Mesa Vice Mayor Scott Somers explains what’s being done to transform a heavy concentration of educational institutions along Power Road into a knowledge-based economic engine for the city.
Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona technology and innovation looks at Mesa's efforts to transform the city's power road corridor into a knowledge and technology-based economic engine. Here to tell us more about the power knowledge corridor is Mesa vice mayor Scott Somers. Good to have you here.
Scott Somers: It's good to be here. My first time.
Ted Simons: We'll have you back sometime. As long as you just tell us, what is the power knowledge corridor?
Scott Somers: Well, first of all, mayor Smith would be upset if I let you say it's Mesa's effort. It's truly a regional effort. It involves the airport, Gilbert is involved, the county, queen creeks even Pinal county. We're all very excited about this. The power knowledge corridor runs along power road, and has a unique set of assets that we feel position it to become a cornerstone for science and technology research in Arizona. The benefits of which will be shared throughout the state.
Ted Simons: What are those assets?
Scott Somers: You have a cluster of Universities and educational assets, it is the foundation of which is ASU Polytechnic and the tier one research, but also you have Chandler-Gilbert community college, and aerospace programs, east valley institute of technology is providing work force development in the region. At the north side you have MCC red mountain campus, we also have a medical school, AT still is just off power road. So -
Ted Simons: Chicken and egg question -- were those things there first, or did the idea of getting some sort of cluster, some sort of corridor, get those things there?
Scott Somers: A lot of those things were already there. The question was, how do we take all these assets, pull them together, create a brand so people understand what the opportunities are for this region. It's not too dissimilar from what North Carolina did many years ago with the research triangle. They have University assets, it is home to hundreds of high-tech companies and enterprises, and that's what we're trying to accomplish here.
Ted Simons: The last question on the location, why along power road? Was it the airport, proximity to the airport? Why power road and not another road out there? Do we know?
Scott Somers: Power road is a key arterial street. Really, that just happens to be a lot of where those assets are. MCC, Boeing, the Universities, but also it focuses on the assets that are the airport. We have three 10,000-foot runway and a foreign trade zone on top of a military reuse zone that provides a financial edge to companies who want to compete globally. Also AZ labs is now located there, we have room for 200 researchers doing secret work, or very sensitive work. It is the only secret research institute, institute in Arizona, one of the very few in the United States.
Ted Simons: And again, focusing on high-tech, on health care, bioscience, aerospace, the whole nine yards.
Scott Somers: Engineering, science, technology, math, stem, absolutely.
Ted Simons: Collaboration, getting the cities to cooperate, getting the entities to cooperate, getting everyone to play along. Challenges?
Scott Somers: Challenges, we just want to make sure that we keep moving forward. We have had just an absolutely phenomenal era over the last four years, particularly, of regional cooperation, collaboration. We've seen Pinal county, queen creek, gel Bert, Mesa, working together to brand this area, build it, because once again, the benefits aren't just going to be Mesa, Gilbert, queen creek, also along power road.
Ted Simons: You mentioned branding. The importance of creating a brand out there, you got the name, the power knowledge corridor, that's a start. But getting folks to think of that area as a place for multigenerational, high-tech learning. How do you do that?
Scott Somers: Well, it's multistep process, it's all of our partners are going to be involved with it. We need to have the Universities continue to reach out and utilize that brand to show how they're able to take that brand, and the ideas that they're creating, like -- for example, the green biofuel, and turning that into enterprises. And that really is what's going to establish the brand, showing successes in taking that brand, utilizing our assets and turning them into companies in high-wage jobs.
Ted Simons: I saw video of the mayor mentioning the Harvard business review and a quote, competitive advantage lies increasingly in local things. That's the emphasis out in, isn't it?
Scott Somers: Absolutely. This is really a local effort. Certainly the state and our federal partners need to be involved with this. But really, the strength in this particular project is really a ground-up project. Coming from the Universities, from the businesses in the area, with support from the city, and coming together for a collaborative effort.
Ted Simons: How difficult has it been to get that collaborative effort and to get things off the ground and moving, up and operational, in very tough economic times? Past few years especially?
Scott Somers: Well, in some ways I think that tough economic time drives people together, because you're looking for ways to leverage the assets that you do have. So I think we're very successful in taking what has been a depressed economy, taking advantage of that, bringing those partners together, and a rising tide lifts all boats, right?
Ted Simons: So if someone is watching right now and let's say they have a kid they want to go to a University, and study biosciences or something, maybe they're interested. They're in mid life, and they're looking for some more educational opportunities along these things. Where do they go? Do they just drive out there and start -- one-stop shopping?
Scott Somers: They many have many opportunities. Maybe they are going to start out at Chandler or Mesa community college, or any one of the community colleges. Perhaps you go to Arizona state University. If you are into technology, and you get into a company, you have the opportunity to use AZ labs, we're looking to start a business accelerator, looking for new high-tech businesses to incubate them, to help them grow and create jobs. So the way to get into this is there are many doors.
Ted Simons: What about the doors for the near future? What focus are you looking at here?
Scott Somers: Right now it's infrastructure. State route 24 is just starting the first leg of state route 24. Connectivity is extremely important. We have new assets going there. Another phase will be the business accelerator, but also continued infrastructure development on Phoenix Mesa gateway airport.
Ted Simons: Last question, vice mayor of Mesa, I've asked mayor Smith as well -- it seems there's a concerted effort to change Mesa's image. Am I reading this correctly? It seems Mesa has decided to take steps that maybe in the past they wouldn't have.
Scott Somers: I think our image has been improved, but all we've done is taking our assets that we've always had and we're moving them to the forefront and said this is what Mesa has to offer the region. And people like that message.
Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Good to have you here.
Scott Somers: Great to be here. Thank you.
Scott Somers:Vice Mayor, Mesa;