Greater Phoenix has long been an important hub for America’s defense industry. But in recent decades, it has also cultivated a reputation for defending the nation’s cyber assets thanks to a rapidly growing ecosystem that is well on its way to becoming the nation’s corporate cybersecurity nerve center.
The region’s cybersecurity cluster began to take shape in the 1980s, as major financial services companies expanded their presence with cyber units and risk analysis operations. As the world became increasingly digital, emerging data protection technologies, data center operations, and financial transaction protection blossomed in Greater Phoenix. With a unique mix of higher education, affordability, livability and infrastructure, Greater Phoenix has become a top cybersecurity market by enabling innovation with unmatched speed-to-market, and a regulatory environment that encourages disruption and discovery.
To serve the local job market as it headed into the 21st century, area universities developed curricula focused on cybersecurity education, programs and training that today are some of the nation’s finest. Arizona State University (ASU), University of Arizona, Grand Canyon University (GCU), University of Advancing Technology (UAT), Maricopa Community Colleges and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University have each garnered a reputation for cybersecurity excellence. Notably, ASU has a Center for Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics, UAT is focused on cutting-edge digital skillsets, and GCU is home to one of two Cyber Warfare Range facilities, a highly-regarded center that works with companies to detect and assess threats within their systems’ inner-operability.
Greater Phoenix can boast a higher education pipeline that keeps pace with traditional cybersecurity hubs like San Jose. And prior to higher education, the region prepares its youth with innovative STEM options for K-12 students, including schools like the Phoenix Coding Academy and free public programs like CodePHX, which offers free introductory technology classes to youth.
Affordability and livability
Of course, that talent needs an attractive market, and Greater Phoenix is tough to beat for affordability and quality of life. Companies that have located in Greater Phoenix often highlight the ease with which company leaders and employees have immersed themselves in local leadership and their community. When stacked up against its closest cybersecurity hub competitors – San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Boston and New York – Greater Phoenix’s nearly 80,000 workers in cybersecurity related occupations enjoy a lower cost of living, more affordable housing market, lower personal income tax and shorter commute times. Greater Phoenix is the only metro among these peers with a cost of living below the national average. Housing is cheaper to buy or rent, the region has the lowest personal income tax rates across all income levels, and its average commute time of 26-minutes is significantly shorter.
It also offers affordability to cybersecurity companies with lower annual operating costs and affordable commercial real estate, which allows companies to scale rapidly and effectively; competitive corporate tax rates and mandated benefits environment compared with its peers; and incentives, such as quality job tax credits and research and development tax credits. In an apples to apples comparison, this means that operating costs for a typical cybersecurity company would be less expensive in Greater Phoenix than in peer markets by 15.7% to 31.3%. Even filing for a business license, obtaining permitting and ramping up occupancy are faster and easier in Arizona, due to its welcoming, pro-business environment.
As cyber firms transition from passive & reactive monitoring to proactive monitoring, Greater Phoenix is well-positioned for the next generation of cybersecurity technology. This is thanks to modern, reliable infrastructure and a robust ecosystem of independent cybersecurity companies and cybersecurity units from Fortune 500 companies, including ADT, Amazon, American Express, Axon, Boeing, Charles Schwab, Chase, Experian, Garmin, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Intel, Kudelski Security, LifeLock, PayPal, Symantec and Wells Fargo, just to name a few.
Greater Phoenix has fast fiber connectivity, a robust data-center network, and consistent and reliable power coverage. Cyber units need redundancy and uptime, so there’s no room for a brownout or rolling blackout. Greater Phoenix can offer this in part due to a low risk of natural disasters – it is not in an area prone to earthquakes, hurricanes or tornadoes. Its utility mix is diverse and ranked among the most reliable in the United States. This is especially important to Greater Phoenix’s growing roster of corporate Global Security Operation Centers (GSOCs), which help companies protect data and employees.
Greater Phoenix is The Connected Place, bringing together people, place, and tech to build the future of cybersecurity and emerging technology innovations.
Chris Camacho is president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, one of the nation’s longest-standing public private partnerships for economic development. During his tenure, GPEC has led the attraction of more than 322 companies creating 55,617 jobs and $5.6 billion in capital investment. Some of the more notable projects include Apple, Silicon Valley Bank, Deloitte, GoDaddy, Yelp, Amazon, Garmin, and General Motors. He oversees the domestic and international business development and market strategies while serving as GPEC’s executive leader in community interactions.