Gilbert Edition - August 2021

GILBERT EDITION

VOLUME 3, ISSUE 12  AUG. 25SEPT. 21, 2021

ONLINE AT

Gilbert businesses seek to solve hiring issue

The Higley USD governing board unanimously voted June 9 to put a bond question on the November ballot. BOND FACTS

JUST THE FIGURES

1-year property tax increase (per $100 assessed

Total of bond

valuation) $95 million $0.14

I SAY, ‘DON’T COMPETE, BE BETTER.’ WE LOOK AT IT AS WE WANT TO BE THE PLACE TO BE EMPLOYED...

IMPORTANT DATES

Nov. 2

Oct. 4

Oct. 6

Voter registration deadline

Early voting begins

Election Day*

*ALL VOTING WILL BE CONDUCTED BY MAIL.

SOURCE: HIGLEY USD COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

HigleyUSD looks to bond as chance tomove forward

ANTHONY MARKO, PANERA BREAD OPERATING MANAGER

Anthony Marko (left) interviews Seth Contreras at Panera Bread. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

BY TOM BLODGETT

Looking to shore up its nancial situation and plan for future growth, Higley USD has placed a $95 mil- lion capital bond on the November ballot. The proposed bond measure would fund transpor- tation andmajor facilitymaintenance. It also includes $15.5 million to keep up the district’s commitment for a 1:1 student to technological device ratio plus fund additional safety and security measures. It addresses future growth with $2.5 million to buy land for a future school and $27 million for major projects, such as building more classrooms at exist- ing schools. But the biggest item is $32 million to pay o one of CONTINUED ON 12

BY TOM BLODGETT

in our trade and service industries, is just the over- whelming challenge of nding workforce,” said Sarah Watts, Gilbert Chamber of Commerce presi- dent and CEO. “And especially in an industry like restaurants right now, what they’re really doing is just competing with other like industries and attracting talent away from one another, especially in those entry-level positions.” Watts related a friend’s story of a McDonald’s in town that was handing out job applications along with a plea to pass them along to anyone needing work when customers paid for their orders. CONTINUED ON 10

Across Gilbert, as with other places in the coun- try, the signs are out: Now hiring. While those signs may demonstrate an econ- omy ready to get rolling again, experts said they also hint at a new pandemic problem: a shortage of workers, felt particularly hard in sectors such as hospitality and retail. Employment in Arizona is down 1.5% across the board from February 2020 to June 2021, but as much as 9.9% in leisure and hospitality, according to data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “What we’re hearing across the board, especially

Former HUSD superintendent indicted

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THIS ISSUE

ABOUT US

HIGHLIGHTS FROMTHISMONTH

Owners John and Jennifer Garrett launched the rst edition of Community Impact Newspaper in 2005 with three full-time employees covering Round Rock and Pugerville, Texas. We have expanded our operations to include hundreds of employees, our own printing operation and over 30 hyperlocal editions across three states. Our circulation is over 2 million residential mailboxes, and it grows each month with new residents and developments.

FROMAMY: Driving around town, there are “Hiring now” and “Help wanted” signs on a number of businesses. As a result, owners are having to make decisions, including those related to stang, times to be open and services to provide. In our front-page story, you will learn a little more about how businesses are navigating this time. Amy Lawson, PUBLISHER

Visit our website for free access to the latest news, photos and infographics about your community and nearby cities. communityimpact.com LIVE UPDATES

MARKET TEAM EDITOR Tom Blodgett GRAPHIC DESIGNER Damien Hernandez METRO LEADERSHIP PUBLISHER Amy Lawson MANAGING EDITOR Matt Stephens

FROMTOM: Higley USD is going to voters this fall for help with the district’s capital needs, including getting out from under one of its onerous middle school leases. In a front-page story this month, we look at what the district sees as its capital needs and what voters are being asked to decide as well as the environment under which the district makes this ask of the taxpayers. Tom Blodgett, EDITOR

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GILBERT EDITION • AUGUST 2021

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IMPACTS

Businesses that have recently opened or are coming soon

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10 Premier Martial Arts opened its studio at 2743 S. Market St., Ste. 107, Gilbert, on April 24. It teaches karate, tae kwon do and kickboxing to children and krav maga and kickboxing to adults. 480-612-8837. https://premiermartialarts.com/gilbert 11 Quick Quack Car Wash opened a lo- cation at 1720 E. Pecos Road, Gilbert, on June 2. The business designs its washes to be Earth-friendly. 480-885-2392. www.dontdrivedirty.com 12 Saule Yoga opened June 1 at 2335 S. Lindsay Road, Ste. 112, Gilbert. The classes offered include yoga flow, wall yoga, power flow, yin and restorative, teen yoga, kids yoga, Ashtanga, yoga ni- dra, sound healing, fusion flow and yoga 13 Sherpa Kitchen had a soft reopen- ing Aug. 9 with a new concept at 1533 W. Elliot Road, Ste. 101, Gilbert. The dine-in Nepali cuisine restaurant closed in November and converted to a store, but owner Shabash Yadav is reopening with a streamlined menu for more of a fast-ca- sual concept while still serving locally sourced, healthy Nepali food. 480-687-1187. https://sherpakitchenaz.com 14 Top Fuel Espresso opened May 3 at 740 W. Guadalupe Road, Ste. 102, Gilbert. It offers coffee drinks, blended cold coffee drinks, energy drinks and teas. 480-625-8894. www.tfespresso.com 15 Vape A Hookah opened Aug. 6 at 2401 E. Baseline Road, Gilbert. The store carries vapes, hookahs, water pipes, roll- ing paper, e-juice, grinders, trays, gifts basics. 480-857-1999. http://saule-yoga.com

Sonoran-style Mexican food. It started as a food truck based out of Gilbert, then added a brick-and-mortar location in Ahwatukee. www.eltacosanto.com 5 Flip Flop Shops anticipated opening about Aug. 22 at 2270 E. Williams Field Road in Gilbert at the SanTan Village shopping center. It sells beach, surf and relaxation footwear. www.flipflopshops.com 6 Grow with Words opened July 28 at 2680 S. Val Vista Drive, Ste. 190, in Gilbert. It is a speech pathology practice but also does feeding therapy and offers reading programs. 602-345-1785. www.letsgrowwithwords.com 7 Maya Caroleena by Design/Maya Caroleena Jewelers opened July 19 at 2212 E. Williams Field Road, Ste. 110, Gilbert, in the SanTan Village shopping center. It designs, manufactures and sells jewelry that it describes as unique but affordable. 480-442-6516. http://mayacaroleena.com 8 Miss Dessert opened in April at 2484 S. Santan Village Parkway, Ste. 107, Gilbert, in the SanTan Pavilions. It serves boba drinks and desserts from Hong Kong. 480-687-2595. www.missdessertus.com 9 Northeast Gilbert Dentistry , a Smile Generation dental practice, began ac- cepting adult and pediatric patients Aug. 6 at 5215 E. Baseline Road, Ste. 101, Gilbert. The dental practice offers patients a range of specialty services, including endodontics, oral and maxillo- facial surgery, orthodontics, periodontics, hygiene and teledentistry. 480-779-6393. www.northeastgilbertdentistry.com

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E. HUNT HWY. NOWOPEN 1 The Caspian Cup opened July 16 at 2268 E. Williams Field Road, Ste. 108, Gilbert, in the SanTan Village shopping center. It serves gourmet shaved ice, pop- sicles, ice cream, handmade drinks and virgin Jello shots. 623-401-2720. www.thecaspiancup.com 2 The Collab anticipated opening Aug. 20 at 2268 S. Williams Field Road, Ste. 105, Gilbert, with a grand opening planned for Aug. 28. It provides custom-

HUNT HWY. izable or move-in ready salon suites for small businesses. 480-617-4831. www.thecollabaz.com E. QUEEN CREEK RD. E. GERMANN RD.

3 Creations Boutique opened July 6 at 2174 E. Williams Field Road, Ste. 118, in the SanTan Village shopping center. It specializes in bohemian-influenced junior and women’s apparel, including tops, dresses, skirts, pants and sweaters. 623-887-9195. www.creations24.com 4 El Taco Santo opened July 10 at 835 S. Gilbert Road, Ste. 104, Gilbert, in the Gilbert Warner development. It serves

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

COMPILED BY TOM BLODGETT

GROW YOUR SALES

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El Taco Santo

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TOM BLODGETT/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

TOM BLODGETT/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

16 Bill Luke Santan opened its VIP Service Center on April 1 at 1358 E. Motorplex Loop, Gilbert. It does automo- bile service on all makes and models. 480-530-4066. www.billlukesantan.com/services COMING SOON 17 Andy’s Frozen Custard anticipates opening a store at 686 S. Gilbert Road in the fourth quarter of 2021. It sells frozen custard concretes, shakes, sundaes and splits. It will be the fourth Arizona loca- 18 Another Broken Egg Café antici- pates opening at 1865 E. Williams Field Road, Ste. J-1, Gilbert. The first Arizona franchise will serve breakfast food. https://anotherbrokenegg.com/ location/gilbert tion. 417-881-3500. www.eatandys.com

19 Cadence Senior Living is opening Inspira Gateway later this year at 4533 E. Banner Gateway Drive, Mesa, near Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert. It of- fers independent and assisted living and memory care. 480-912-1200. https://community.cadencesl.com/ inspira/meet-inspira-gateway 20 Pose Selfie Museum plans to open this fall at 2270 E. Williams Field Road, Ste. 106, Gilbert. The studio provides backdrops, selfie light stands and props for people to capture selfie photos. 623-250-7583 21 Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux is aiming to open a franchise at 4928 S. Power Road, Gilbert, in late November or early December. The sports bar serves Louisiana cuisine, including seafood and traditional Cajun cuisine. https://walk-ons.com

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GILBERT EDITION • AUGUST 2021

TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES E. GUADALUPE RD.

COMPILED BY TOM BLODGETT

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ONGOING PROJECTS 1 Recker Road expansion

3 Germann Road expansion Germann Road will be expanded to major arterial roadway standards, including six lanes. The project will also include Lindsay Road improve- ments between Loop 202-Santan Freeway and one-quarter-mile south of Germann. Status: Left turns are restricted at Lindsay. Crews will maintain one lane in each direction while maintaining left turns at signals when possible. Timeline: October 2020-January 2022 Cost: $27.43 million Funding sources: town of Gilbert, Maricopa Association of Governments, developer contri- butions 4 Lindsay/Loop 202 interchange An interchange at Lindsay and Loop 202 will be built for access to Loop 202-Santan Freeway and a frontage road system on the north side of Loop 202 between Lindsay and Gilbert roads. Status: Traffic restrictions on Lindsay will remain throughout the remainder of the project. Con- struction is 45% complete. Timeline: October 2020-November 2021 Cost: $18.15 million Funding sources: town of Gilbert, Maricopa Association of Governments, developer contributions

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The town continues the Recker Road expansion from Loop 202-Santan Freeway to Ray Road to minor arterial road standards, including four lanes with raised medians and bike lanes. Status: Construction is approximately 75% complete. The majority of median work is com- plete. Traffic control has been moved to allow completion of the curb and gutter and sidewalk on the west side of Recker. Timeline: January 2020-September 2021 Cost: $3.94 million Funding sources: town of Gilbert, developer contributions 2 Val Vista Drive widening The town is widening Val Vista Drive from Apple- by Road—about where Val Vista narrows to one lane in each direction—to Riggs Road. The result will be a six-lane section from Ocotillo Road to Merlot Street with raised medians and bike lanes. Traffic signals will be installed at Appleby, Ocotillo and Chandler Heights roads. Status : Traffic restrictions are one lane in each direction. The project is approximately 90% complete. Base paving is being finished. Timeline: March 2020-August 2021 Cost: $25.96 million Funding sources: town of Gilbert, Maricopa Association of Governments

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ALL INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED AS OF AUG. 19. NEWS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE OR OTHER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS? EMAIL US AT GILNEWS@COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

TOWN&EDUCATION

News from Gilbert, Gilbert Public Schools, Higley USD & Chandler USD

COMPILED BY TOM BLODGETT

MEETINGSWE COVER Gilbert Town Council Sept. 7, 21, 6:30 p.m. 6860 S. Power Road, Gilbert 480-503-6871 • www.gilbertaz.gov Gilbert Public Schools Board Aug. 24, 6 p.m. Sept. 14, 6 p.m. 140 S. Gilbert Road, Gilbert 480-497-3300 www.gilbertschools.net Higley USD Board Aug. 25, 5 p.m. Sept. 8, 22, 5 p.m. 2935 S. Recker Road, Gilbert 480-279-7000 • www.husd.org Chandler USD Board HIGLEYUSD Governing board President Kristina Reese said the district will follow the law on mask mandates but is encouraging their use inside district buildings. Reese also urged students who show symptoms of illness or who are awaiting CCOVID-19 test results for themselves or household members stay home. CHANDLERUSD The Chandler USD governing board approved on Aug. 11 naming Perry High School’s gymnasium after Principal Dan Serrano, who served as principal since 2006. SCHOOLHIGHLIGHTS GILBERTPUBLIC SCHOOLS The Gilbert Public Schools governing board adopted Aug. 10 an instructional time model for synchronous learning in grades 7-12. In the synchronous model, online students will be expected to log on during regular class time and interact with the teacher with attendance taken. Students then will be funded at 100% under the state’s education funding formulas. Aug. 25, 7 p.m. Sept. 8, 7 p.m. 1525 W. Frye Road, Chandler 480-812-7000 • www.cusd80.com Follow us on Twitter: @impactnews_gil

Ex-superintendent, others indicted after report

Retired teacher, ocer appointed to board GILBERTPUBLIC SCHOOLS A retired military procurement ocer and high school teacher was sworn in Aug. 6 as the newest member of the governing board. William Parker was appointed to ll the seat vacated by Reed Carr when Carr resigned eective June 30. Mar- icopa County Schools Superintendent Steve Watson made the appointment. “I have no political aspirations, and I am not an advocate for any particular HIGLEYUSD Criminal indictments have been issued against a former superintendent and three other people who have been charged with nancial crimes. Former Superintendent Denise Birdwell is charged with 18 felony counts, and two employees of a district vendor are being charged with three counts each related to AT A GLANCE Denise Birdwell served as Higley USD superintendent from 2008-16. The period under investigation is 2012-16. No current administration members are being investigated. Denise Birdwell cause,” Parker wrote in his applica- tion. “My only goal is to support the students and teachers in GPS.”

the construction of the district’s two middle schools, Cooley and Sossa- man. The charges come from events that unfolded fromMay 2012 to April 2016, according to the State Auditor General’s Oce report. The Arizona Attorney General’s Oce presented evidence from the report to a grand jury July 13. The charges include conspiracy, procurement fraud, fraudulent schemes, misuse of public monies, false return and conict of interest. The contractors named in the charges are Gary Aller and Steven Nielsen of Educational Facilities Development Services. Birdwell’s attorney, Kay Hartwell Hunnicutt, is charged with three counts of false ling. The people charged are no longer associated with the district.

The auditor general’s report alleges Birdwell conspired with the contractors to circumvent school district procurement rules and gave Educational Facilities Development Services an unfair advantage over other vendors to win a $2.56 million project development contract for the middle schools in 2012. The report alleges Birdwell, Aller and Nielsen falsely certied on documents from 2012 that they had followed procurement rules; that Birdwell illegally authorized the use of $6 million from a restricted fund to pay project costs; and that Birdwell, Hartwell Hunnicutt and Hartwell Hunnicutt’s law rmmay have received unreported and unsupported payments from contractors between 2014 and 2016 totaling $105,000.

Pedestrian bridge across railroad tracks nowopen GILBERT A pedestrian bridge across the Union Pacic railroad tracks on the Western Powerline Trail has opened in downtown. The bridge, built in partnership with the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Union Pacic Railroad, will serve as a gateway to the Heritage District for citizens who live west of the railroad and a safe crossing over the tracks for those biking, walking and riding the trail.

RAILROAD

WESTERN POWERLINE TRAIL

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A ribbon-cutting will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 26 at the base of the bridge near 393 N. Neely St. Gilbert contributed $1.33 million in funds from its capital improve- ment projects and general funds. A Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant of nearly $2.83 million from the Federal Highway Administration also was applied to the project.

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GILBERT EDITION • AUGUST 2021

Special events such as pinball tournaments draw large crowds.

BUSINESS FEATURE

Level 1 Arcade Bar has been a project for (from left) Scott Goldsmith, TJ Tillman, Steve Tillman and Adam LeRoy.

TJ Tillman said the bartenders brought patrons with them and keep a nger on the bar’s pulse. (Photos by Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper) LEVELING UP Here is what customers can nd at Level 1 Arcade Bar.

Level 1 Arcade Bar Four friends combine their strengths into thriving business S cott Goldsmith said he grew up a big fan of video arcades and did not really lose that love as he grew up, turning into a collector BY TOM BLODGETT

money into restoring the machines so that it looked as brand new as possible and keeping them working perfectly as possible,” Goldsmith said. “So when somebody walks in, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, it looks exactly like it did in 1992 when I saw it when it rst came out.’ That was our goal.” The nostalgic vibe extends to the music played, mostly from the arcade era of 1980s, ‘90s and the early 2000s. The end result is part arcade and part bar, a place where families can bring their kids, who are welcome through 7 p.m., but also one where the adults can hang out and have a good time at night, TJ said. The owners also like the location in the Heritage District, just o Gilbert Road by one of the town’s free parking garages. They plan to open a second location soon in downtown Mesa, which they see undergoing its own rebirth. The Gilbert bar gives people an option of something to do downtown beyond getting a meal or a drink. “We’ll come here on a Friday and Saturday night just to hang out because we just love the energy,” TJ said. “We love seeing people have a good time playing on the games, and it’s just a fun, happy place to be.”

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of the machines. So he said the thought of owning an arcade bar, like the one his friend Steve Tillman saw on a business trip to Denver, was exciting. “We were all hanging out at my pool at a birth- day party a couple years ago and started talking about it,” Steve's brother TJ said. “And then we were like, ‘Man, we could actually really do this.’ And so we met up at my conference room at the time there and between a couple of pizzas and a bottle of bourbon, we kind of hashed everything out on a whiteboard.” And there was the birth of Level 1 Arcade Bar, a “squad” of four friends, each with dierent areas of expertise. TJ, in wealth management, brings the nancial know-how; Steve is in human resources and handles the people; Adam LeRoy is the insurance guru; and Goldsmith is in marketing and social media, plus he brings the critical arcade knowledge piece. TJ said Goldsmith is “meticulous.” Goldsmith calls the games “an absolute obsession of mine.” “We spend the time to put the eort and the

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BEERS ON TAP, ALSO ROTATED

SIGNATURE COCKTAILS

Level 1 Arcade Bar 60 W. Vaughn Ave., Ste. 107, Gilbert 480-687-1192 www.level1arcade.bar Hours: Mon.-Thu. 1 p.m.-1 a.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-midnight

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

DINING FEATURE

BY TOM BLODGETT

THREE DISHES TO TRY 1 Deluxe pizza has Italian sausage, pepperoni, black olives, mushrooms, green peppers and onions. ($10.49-$24.99) 2 The Sunrise Sauce on the Seafood Lasagna ($20.49) is a blend of marinara and Alfredo sauces. 3 Traditional bruschetta has Roma tomatoes, garlic, basil, onions and balsamic glaze. ($9.49)

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PHOTOS BY TOM BLODGETTCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Vito’s Pizza& Italian Ristorante Longtime family friends carefully keep original owner’s recipe for success W hen rst-generation Ital- ian immigrant Vito Car- rieri started considering

“I was like, ‘Oh wow, we’re having dinner with Vito himself,” Ryan said. “The Vito—super Italian, Italian accent, the Italian stories. His stories from Chicago are hilarious.” After they married, the Vickerys bought a couple of franchise restau- rants, and when Alexis’ mother heard Vito might be interested in retiring, she put out feelers to him that the kids would be interested. The Vickerys sold the franchises and bought the restaurant. Vito retired in 2009 but as part of the deal, he stayed around a certain amount of time each week for a year or two. “We didn’t want people to be freaked out like, ‘Oh, Vito’s not here every day anymore. They’re

changing stu,’” Ryan said. “We didn’t want to change anything. You don’t x what’s not broken. So we kept Vito around.” Much of the sta stayed. Recipes remained in place, Ryan said. With a second location in mind, the Vickerys bought land in 2012 in Gilbert, upon which they built the restaurant. They opened in May 2020 to such high demand that they lost some sta in the rst week and had managers cooking, Ryan said. Ryan attributes the success to fresh ingredients, consistent recipes and great customer service, and he is a believer in the Vito’s brand. “I mean, I grew up always loving it,” he said. “I’m biased, but I think it’s the best.”

Ryan Vickery’s family ate at Vito’s about once a month when he was growing up.

stepping away from the restaurant he had run in Mesa for two decades, he had no natural successor. His children were in California and were not interested in returning to take over for their retiring father. But he did have friends in the restaurant business, namely Ryan and Alexis Vickery. Even before the couple met each other, they came from families who ate regularly at the restaurant. Alexis’ family even had vacationed with the Carrieris. Ryan did not meet Vito until he had dinner there one night with Alexis’ family, and Vito and his wife, Joanne, sat down with them.

Vito’s Pizza& ItalianRistorante 4865 S. Higley Road, Ste. 101 480-245-4554 www.vitospizza.com Hours: Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

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GILBERT EDITION • AUGUST 2021

CONTINUED FROM 1

Experts point at dierent causes for the need, including unemployment benets and stimulus payments, low wages, high competition for workers and changed life circumstances. In the wake of the early waves of the pandemic, workers may now be looking at opportunities to advance their careers past entry-level or low-wage jobs, experts said. In fact, programs to train and upskill work- ers who may be looking for better employment are part of the town of Gilbert’s #GilbertTogether business recovery eort. Root causes Although the Arizona Commerce Authority reports unemployment is down 3.5 percentage points to 4.9% from June 2020 to June 2021, econ- omist Jim Rounds of the Rounds Consulting Group in Tempe cautions that numbers must be compared to pre-pandemic levels. Comparing February 2020 to June 2021, unem- ployment is up 1.7 percentage points with employment down nearly 200 jobs and labor force up 2,500 workers. The U.S. Chamber report showed most sectors down in employment in Arizona. Hardest hit beyond lei- sure and hospitality was professional and business services down 2.1% and construction and extraction 1.2%. Trade and transportation, which includes shipping activities, was the lone sector that saw growth, up 5%. Rounds said he believes an eco- nomic imbalance was brought on by the pandemic and subsequent stimu- lus packages. Those monies allowed lower-wage workers to not have to work. He said the imbalance will work itself out over time, especially as stimulus money goes away. “You’re going to end up with

GILBERT EMPLOYMENT Gilbert’s labor force fell o during the pandemic but has recovered to better than pre-pandemic levels. But employment is still slightly below February 2020.

Employment

Labor force

Unemployment rate

150,000

3.2% 3.7%

4.6% 4.9%

4.5% 4.5%

4.4% 4.8% 5.1% 5.1%

140,000

8.6%

8.2% 5.1% 5.0% 4.5%

8.4%

12.3%

130,000

120,000

SOURCE: ARIZONA COMMERCE AUTHORITYCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

0

higher wages, which is going to draw people back into the market—tempo- rarily,” he said. “It’ll put pressure on prots and is going to put pressure on small businesses, but that’s the way it has to work. And when we start to see the stimulus money is not ow- ing through the economy, like it has been so far, then you’re going to see people looking for work, and that’ll put downward pressure on wages again.” Rounds said some social factors that came through the pandemic have had an eect on the labor market. “We went through a very tough time, and people re-evaluated their need to work in general,” he said. “Maybe you had two-worker house- holds convert into one, and they

realized that was something that they liked. So there were some social changes, but part of it is also the fact that we’re printing money and we’re spending it and we’re helping people out. There was a need for it, but the longer it continues, there’s going to be some of these economic imbalances.” Watts also said she has seen multi- ple other issues contributing to work- force shortages. “It may be that they’ve reprior- itized their interests personally or they’re taking care of the family to an extent they haven’t before,” she said. “They might have child care issues, which we know is a contrib- uting factor to our inability to place employees right now. There’s a lot of scenarios that go into it. Obviously,

competitive pay always plays an issue, too.” Rounds cited U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers that show Arizona as having the third best job recov- ery rate in the nation from before the pandemic to now at 87% and the Phoenix area at about 95%. He said Gilbert’s recovery is among the best in the area because of the town’s eco- nomic growth. “A community like Gilbert, because of the strength of the economic growth, the fact that your policy makers and sta have been working very hard on diversifying the econ- omy, bringing in higher-wage jobs, you’re more resilient compared to a lot of others, which means that when you do get back into balance, it’s not going to take as long,” Rounds said.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

town’s economic development team to determine business needs and develop the program. One part of the program, which town ocials said was aimed at business and workers’ “resiliency,” included free career and techni- cal training for Gilbert residents and workers through the Maricopa County Community College District. Diane Meza, director of the Mar- icopa Information Technology Insti-

are eager to work there,” he said. “They’re going out of their way to work more than 40 hours a week to try and help all these businesses. I think the negative stigma around people not wanting to work, I don’t see that. I don’t know where that’s coming from.” Like the restaurants it serves, Qwick was hit hard during the pan- demic, but Baxter can point to an exact moment when it changed, although he can- not explain it. “Feb. 6 this year,

How industries fared

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report shows Arizona employment down overall from February 2020 to June 2021 and most industries in the state with it.

6

tute-East Valley, which ran the program, said the program was a means for the town to help workers retool or upskill to position them for employ- ment. Through the program, stu- dents can get cer- ticates or even degrees. Meza noted that

SOURCE: U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCECOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

4

A COMMUNITY LIKE GILBERT, BECAUSE OF THE STRENGTH OF THE ECONOMIC GROWTH ... YOU’RE MORE RESILIENT COMPARED TOA LOT OF OTHERS.

it was like the light switch went back on,” he said. “All of a sudden the revenue went up, and we ended up doing three [times] the revenue that month than the revenue we had done the previous month.”

2

0

-2

-4

-6

JIM ROUNDS, ECONOMIST

-8

60 of the 109 students enrolled in the program so far have fallen between ages 30-59, suggesting they are tak- ing the opportunity left after the pan- demic to improve their employment. “These are people that have proba- bly already had jobs and careers, and they’re coming back now,” she said. “I think that’s telling.” Rounds said some people are using the pandemic period as an opportu- nity to improve their employment from lower-wage jobs. “Because of the demand, people are making more money, and they’re not willing to take the lower-wage jobs,” he said. “So the jobs are com- ing back, but things are still a little mismatched.”

Anthony Marko, the operating manager of Panera Bread in SanTan Pavilions, said he believes Gilbert has plenty of kids looking for rst jobs and parents wanting their children to get experience, but it is harder to compete for daytime sta because of higher wages elsewhere. “I say, ‘Don’t compete; be better,’” Marko said. “We look at it as we want to be the place to be employed, not the place for better pay. Our kids work here because it’s fun. We don’t try to save money on labor. We look at it as an investment.” Looking for more Gilbert used some of its stimu- lus money in 2020 to put together a three-part, $18 million business recovery program it dubbed #Gil- bertTogether. The Gilbert Cham- ber of Commerce worked with the

-10

Getting creative Watts said industries are compet- ing against other industries for work- ers, and they end up attracting talent away from one another, especially in low-wage jobs. As a result, employers are changing their approach to the prole of the ideal candidate. “They’re expanding what it is that they’re looking for now and know- ing that they might have to invest in some training,” she said. “If [a can- didate has] the right core values and t for the organization, then perhaps they can train them into the position that they need to ll.” But that comes with investment in training and the chance the candi- date will leave or be recruited away. “Depending on the industry you’re in, you just have to be creative in

showing appreciation,” she said. Watts mentioned schedule exibil- ity, additional paid time o or invest- ing in continuing education as ways employers can show that apprecia- tion. She pointed to Walmart’s recent announcement it will pay 100% of associate college tuition and books as an example. Other businesses are helping ll the gap, too. In 2017, Jamie Bax- ter co-founded Qwick, a Scott- sdale-based company whose gig-economy app connects food and beverage professionals who want on-demand work with businesses that need them to ll shifts. Baxter said he believes the prob- lem is too much demand for workers and too little supply. “The people on our platform

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GILBERT EDITION • AUGUST 2021

Because the leases are a capital item, they must by law be paid from the capital budget. Moore said the district has been transferring some money from the maintenance and operations budget, which funds day- to-day operations and most salaries, to the capital budget so the district could make the lease payments. In the scal year 2021-22 budget, the district is carrying forward a large surplus in the capital budget because of stimulus payments and will be able to reduce the transfer from the M&O budget. Nonetheless, the bond’s pas- sage would allow the district to pay o one lease and save taxpayers $21.7 million, Moore said. The district opted not to include paying o both leases with this bond measure because it would not have left enough money to cover some of the district’s other needs. And choos- ing a larger bond amount would have taken up more of the district’s avail- able bond capacity and increased property taxesmuch higher for longer. “We do not feel that the voters would have condence in that,” Moore said. “Nor do we think that is an appropriate ask of the district.” Instead, the district plans to wait until bond capacity recovers to pay o the second lease, Moore said. “We’re grateful that we have those options for our students,” Foley said of the middle schools. “That’s important. But being able to sustain it and fund it appropriately is also Even without the leases, Foley and Moore acknowledge the district’s cap- ital needs reach beyond what is allot- ted from the state. For example, district data shows its vehicles traveled 587,884 miles last year with a eet that averages 11 years old. Thus the district is asking for $3.5 million to update the eet. Likewise, Arizona’s desert environ- ment takes a toll on roofs and HVAC units, Moore said. The district is ask- ing for $11 million for its maintenance program, including upgrades for energy eciency. HUSD is still growing in enrollment. The district has conducted demo- graphic studies to anticipate growth, Moore said. “Obviously our district is being built out,” he said. “The farmlands are being purchased left and right. And potentially, the district may need another site mostly in the northern part of our district.” important.” More needs

ROAD SHOW Higley USD is planning public informational sessions on the bond for these four dates:

CONTINUED FROM 1

two leases on the district’s twomiddle schools, Cooley and Sossaman. The 40-year lease-purchase agree- ments used to build the middle schools in Gilbert and Queen Creek have been a burden to the district, ocials said, and removing one of them will save taxpayers money and strengthen the district’s nancial pic- ture. The schools opened in 2013. But recent news linked to the leases could prove to be a challenge in pass- ing the bond. Former district Superin- tendent Denise Birdwell was indicted in July on 18 felony counts related to the lease deals. Birdwell left the dis- trict in 2016, and no one involved at the time remains at the district. “We are not the sins of the people before us,” said Dawn Foley, who took over as superintendent July 1. “I hope that people understand that we’re try- ing to right the wrongs of the past here and do what’s best for what we’ve learned are the needs of Higley.” The $95 million represents most of the district’s $129 million in available bond capacity, ocials said, but as assessed property values in the dis- trict go up, the available capacity will recover in the next few years in case another bond is needed. If passed, the bond would increase the district’s secondary property tax rate by $0.14 per $100 in assessed value for one year, taking it from $1.44 to $1.58. After that, the tax rate would return to $1.44 as other debt is retired. Out fromunder the leases Tyler Moore, Higley USD’s new chief nancial ocer, said when he and Je Gadd, who served last year as interim CFO, joined the district, the two immediately identied the leases as a bad deal for Higley. “Actually, Higley was an example of what not to do,” he said about the leases. “I knew going inwhen I started here that this was a big nancial bur- den for this district.” The district pays about $4.4 million per year on the leases, Moore said, while the state’s allotment to HUSD in District Additional Assistance, a formula to fund districts’ capital needs, is about $6 million annually when funded fully. The district’s cap- ital needs extended well beyond the leases, Moore and Foley said. Complicating that picture, in the wake of the Great Recession, the Leg- islature stopped fully funding District Additional Assistance before nally restoring it this legislative session.

Sept. 13

Sept. 27

Oct. 12

Sept. 2

Bridges Elementary School gym, 7-8 p.m.

Williams Field High School marketplace, 6-7 p.m.

Higley USD board room, 5-6 p.m.

Higley Center for the Performing Arts little theater, 5-6 p.m.

BOND AIMS The $95 million bond proposal Higley USD has sent to voters for consideration would pay for the district to do six things and allow for some contingency money.

$32M

Pay o one lease purchase

Additional buildings for growth

$27M

$95M TOTAL BOND

Technology and safety/security

$15.5M

$11M

Major maintenance

Transportation

$3.5M

Contingency

$3.5M

Land purchase

$2.5M

SOURCE: HIGLEY USDCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

is really thinking about the safety and security of our kids and thinking about technology. But another huge piece is paying o the one of the mid- dle schools in order to get us from out under that huge debt that we are [in]. We think it’s going to transform the exibility of our nances with Higley for years to come.” No group has yet been identied as opposing the bond, though Harrison said he anticipates one might come forward sometime after Labor Day if past experience holds form. But Harrison said if anyone believes trust has been broken, they should look at HUSD in this new day and how ocials act now to promote transpar- ency and accountability. “[Leadership has said] ‘Look, everything we have is available to take a look at,’” Harrison said. “’We want to be that shining star in the community, and we’re going to do everything we can to prove that.’ I think the bond we’re looking at this year is another piece of that messaging.”

That has led the district to ask for money for a land purchase but also for a major building project to upgrade and build facilities. The nal ask is for $15.5 million for technology, safety and security. The district’s 1:1 technology initiative is a major part of that. “It’s essential,” Foley said. “As we’ve evolved here, curriculum and resources involve devices, and [stu- dents] have got to have them.” Getting the bond passed By law, the district cannot use resources to campaign for the bond’s passage, but it can be a conduit of information on what is being asked. The district has scheduled what it calls a “road show” with four one- hour informational sessions at dier- ent district sites in the fall. Advocating for the bond’s passage is a group called the Higley Political Action Committee, which also has supported past ballot issues. “We love the fact that we’re plan- ning for the future,” said Ben Harri- son, a former district employee who has been the PAC chairman for three years. “We love the fact that Higley

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12

COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

REAL ESTATE

Data provided by Daniel Ochoa • West and SouthEast REALTORS® of the Valley (WeSERV) 1733 E. Northrop Blvd., Chandler • 480-833-7510 • https://weserv.realtor

Featured neighborhood

CAYMAN SQUARE, 85233

MARKET DATA FOR JULY

60

85234

85233

NUMBER OF HOMES ON THEMARKET 2020 2021

NUMBER OF HOMES UNDER CONTRACT 2020 2021 50 80 59 69 109 95 76 92

Ground broke on this 322-home neighborhood west of Cooper Road and south of Guadalupe Road in 1994. Median home value $382,000

85296

87

51

35

85233

85233

85295

84 41

85234

85234

202

85297

101

53

85295

85295

Homes on the market* 0 Homes under contract* 0 Median annual property taxes $1,474.12 Median price per square foot $258.46 Average days on the market* 16

85298

64 49 97 40

85296

85296

78 80 87 67

85297

85297

N

111

48

85298

85298

Amenities: common areas, adjacent to McQueen Park and Activity Center, near Neely Ranch Riparian Preserve Build-out year: 1996 Builder: Fulton Homes Square footage: 1,315-2,476 Home values: $325,500-$550,000 Annual HOA dues: $504 Schools: Playa del Rey Elementary School, Mesquite Junior High School, Mesquite High School Average property tax (per $100 assessed valuation): $11.1859

MEDIAN PRICE OF HOMES SOLD WITHYEAROVERYEARPERCENTAGE CHANGE

2020 2021

85233

85234 85295

85296 85297 85298

$650,000 Sale price

+34.25%

$600,000

+38.66%

$550,000

+41.45%

+23.47%

+35.02% +32.43%

$500,000

$450,000

$400,000

*AS OF AUG. 3

$350,000

NEIGHBORHOOD DATA PROVIDED BY DEBBIE JENNINGS REALTY ONE GROUP  6025504958 WWW.DEBSELLSAZ.COM

$300,000

$0

Williams Field Rd.

13

GILBERT EDITION • AUGUST 2021

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