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Zoom plans to build R&D center in Phoenix area

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Posted at 3:59 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 21:17:26-04

TEMPE, AZ — Zoom plans to build a new research and development center in the Phoenix-area, creating hundreds of high-wage jobs.

Company representatives said they don't have a specific location yet, but they want to be close to Arizona State University since it's the university's engineering program that attracted Zoom to the area. According to the company, employees will work from home until the offices are built and COVID-19 risks have declined, saying they're expecting that in fall 2020.

Chris Camacho, the president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said Zoom's move to Arizona is great news for the economy.

"Zoom is one of the heralded companies in Silicon Valley and having them select greater Phoenix for software engineer lab or r&d center is a massive deal. These are the kinds of companies you want to bring to your market to grow high-wage jobs," he said. "This also creates --as an engineering lab - creates the ability to export service to other places and that's where you create economic wealth in a market. On average, a software engineering job is going to create 3-4 other jobs in a regional economy."

The company will hire a couple of hundred software engineers. The jobs have already been posted online.

Economists said high-wage jobs like these are what boost economies. That's because someone who makes more money will spend more money at local businesses.

"If we want to be the fastest recovering region out of COVID, we're going to need anchor technology jobs, manufacturing and other service-related companies where we sell products outside the region. In addition to retail, restaurants and other sectors," said Camacho. "They not only create insulation against downturn but they also help support local business. When you have higher-wage jobs with wages that allow these individuals to spend money at a different rate than say someone with a retail job with limited spending."

Jon Talton is a long-time Arizona historian and former columnist at The Republic. He's currently a business columnist at The Seattle Times. Talton said Arizona hasn't been able to attract big companies like Zoom in decades.

"The governor brags about bringing jobs from California, he's not bringing the high-end jobs until this," he said.

Talton said even though the population was growing rapidly, wages were not.

"Our median wages and our per-capita income was falling further and further competitive cities," he said.

He said there are many reasons for that, including divisive policies and lack of investment in what attracts talent from other competing cities.

"That means things like really well-funded universities, really well-funded K-12, an emphasis on quality of life, and tolerance and moderate politics," said Talton.

Economist Elliott Pollack said Zoom's move to Phoenix is a good indication that we're on the right track.

"The fact that we're getting any above median income jobs in any industry is great. Look at employment data for national or Arizona-- there have been zero major sectors that have had increases in jobs," he said. "If we don't shoot ourselves in the foot--and frankly I think we're much better balanced politically to avoid that type of debacle right now -- I think we will do very well."

Pollack said Arizona's economy was strong before COVID-19. He feels hopeful it will get back to being strong, but it will take some time.