In 2015, the City of Glendale hosted Super Bowl XLIX, where the New England Patriots forged a stunning comeback win against the Seattle Seahawks. Eight years later, fans from across the nation gathered once again in Glendale for Super Bowl LVII, but the city — and the whole West Valley — has transformed since Tom Brady earned his fourth Super Bowl ring.
Kevin Phelps, city manager of Glendale, took on his role in 2016 and has been instrumental in the municipality’s growth. When he started, there were .31 jobs per person, meaning that for every 100,000 Glendale residents there were 31,000 jobs.
“The federal government defines a major job center as a community that has .5 jobs per [person],” Phelps explains. “We’ve been working on increasing that number and are about .4 jobs, which means we have close to 100,00 jobs now inside the City of Glendale.
“When you live and work in the city,” he continues, “you feel more connected to your community, have less commute time and more availability to volunteer — whether it be in your faith-based organization, coaching soccer or Cub Scouts.”
Phelps attributes the expansion of employment opportunities to establishing good public policy and executing it. He notes that previous city officials were wary of annexing land into the municipality because of the taxpayer burden associated with building new roads and infrastructure.
“When I first got here, I worked with our council through a series of workshops and made the recommendation that we get into a pro-annexation position but narrow down how and what kinds of projects we would annex,” Phelps continues. “We very deliberately said we wanted Glendale to become a job center.”
Growth in Glendale
By making the conscious choice to attract high-quality, large-scale employers that provide wages that workers can raise a family on, Phelps knew that meant saying no to other uses, such as single-family and multifamily housing. The city went as far as enshrining that commitment in the general plan by only permitting residential projects for already-entitled land.
From a business perspective, Phelps explains, the revenue the city receives from rooftops “comes nowhere close” to offsetting the cost to provide services, such as police and fire departments. In 2016, Glendale collected approximately $6.6 million in permitting fees for new development. North of $44 million was collected last year, which goes into the general fund.
The idea that prioritizing industrial projects over housing developments would hurt residents is misguided, according to Phelps, adding that the city council has parameters around the sort of businesses it’s willing to work with.
“Our strategy is to be a job center [so] we can take the revenue [from fees and taxes] to improve the community for the existing citizens,” he says. “We [know] large employers will come courting, but we want to be careful not to offer any incentives or cooperate if they won’t pay benefits or a family wage. We politely said no to a retailer that was going to pay $12 an hour with no benefits yet would’ve brought in 2,500 jobs.”