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AEDO Profile: City of Mesa Economic Development Department
Eli Dile   on Monday, January 8, 2018 at 9:02:00 am

IEDC’s Accredited Economic Development Organization (AEDO) program recognizes the professional excellence of organizations in the areas of internal and external operations, structures, and procedures. This series profiles newly accredited AEDOs, putting some of economic development’s high-performing organizations in the spotlight.

AEDO member: City of Mesa Economic Development Department

Accreditation date: August 2017

Distinctions: Mesa’s Economic Development Department is the third AEDO in Arizona.

Organizational structure: The organization is a public department within the City of Mesa government.

Leadership and staff: Economic Development Director Bill Jabjiniak oversees a staff of 13. Jabjiniak reports to the city manager, who reports to the mayor and six city council members.

Mission: “To enhance Mesa’s economy by supporting the creation of quality jobs, increasing per capita income, and improving the quality of life for its residents.”

Population: 484,587

Budget: $9.6 million.

Key focus/primary service areas: The City of Mesa’s strategic plan hinges on two main goals: 1) create and retain quality jobs, and 2) build a sustainable community. Its target industries are summarized with the acronym HEAT (healthcare and bioscience; education; aerospace/aviation/defense; and technology and tourism).

Highlighted accomplishments:

  • Apple – The Fortune 10 company is investing $2 billion in a command center, which will employ 150.

  • Dexcom – A medical device manufacturer, the company acquired a 180,000-square-foot building and will create 500 jobs.

  • Santander Consumer USA – This financial firm acquired a 117,000-square-foot building and will bring nearly 1,000 jobs.

  • Higher Education: Benedictine University, Wilkes University, and Upper Iowa University opened campuses in Mesa in 2013.

Q&A with Mesa Economic Development Director Bill Jabjiniak

What does your organization do particularly well?

Mesa has nearly 500,000 residents, encompassing over 140 square miles. As the 36th most populated city in the country, we have a variety of needs throughout. One thing we do well is to be extremely flexible, nimble, and creative in meeting those needs. In January of 2015, we got a lead on a San Diego medical device manufacturer looking to expand to a new market. We worked with our regional partners to develop a warehouse distribution space into a manufacturing space in a very quick timeframe. That project created a $90 million capital investment and 500 jobs in an area of the city with higher unemployment and lower median income. So flexibility is important to us – we’re not a big bureaucratic engine here.

What unique programs or initiatives does your organization carry out?

In southeast Mesa, we took an area that was ripe for development and created the Elliot Road Technology Corridor. It has great power, water, and sewer connections, and we added flexible zoning which reduced the entitlement timeframe from six months to six weeks. We’ve seen extreme interest in the corridor; Apple has invested there, along with Niagara Bottling, EdgeConnex, Dupont Fabros Technologies, and other technology companies. We’re ultimately expecting millions of square feet to be built out and billions in investment.

The city recently bought a former Air Force research lab and converted it into the Arizona Laboratories for Security and Defense Research (AZLabs). The facility maintained all the accreditations, certifications, and secret clearances and is now a home for private-sector cybersecurity innovation. Certified by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, AZLabs is rated as one of the top cybersecurity labs by the Department of Homeland Security. The facility also includes the Arizona Cyber Warfare Range, a nonprofit that acts as a cybersecurity workforce training body.

What is the biggest challenge facing your community, and how does your organization work to address it?

One of our biggest challenges is balancing the need for both redevelopment and new greenfield development, something we have to do simultaneously and which requires different strategies. We’ve established redevelopment areas, expanded the central business district, and are trying to creatively reuse property. Another thing we’re sensitive to is protecting key employment areas from residential encroachment.

Why did you decide to pursue the AEDO accreditation?

One of the reasons we pursued accreditation is to validate our work, and by that I mean to see how we stack up nationally and internationally. It’s been a great way to gain new perspective and think about ways to grow and improve. I’ve been blessed to have great team, and the accreditation process also helps them to evaluate themselves and identify areas for improvement. The feedback was really valuable and will help guide our next steps in the coming year.

What feedback from the AEDO Review Team did you find particularly helpful, and how do you plan to implement their recommendations?

The review team recommended we have one project manager fully devoted to business retention and expansion efforts. Currently, those duties are distributed between staff members, and it’s hard to work in visitations with existing workloads. So in the next few months we plan to search for a new full-time staff member to focus on retention and expansion.


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