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Friday, August 18, 2017

Potential For Aerospace Hub in Village

As discussions about revitalizing the Del Rio Area continue, a long-time South Mountain advocate is drawing attention to a forgotten initiative proposed decades ago for industrial properties near the Salt River.

 

Harry Garewal, who spent six years working in the City of Phoenix Economic Development Department, envisions establishing an aerospace hub along the South Mountain Village’s north boundary.

 

The idea, which he brought up while presenting as a panel member at the Villages in Transition III community summit on April 8, was originally hatched by City of Phoenix planners in the late 1980s. However, the concept never took off.

 

“You have every educational component to build an attractive hub for aerospace,” stressed Garewal, citing South Mountain High School (at its already-established aerospace and aviation program), South Mountain Community College, and easy access to Arizona State University and Sky Harbor International Airport.

 

Furthermore, he points to the presence of a major aerospace company – Goodrich Interiors at 5th and Victory streets – as proof of the idea’s potential. Garewal worked for the company and helped establish its initial workforce shortly after opening in 1987.

 

“We partnered with the City (of Phoenix) and several placement agencies, but they couldn’t accommodate all the people we needed,” Garewal remembered.

 

Since the new employees required training, Goodrich contracted with the Maricopa Skill Center and later transferred the preparation program to South Mountain Community College, where a curriculum was developed to instruct Goodrich employees.

 

“As a result, we generated employment for 185 employees,” said Garewal, adding that 75-80 percent of the new hires were South Mountain-area residents. “It (Goodrich) had a really strong partnership with the South Mountain community.”

 

According to company spokeswoman Laura Neel, Goodrich, – which manufactures aircraft evacuation slides, slide rafts and life rafts – now has multiple centers around its original South Mountain facility. The company recently expanded its capabilities in aircraft lighting and opened the Goodrich Electronic Systems Center, creating the need for more employees.

 

“Our colleagues at the Electronic Systems Center and Lighting Systems estimate hiring approximately 200 people in high-tech positions,” she said. “We currently have about 600 employees in our Goodrich Interiors-Evacuation Systems, Goodrich Electronic Systems Center and Goodrich Interiors-Lighting Systems facilities combined.”

 

Rosanne Albright, brownfields project manager for the City of Phoenix, confirmed a specific industry isn’t being pursued for the Del Rio Area, which stretches from 7th Avenue to 16th Street and from the Salt River to Broadway Road. But she said industry clusters are being looked at for other areas of the city, including hubs for advanced business services, aerospace and defense, bioscience, high tech / IT, and renewable energy.

 

Garewal believes the mix of manufacturing facilities already present along the Rio Salado are another factor pointing to the advantage of a greater aerospace presence. Furthermore, the jobs created would help stimulate the economy and grow the South Mountain community.

 

“We really have to explore every option to make Phoenix a destination for not only tourism, but for industry,” Garewal added.

Written by Tom Trush

 

 

 

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