Bioscience and health care industries expand and add jobs in Phoenix

Phoenix recovered more slowly than the rest of the nation after the Great Recession, taking years to recoup lost jobs. 

But this time around, the region might see faster recovery from the COVID-19 recession.

One big reason is the city’s changing economic landscape, which has begun to rely less on construction and focus increasingly on sectors like health care and bioscience.

Those industries are more resilient in the face of economic changes, said Christine Mackay, community and economic development director for the city of Phoenix. She said the city has seen significant growth in health care and bioscience over the past few years.

“Coming out of the Great Recession, construction has not been the leading jobs creator,” she said. “It’s been health care and biosciences.”

Between July 2019 and July 2021, Mackay said the city will see $3.5 billion in new capital investment in those two industries, which is expected to result in an estimated 7,000 new jobs and 4.4 million square feet of new building expansions.

Mackay said the average salary for these new jobs is expected to be around $70,000.

“It puts us in a much better a much better position for economic recovery,” Mackay said. “Health care and biosciences are as recession-proof as they can be. People always need health care … technology is always moving forward.”

Rather than reduced funding, Mackay said the opposite is especially true for these industries during a pandemic, since bioscience solutions and health care services are urgently needed during the world health crisis. As a result, these industries have not been as badly hit.

In February, before the pandemic, the Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler metro area had 44,700 jobs in the bioscience sector, according to data from the city’s community and economic development department. In April, the industry sector saw job growth instead of job loss. By July, which is the latest data available, there were 46,200 jobs in this sector.

The bioscience health care sector was slightly more affected by the pandemic, due to decreases in elective surgery and nonessential health care services, according to Mackay. In February, the Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler metro area had 335,300 jobs in this sector, and by July the sector had about 318,200 jobs, according to the Phoenix community and economic development data.

To competitively recruit new companies to the area, the city offers economic incentives through an Arizona Competes Fund, which offers up to $9,000 in tax credits to businesses for each new job created. Other tax credits offered under this fund include credits for increasing research and development activities or for the creation of qualified manufacturing facilities.

Some of the biggest new expansions in the city include new hospitals, such as Mayo Clinic’s 1.6 million square foot, state-of-the-art hospital under construction. Other expansions include plans for an innovation center downtown to host researchers and new science or health care startups. 

The downtown innovation center is being built by real estate company Wexford Science & Innovation, in partnership with Arizona State University. Here’s what those plans look like:

The idea is to create a center for different researchers, students and business entrepreneurs in the science field to mix together, according to Wexford’s vice president Thomas Osha.

“They can bump into new entrepreneurs, they can learn about new ideas, or they can just find talent,” he said.

The building is expected to be complete this fall. Osha said he expects the space to attract new companies to Phoenix and said Wexford is in discussion to build another four or five more buildings in the area to create an innovation district in Phoenix.

Rick Naimark, ASU’s associate vice president of program development and planning, said the university is excited to be co-located with other bioscience and health care organizations. Through its partnership with Mayo, ASU expects to grow its research footprint in downtown Phoenix.

competed in international bioscience competitions.

To further help new companies, said executive director Thomas Schumann, the center plans to launch a validation lab inside the Wexford Building, which will work with bioscience and health care companies that are still in the conceptual, early stages of development.

“We’re helping them figure out if the product will succeed in the market and how to succeed in market,” Schumann said. 

The center also plans to launch hands-on training programs for scientists and entry level lab technicians inside the expanded space.

Another expansion expected to increase the amount of new science research and innovation in Arizona is Mayo Clinic’s new hospital.

Gray expects Mayo Clinic to expand its research in areas like cancer treatment, heart disease, personalized genetic treatments, immunology and transplants.

“The intention of this is to greatly enhance the impact that our Arizona site can have in terms of research and innovation,” Gray said.

Mayo’s new hospital will generate about $2 billion in economic output for the city, according to Gray. He attributes that to added jobs, tax revenue and the expectation of out-of-state patients visiting Arizona to receive care or participate in clinical studies.

The hospital is expected to open in phases through 2022 and 2023.

Though Mayo Clinic’s new hospital and Wexford’s downtown innovation center are expected to have the most impact on new science research in Arizona, other expansions will help increase Phoenix’s health care and science capabilities.

The Arizona Republic has spoken to some organizations that have either completed expansions or are currently undergoing expansions. Here are some of the bigger expansions happening throughout the city:

Creighton University

Location of expansion: 3100 N. Central Ave.

Creighton University is a private Jesuit university and is building a 183,000 square foot Health Sciences campus, which is expected to educate new health care professionals and add 258 new jobs. 

This campus will host 96 students for an accelerated nursing program, 20 students for a physician’s assistant program, about 300 health professional students for occupational therapy, physical therapy and pharmacy. It will also feature a new four-year medical school that will enroll 480 students.

[email protected] and follow her on Twitter @amandamomorris for the latest bioscience updates.

Independent coverage of bioscience in Arizona is supported by a grant from the Flinn Foundation.