Public-Private Partnerships

Employment CenterMaricopa will continue to explore opportunities to engage in public-private partnerships that leverage City and private resources for the purpose of generating a positive economic return (2040 Vision Strategy). The City has proactively engaged in public private partnerships to stimulate economic development through the acquisition of key parcels of land located within the existing Growth Areas and economic corridors. The Gin Site is a planned light industrial and R&D office complex situated in the Redevelopment Area, with convenient access to the SR-238 and SR-347 transportation corridors. The City has contracted with a private firm to develop, operate, and manage the initial phase of this development.

The Gin Site is also designated for a future transportation center adjacent to the UPRR lines, and to include a park-n-ride facility, future transit hub for the region, the only Amtrak stop serving the Phoenix Metro area, and is planned for a rail spur line to support rail oriented industry for the business park. The Gin Site, along with the adjacent Heritage District Redevelopment Area is likely to be the central hub of activity in Maricopa in the coming decade and is planned for transportation, employment, and entertainment related mixed-use and transit oriented development. This area is the first developing urban village core area designated within Maricopa. Refer to Goal E4.1 of the Circulation & Connectivity Element for Transportation Center strategies (Goal B3.1.4).

Goal F4.1: Fast track the development and redevelopment programs for the Estrella Gin Site and the abutting Heritage District Redevelopment Area to create available commercial space and shovel ready sites
Objective F4.1.1: Plan and entitle (Zone and plat) the Estrella Gin Site business park land to market as shovel ready industrial sites for public/private development.
Objective F4.1.2: Remove the Estrella Gin Site and the Heritage District Redevelopment Area from the 100-Year Floodplain
Objective F4.1.3: Update the Redevelopment Area Plan (RDA) to ensure effective urban design accounting for the impacts from changes that have occurred overtime, such as the SR-347 overpass project, relocation of City Hall, Estrella Gin, etc.
Objective F4.1.4: Implement economic development strategies and related recommendations of the RDA, in lieu of an update to the RDA.

Another Public-Private Partnership is a very high-profile mixed-use development site located along the SR-347 frontage, adjacent to the Copper Sky Regional Park and Multigenerational Complex.

Goal F4.2: Plan and facilitate a joint public-private venture to develop the Copper Sky Commercial Site.
Objective F4.2.1: Build upon the Town Hall Visioning Session for the Vekol Site and preliminary plan and design concepts and entitle (Zone and plat) the Copper Sky Mixed Use Site to market as shovel ready sites for public/private development. This may include Final Plat, removal from the 100 year floodplain designation, rezoning, and site plan approval.
Objective F4.2.2: Consider a partnership with the abutting commercial corner site to develop a comprehensive design plan that is transit oriented and offers a rich sense of place and destination for the surrounding area.

The PEED property is another parcel owned by the City and is located along the SR-238 industrial corridor. The site is currently used for storage of public works asphalt millings and is located within the 100-Year floodplain. Further planning and entitlement is necessary to market the parcel to potential users.

Goal F4.3: To be a community recognized by site selectors as having developable shovel ready sites and the tools to satisfy the needs of companies in our targeted industries.
Objective F4.3.1: Partner in the development of office space.
Objective F4.3.2: Include mixed-uses in development of City Center.
Goal F4.4: Establish Maricopa as a regional leader in economic development with properly aligned resources and tools.
Objective F4.4.1: Update the City’s Economic Development Strategic Plan and incorporate the 2040 Vision Strategic Plan Goals and Strategies.
Objective F4.4.2: Align existing organizations such as MEDA and Chamber of Commerce business development and recruitment efforts.
Objective F4.4.3: Strengthen Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program to focus on high wage employers to understand identify their business partnerships.
Objective F4.4.4: Continue to build internal resources and organizational capacity for economic development to achieve and implement the Goals and Objectives of the Economic Development Element.
Goal F4.5: Effectively market and position the City as a top of mind destination for new investment opportunities among key target sectors and audiences.
Objective F4.5.1: Leverage and expand existing local partners for internal awareness campaign.
Objective F4.5.2: Cooperate with non-profit, education, and economic development groups to advance local, regional, and statewide economic and workforce development initiatives.
Objective F4.5.3: Market externally by leveraging regional and national partners for targeted marketing and recruitment. Partner with area communities, local jurisdictions, Pinal County economic development efforts, Central Arizona Association of Governments (CAAG), Central Arizona Economic Development Foundation and possibly the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) and Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), to promote Maricopa’s uniqueness and connectivity to the larger region.
Goal F4.6: To be known as a community with a unique quality of place within the region that attracts businesses and a diverse workforce.
Objective F4.6.1: Leverage educational & workforce partners.
Objective F4.6.2: Continue targeting retail and entertainment concepts.
Objective F4.6.3 Enhance place assets for tourism and talent attraction.