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construction

Construction has been a growing major sector in Arizona's employment. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Arizona lost 7,200 nonfarm jobs from April to May, but the state’s unemployment rate dropped from 4.9 percent to 4.7 percent.

“Building construction recorded its largest over-the-year gain in nearly 12 years.” — Adam Turk

The Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity released the jobs report Thursday.

Compared to May 2017, the state added 70,700 total jobs. Economist Adam Turk said manufacturing, education and construction were drivers in job creation in May.

“Building construction recorded its largest over-the-year gain in nearly 12 years,” Turk said.

There were 5,100 jobs added in the subsector of building construction, a 17.8 percent increase.

In particular, the construction subsector of specialty trades saw job growth up 9.1 percent compared to last May. In the United States, that number is 4.2 percent, reflecting the increased construction activity in Arizona.

Manufacturing has seen a recent upsurge in hiring. Overall, the sector grew 5.5 percent since last year and 1.3 percent since April. That is an increase of 8,900 jobs, the largest gain in 20 years.

Turk said manufacturing of computer and electric parts – “a sector where we, for the past several years, have seen job losses month over month” – has turned around since the final quarter of 2017 to post job growth. Its year-over-year increase was 9.7 percent.

The education and health services sector grew by 14,100 jobs over the year, the biggest increase in the state. Turk said that was primarily driven by additional education hires, possibly due to the state’s new education budget.

In Pinal County, the biggest employers were in the service industries, though that showed a month-to-month loss of 50 jobs. A number of sectors were down slightly in May compared to April, including manufacturing, business and professional services, hospitality trades and trade, transportation and utilities.

Construction jobs increased in Pinal County, as did government jobs and education.

Overall, the county’s unemployment rate dropped from 4.6 percent in April to 4.1 percent in May.

To prepare for upcoming work, crews will CLOSE Maricopa/Casa Grande Highway just east of Napa Auto Parts, scheduled for the night of Tuesday, April 3, beginning at 9 p.m. until approximately 5 a.m. Wednesday, April 4.

In addition, crews will also CLOSE Honeycutt Road, east of SR 347, scheduled for the night of Thursday, April 5, beginning at 9 p.m. until approximately 5 a.m. Friday, April 6.

Detour signage will be in place to direct travelers around the closures. These closures will allow crews to set concrete barriers and remove and replace striping, so that on the following morning, the roads will be open for travel with traffic shifted away from the upcoming work activity.

Head to www.OverpassTracker.com for an overview of the project, frequent updates on traffic impacts, project timelines, maps and videos of what the project will look like when complete. The City of Maricopa has also established a 24/7 Hotline for you to call and get answers to more specific questions or concerns at 520-316-6910.

The SR 347 Overpass will create a bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR.) Traffic on SR 347 averages more than 31,000 vehicles per day and future (2040) projections show over 60,000 vehicles per day. There are currently 40 to 60 trains per day; the UPRR has plans to expand service, which would increase train traffic upwards of 100 trains per day. Additionally, the Amtrak station is located just west of the intersection and vehicular traffic is routinely delayed for its passenger operations. The completion of the Overpass project will drastically ease traffic congestion and increase safety in the area.

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Homestead construction

 

As construction on residential housing ramps up in Maricopa, the city is considering ways to make the process easier for developers.

Last year the city received 500 residential building permits, and recent projections predict major growth ahead.

During a city council work session March 20, the Development Services Department presented the city’s current procedure: An eight-application process that usually entails two years of meetings and sub-steps before a builder receives a building permit.

A team of planners began brainstorming how to consolidate timewasting steps and documents about a year ago.

The result was a color-coded flow chart that details the city’s process used since pre-recession Maricopa as well as updated steps the department has identified and streamlined.

Development Services Director Martin Scribner said even with improvements, development processes are inherently complex across the nation.

“As a rule, the process is complicated,” Scribner said.

The process is detailed in a digital timeline that essentially serves as a snapshot of what developers could expect during the pre-development stages.

Some of the department’s major consolidation in the process affected the construction and inspection portion of the process.

SMARTGov, the city’s digital terminal for permit viewing and submittal, is a big part of that, according to Senior Planner Rodolfo Lopez.

“(Developers) don’t have to resubmit some of those documents unless something is changed or modified,” Lopez said. “This process streamlines it a lot quicker.”

The city has been teasing a redesign of its website and Mayor Christian Price indicated he’d like to see the process timeline posted on the city’s digital front page once the online update is completed.

Development Services is expected to compose a similar timeline for commercial development, which entails an even more complicated process.

Vice Mayor Peggy Chapados said the digital flow chart could decrease the number of complaints the city receives from commercial builders regarding perceived delays in the process.

The commercial development presentation is expected sometime in the future.

“The more information we get out there, the better,” Price said.

 

Goodwill, Ross and Planet Fitness are scheduled to open this month. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Businesses within the new Edison Pointe shopping plaza are beginning to open this month.

The first opening is the Goodwill store, which plans a grand opening March 16 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The thrift store is offering a $5 gift card to the first 150 people in line. They will have coffee and doughnuts.

Those who bring a bag of donations during the opening weekend, March 16-18, will receive a $5 coupon.

Planet Fitness is already taking memberships and has its grand opening planned for March 27 at 11 a.m. The 24-hour gym is offering pre-grand opening discounts.

Ross Dress for Less is also on track to open in late March, but date and time have not been set.

Other upcoming businesses include Dunkin Donuts and Wingstop. Construction of a Burger King has not yet begun.

The plaza is at 20595 N. John Wayne Parkway on the northeast corner of John Wayne Parkway and Edison Road.


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Plumbing and slab work for a new Denny’s restaurant was completed in the past week, and walls are going up quickly, but don’t flip your pancakes yet.

“At this time, we do not have a tentative opening date available,” Denny’s representative Jillian Hutwagner said.

However, Denny’s has put out the call for job applicants.

The property at 21195 N. John Wayne Parkway has been under construction since September. Halabu Development and Construction is building a 4,041-square-foot diner near the southeast corner of John Wayne Parkway and Smith-Enke Road.

The owner of the property is Camden Holdings.


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Photo by Mason Callejas

As Phase 1 construction of a multi-million-dollar expansion nears completion this fall, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino is planning a job fair in August to fill new positions.

IF YOU GO
What: Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Job Fair
When: Aug. 10, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Where: Central Arizona College – Maricopa, 17945 N. Regent Drive
Info: Caesars.com/Harrahs-Ak-Chin

 

Talent Specialist Jamie Westmiller said the facility will be hiring 50-75 people, about half of them full-time.

“They will be mostly hospitality positions with a few security positions mixed in,” he said.

Available positions include cooks, food servers, host/cashiers, housekeeping, facilities maintenance, restaurant supervisor and beverage supervisor. All positions have a 401K, Westmiller said. Full-time positions get heath care, dental and vision.

Westmiller said Ak-Chin Indian Community members will get preference. Because the job fair will have on-site interviews and on-site hiring, potential applicants are asked to fill out an application online at www.caesars.com/harrahs-ak-chin before arriving at the job fair.

And be prepared to turn on the charm.

“We always hire for personality and train for skills,” General Manager Robert Livingston said. “We’re looking for upbeat, positive energy.”

Phase 1 includes the new restaurant and wine bar Oak & Fork. Livingston said those hired to work there will need to be passionate about wine and educating customers about wine, though the restaurant will “not be a snooty place.”

The current construction involves “basically everything to the north,” Livingston said. That includes a parking garage, 18,000-square-foot ballroom, expansion of the casino floor, expansion of the buffet into the space now occupied by The Range Steakhouse, dedicated Diamond Lounge, upstairs BINGO hall and other changes for office space.

Separately but simultaneously, Ak-Chin Indian Community is constructing an elevated walkway linking the casino property to UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. Ak-Chin is working with Arizona Department of Transportation to move the traffic light north to Ak-Chin Parkway, to make that the main entry to the casino and hotel.

Next year, Phase II will include the hotel tower that adds another 230 rooms to the 300 existing, a new restaurant called Chop Block & Brew and a spa and fitness center. Late in 2018 will be the beginning of the renovation of the pool and resort rooms around it.

While the construction has been inconvenient or confusing for some long-time customers, Livingston said they’ve enjoyed the portholes cut into the temporary walkway walls that provide a view of the construction.

“It’s going to be a great addition to Maricopa and the whole of Pinal County,” he said. “We’re running short on rooms right now, and this will allow us to expand on what we do.”

 Westmiller said a second job fair is planned later in the year.

Photo by Mason Callejas

This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

Culver's expects to open in early 2017.

The pace of progress is different for various business construction around Maricopa.

Culver’s
Construction is moving steadily on the Culver’s restaurant at the southwest corner of John Wayne Parkway and Edison Road. Culver’s Area Supervisor Joe Wood said an opening date will be “anywhere from late January to mid-February.”

The Edison Road extension will provide access to Estrella Gin Business Park.
The Edison Road extension will provide access to Estrella Gin Business Park.

Edison Road Extension
Edison Road is undergoing construction as the city extends it to State Route 238. It is to be an access for the future Estrella Gin Business Park and a bypass for John Wayne Parkway. The construction contract with Achen-Gardner is $4.6 million. There is also a $340,000 agreement with Electrical District No. 3 for lights and power along the road. It is estimated to be completed in April.

Big 5 Sporting Goods went up quickly on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.
Big 5 Sporting Goods went up quickly on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

Big 5
The 11,000-square-foot building for a Big 5 Sporting Goods store is going up quickly at the Maricopa Power Center, The Wells, in front of Wal-Mart on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. Opening is planned later this year.

Harrah's Ak-Chin is the middle of Phase 1 construction of a major expansion.
Harrah’s Ak-Chin is the middle of Phase 1 construction of a major expansion.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Expansion
Construction crews are working in what used to be the north parking lot of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino as the property prepares for Phase 1 of its expansion, which will include added hotel rooms, a new lobby, a new pool, a parking garage, a new ballroom and new dining establishments. The work has required a shift in parking. Completion of the entire project is expected in 2018.


This article appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Smaller, more affordable homes the new trend

LGI Homes is among residential developers who saw it was time to build again in Maricopa.

By Ethan McSweeney

Meritage is building quickly again in the adults-only gated community of Province while also putting in new homes in the Lakes at Rancho El Dorado. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Meritage is building quickly again in the adults-only gated community of Province while also putting in new homes in the Lakes at Rancho El Dorado. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Home-building is booming yet again in Maricopa as companies build out neighborhoods and look to buy land for new communities elsewhere in the city.

From May 1 through July 15, the city of Maricopa issued 155 housing permits, with the total value for those homes around $37 million. Fifty-seven of those permits were issued in May, and the city issued another 84 in June.

For comparison, during 2015, 34 permits were in issued in May and 27 were issued in June, marking increases of 68 percent and 211 percent this year, respectively.

“I guess the secret’s out,” said Chris Kelly, division president for LGI Homes, which started building in Maricopa in 2012.

LGI made a 10-year commitment to building in Maricopa. The community has been such a “runway of opportunity,” he said, the company could restart the clock and have no problem building in Maricopa into 2026.

The recent mini-boom came as builders simultaneously returned this year to build out neighborhoods where construction had stopped since the recession.

“We’re getting back to a sense of normalcy to what we had before [with the housing market],” said Joel Huston, vice president of sales and marketing for the Phoenix division of KB Home.

Improvements in the housing market mean homebuilders are looking for places to expand, and Maricopa is a desirable place to do so with affordable land and growing customer demand.

“The things that made Maricopa attractive in the first place are still here,” said Martin Scribner, director of development services for the city of Maricopa.

Some of the new growth in homes is already being felt in other parts of the community.

Loraine Conley, principal at Santa Cruz Elementary School in Tortosa, said she tries to meet with new families when they enroll. This year, she’s seen a notable increase in students enrolling at Santa Cruz, relocating from Scottsdale and as far away as Omaha, Nebraska.

“They like the hometown feel Maricopa has,” Conley said.

Amy Zinger (left) and Teri Cifalia on the back patio of new model of KB Home, which is one of the homebuilders that recently renewed focus on Maricopa. Photo by Glynn Thrower
Amy Zinger (left) and Teri Cifalia on the back patio of new model of KB Home, which is one of the homebuilders that recently renewed focus on Maricopa. Photo by Glynn Thrower

Kelly said that is the positive feedback LGI has received about Maricopa, as well. He said unlike other growing areas of the Valley, many Maricopa communities are very well laid out and family oriented.

Local leaders following through on past promises is one of Maricopa’s “best-kept secrets,” Kelly said. Years ago, the council and business leaders had hyped a new city hall complex, an entertainment complex planned by the Ak-Chin and a regional park south of the railroad tracks.

“All of those things happened,” Kelly said. “They showed they weren’t just a bunch of dreamers.”

That got developers and people to come down and look and become aware of what Maricopa had to offer, Kelly said.

Huston said customers’ desire for more affordable housing is largely driving the growth on the peripheries of the Phoenix metro area. Cities like Buckeye, Peoria, Goodyear and Maricopa are places homebuilders are looking.

KB Home surveys housing purchases to gauge what customers are looking for in a home, Huston said.

Many jobs still remain concentrated in the center of the Phoenix area, but consumers are willing to foot the extra gas it costs to commute for a more affordable home, he said.

Kelly credits more governance of home loans for the more controlled way homebuyers calculate their income to buy a house.

“People are going for smaller homes even if they can afford bigger,” Kelly said. “Three bedrooms, two baths is right in our wheelhouse.”

Fred Hermann, Phoenix division president for Meritage Homes, said builders are responding to the desires they’re seeing from customers. “For us, we’re seeing more and more of the market move to affordability,” he said.

As a result, the city of Maricopa’s Planning and Zoning Commission is considering a request to expand the number of lots in a Homestead North development from 290 to 400. That will allow smaller, more affordable homes to be built on the land to be sold quicker, according to Scribner.

When it comes to buying land, Hermann said Maricopa still has much of it available for a relatively low cost.

“In Maricopa, you get more home for the dollars per square foot than you can in most other parts of the Valley,” Hermann said.

Other suburbs that also saw explosive growth during the housing boom of the last decade, such as Chandler, don’t have the space Maricopa has, Scribner said.

“It’s quite possible that the communities that were attractive to developers are running out of space,” Scribner said. “We still have that room for growth.”

Kelly agreed. He said LGI has found a good supply of lots in Maricopa. Even as the company closes out its phase of Homestead it is, he said another Maricopa community is in its sights.

In addition to the availability of affordable land, Maricopa is also seen as an attractive city for the amenities it offers, Huston said.

“Maricopa has been real bright point for builders in general,” he said. “There’s a quality of life in Maricopa that’s greater than it is in most other areas.”

Sales are moving so fast some builders are experiencing a shortage of labor available for construction. Hermann said the time it takes to build his homes in Maricopa is increasing, but they’re still being delivered on time.

Meritage is building homes in the Lakes at Rancho El Dorado and Province. Hermann said the company is also looking to acquire new land to build new communities, including one in Homestead.

The sharp increases in housing permits issued to homebuilders this summer are likely the beginning of a trend toward even more building, Hermann said.

“We’ve got extreme confidence that the increase is going to get even higher,” he said.


Home building permits in Maricopa May 1-July 15
A & J Companies     11
DR Horton                 74
KB Home                   21
LGI                                9
Meritage                    33

Home building permits 2015 v. 2016
May 2015    34
May 2016    57
_______________
June 2015    27
June 2016    84
_______________
July 2015    40
July 2016    40


This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.