Episode 133

True Economic Development Provides an Opportunity for Everyone to be Successful with Ken Chapa


June 17th, 2024

23 mins 39 secs

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About this Episode

In this episode of the Econ Dev Show Podcast, Dane Carlson sits down with Ken Chapa, the Director of Economic Development and Tourism for the City of Avondale, Arizona, a thriving community in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Ken Chapa shares his journey and passion for economic development, highlighting his strategic vision for Avondale. With extensive experience in the field, Ken discusses the innovative approaches he has implemented to foster growth and sustainability in Avondale. He delves into the dynamic economic landscape of the city, emphasizing the importance of strategic planning and collaboration with various stakeholders to attract and retain businesses.

Throughout the conversation, Ken addresses the unique challenges and opportunities that come with managing economic development in a fast-growing urban area. He provides insights into key projects and initiatives that have significantly contributed to Avondale's economic success, including the development of the Avondale City Center, efforts to enhance infrastructure, and the attraction of healthcare and technology companies to diversify the economic base.

Ken also explores the role of technology and data in shaping economic development strategies. He shares examples of how Avondale leverages data-driven decision-making to identify trends, optimize resources, and create a business-friendly environment.

Additionally, Ken emphasizes the significance of community engagement and partnerships in driving economic development. He highlights the importance of building strong relationships with local businesses, educational institutions, and community organizations to create a holistic approach to growth and development.

By showcasing the innovative work being done in Avondale, this episode provides valuable insights and practical strategies for economic developers and community leaders looking to drive positive change in their regions. Ken's passion for economic development and his commitment to making Avondale a thriving and sustainable community make this episode a must-listen for anyone interested in the field.

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Actionable Insights for Economic Developers:

  1. Focus on Unique Strengths: Identify and leverage the unique aspects of your community to stand out. For Avondale, this included its young population and investment in amenities that cater to younger families and professionals.

  2. Develop Mixed-Use Projects: Consider developing mixed-use projects like the Avondale City Center to create vibrant, multi-functional spaces that attract residents and businesses alike.

  3. Invest in Parks and Recreation: Invest heavily in parks, recreation, and community spaces to enhance the quality of life for residents and make your community more attractive to newcomers.

  4. Foster Strong Educational Partnerships: Build strong partnerships with local schools and universities to support education and workforce development, ensuring a skilled talent pool for local businesses.

  5. Engage with the Community: Actively engage with residents to get their input on projects and initiatives. This helps build a sense of ownership and pride in the community.

  6. Leverage Data for Decision-Making: Use data-driven decision-making to identify trends, optimize resources, and create a business-friendly environment.

  7. Attract Diverse Industries: Diversify the economic base by attracting a variety of industries, such as healthcare and technology companies, to ensure economic stability and growth.

  8. Improve Infrastructure and Connectivity: Work on transportation and infrastructure projects to improve connectivity and accessibility within the community, making it easier for people to live, work, and play.

  9. Promote a Business-Friendly Environment: Create policies and initiatives that support local businesses and make your community attractive for new investments.

  10. Manage Sustainable Growth: Focus on managing growth in a sustainable way that maintains the quality of life for residents and preserves the unique characteristics of the community.

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Edited Transcript

(This is an experimental AI edited transcript.)

Welcome back to the Econ Dev Show. Today we're here with Ken Chapa. He is the Economic Development and Tourism Director for the City of Avondale, Arizona. Ken, welcome to the show.

Ken Chapa: Thanks for having me, Dane. It's going to be fun being here.

Dane Carlson: Absolutely. So, Avondale, Arizona. I only know where this is because I have relatives that live right next door. What is it, Chandler or something? I can't remember. Maybe I'm totally wrong. But isn't that right next to Avondale?

Ken Chapa: So, Chandler's on the other side of the Valley, Phoenix metro area.

Dane Carlson: What's the city that's just to the west of Avondale?

Ken Chapa: Goodyear.

Dane Carlson: Goodyear. I have relatives that also live in Goodyear. I knew it was one of those.

Gotcha. So tell us about Avondale. What exactly is it? I'm assuming it's a suburb, but is that not the case?

Ken Chapa: We're definitely part of the West Valley metro area of the Phoenix Valley. We're about 45, 46 square miles, with about 98,000 people. It's one of those communities that's been growing and blossoming over the past few years. When I came on about four and a half years ago, being a smaller community in the Phoenix Metro area, my primary goal was to make sure that we stood out, that we made ourselves a little bit different than everybody else. That's been our mission. I have a great leadership team, a great mayor and council, and an awesome team that's really been helpful in achieving those goals.

Dane Carlson: That's fantastic. So how do you stand out? How does that even work?

Ken Chapa: When you go to Avondale, you made a comment earlier about, "Here's what I know about Avondale. You're next door to Goodyear." That's usually the first thing I hear. Or I hear, "You're the home of the NASCAR track."

Ken Chapa: So, with that in mind, we needed to find our own identity. We started focusing on the unique aspects of Avondale. We have a very young population with a median age of about 30, which is one of the youngest in the region. We leveraged that by focusing on amenities and developments that cater to younger families and professionals. For example, we've been investing heavily in parks, recreation, and mixed-use developments that offer a live-work-play environment. We also place a strong emphasis on education and have great partnerships with local schools and universities.

Dane Carlson: That's interesting. What kind of projects have you been working on recently?

Ken Chapa: One of our big initiatives has been the development of the Avondale City Center. This project is designed to create a vibrant downtown area with retail, dining, office space, and residential options. It's aimed at creating a central hub for our community. We're also working on several transportation projects to improve connectivity and make it easier for people to get around. Another major focus has been on attracting healthcare and technology companies to diversify our economic base.

Dane Carlson: That sounds like a lot of exciting developments. How has the community responded to these changes?

Ken Chapa: The community response has been overwhelmingly positive. People are excited to see new amenities and opportunities coming to Avondale. We've worked hard to engage with residents and get their input on projects, which has helped build a sense of ownership and pride in the community. We've also seen a lot of interest from businesses looking to relocate or expand in Avondale, which is a great sign that we're on the right track.

Dane Carlson: That's great to hear. What do you see as the biggest challenges for Avondale moving forward?

Ken Chapa: One of the biggest challenges is managing growth in a way that's sustainable and maintains the quality of life for our residents. We want to ensure that as we grow, we're doing so in a way that supports our community and preserves the things that make Avondale special. Another challenge is staying competitive in attracting businesses and talent. We need to continue to innovate and find ways to stand out in a crowded market.

Dane Carlson: Absolutely. It sounds like you have a solid plan in place. Any final thoughts or advice for other economic developers out there?

Ken Chapa: My advice would be to really listen to your community and be willing to adapt. What works in one place might not work in another, so it's important to tailor your approach to the unique needs and strengths of your area. Also, focus on building strong partnerships. Economic development is a team effort, and having the support of local businesses, schools, and residents makes a huge difference.

Dane Carlson: Great advice. Thank you so much for joining us today, Ken. It's been a pleasure talking with you.

Ken Chapa: Thank you, Dane. It's been great to be here.

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