It’s easy to see that Tempe is in growth mode. Just look at the changing skyline to find major construction projects underway all over town, developments poised to transform the city’s economy. At the top of the list is the $600 million Marina Heights office park, on the edge of picturesque Tempe Town Lake, which will soon house State Farm’s western region headquarters. And big-name technology companies are moving in – or expanding their operations – at every turn, bringing new high-wage jobs to the city. Growth played a big factor in why we named Tempe one of the Top 100 Best Places to Live.
Economy in Tempe
“We just opened a GoDaddy Technology Center in South Tempe, and Shutterfly is opening a large facility,” says Tempe mayor Mark Mitchell, before noting that Google named Tempe as its eCity for the state of Arizona for 2014, thanks in part to its high concentration of technology firms.
According to Mayor Mitchell, nationally-recognized employers – like Chase Financial Services, Edward Jones and Lifelock, to name three – applaud Tempe for its highly educated, tech-savvy and youthful population, as well as its big-city amenities, which are the envy of many other major metropolitan areas. Tempe has long been known for its vibrant arts and culture scene (consider the Tempe Center for the Arts, for one), as well as the restaurants and shops of its always-bustling downtown, the Mill Avenue District. But the addition of Tempe Marketplace (est. 2007), home to more than 100 shops and restaurants, offers residents and visitors yet another attractive shopping and entertainment destination.
Arizona State University
Of course, Tempe-based Arizona State University (ASU) remains the centerpiece of the local community, with more than 82,000 students enrolled for the 2014-15 school year.
“We’re very fortunate to have ASU because not only is it [one of] the largest public universities in the country, but it’s a quality university,” says Mitchell, with many of its undergraduate and graduate programs among the highest-rated in the nation.
The university is in the process of modernizing its 75,000-seat Sun Devil Stadium, part of the redevelopment of the 330-acre stadium district, which will “help fund the refurbishment of the stadium as well as the other athletic facilities on campus,” according to Mitchell. The school is also leading the way in terms of renewable energy, with large-scale solar panel installations – including its PowerParasol® – providing shade and energy, a big step towards Tempe meeting its “commitment to reducing its carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2025,” Mitchell says.
Living in Tempe
Perhaps most impressive about Tempe’s development is its comprehensive public transportation system, which features light rail, buses and a quintet of free Orbit shuttles, which connect residential areas with popular local destinations and make car-free living a possibility. Tempe is also regarded as a “very bikeable” city (per walkscore.com), with one of the highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the country, a function of its 175 miles of dedicated bikeways, and weather that is warm and sunny year-round.
This is why Tempe is particularly well suited to host annual events like the Ironman Triathlon, Pat’s Run and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona marathon. It also helps explain why Tempe’s many parks – so abundant that most residents are within a half-mile of a park – are especially popular, including the three skate parks, five dog parks and two public pools. The sheer number of recreational and educational opportunities – combined with the weather and ease of getting around – is a big reason why quality of life is so high.
“We are a 20-minute city,” Mayor Mitchell says. “You can walk, bus, ride, bike or drive anywhere in Tempe within 20 minutes.”