Gilbert (AZ) Office of Economic Development Takes Targeted Approach to Successful Business Expansion and Attraction

Published on Sep 14, 2017

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Emsi Burning Glass

image of Lightcast gradiant


The Gilbert Office of Economic Development has a one-person research shop, just like it has a one-person business attraction team and a one-person marketing team. This means the Phoenix-area EDO doesn’t have time or resources to waste. That goes for when it’s analyzing what distinguishes Gilbert’s workforce and economy, developing a targeted business attraction strategy, and helping a major local employer decide to expand locally instead of across the country.

Key takeaways:

  • Gilbert uses Emsi’s research software to identify target industries and come up with compelling talking points as it markets its growing community to prospective businesses.

  • Local wage data helped Gilbert make the case in a prominent business expansion that netted 155 high-paying jobs.

  • Emsi’s place-of-residence occupation data is “extremely compelling” to businesses interested in Gilbert’s workforce.

The Power of Data in the Orbital ATK’s Business Expansion

“They were looking for literal rocket scientists.”

Vince Giovannini

That’s how Vince Giovannini, Economic Development Analyst for the Gilbert (AZ) Office of Economic Development, describes the type of talent that Ortibal ATK Space Systems Group was going to staff in an expansion of its engineering operations.

Last year the prominent aerospace and defense technology firm winnowed its choices for the expansion to two locations: Loudoun County, Virginia, its corporate headquarters, or Gilbert, Arizona, where it already had a 116,000-square-foot satellite manufacturing facility.

Orbital ATK was planning to add 155 new workers in the expansion, most of whom would be aerospace engineers earning wages at the 75th to 90th percentile for the high-skilled occupation. The company expected average salaries to be in the $145,000 range, and that’s what it would have been in Loudoun County.

But not in Gilbert, about 20 miles southeast of Phoenix, where labor and cost of living is much lower than in Northern Virginia.

“We compared Gilbert data to Loudoun County using Emsi,” Giovannini said. “We were able to demonstrate that payroll costs are significantly more affordable for businesses in Gilbert.”

Note: The highlighted portion on the map of Arizona represents Maricopa County, but the data represents only Gilbert.

Orbital ATK decided on Gilbert for its expansion, increasing the number of STEM workers in the Gilbert area and bringing the type of high-paying jobs that every community covets.

“The Emsi data provided a key selling point for us, being that Orbital would see $20K-$30K of annual labor savings per worker by expanding in Gilbert over Loudoun County,” Giovannini said. “When applying that to 155 jobs, the company would experience roughly $3 million in savings per year in Gilbert.”

Targeted Business Attraction and Marketing

The Orbital ATK story is a vibrant example of how the Gilbert Office of Economic Development has leveraged Developer, Emsi’s labor market research software, for successful business expansion. It’s also had success using data and analytics for targeted, proactive business attraction.

Gilbert uses Emsi’s labor market info to understand which companies to focus on based on the list of priority sectors it’s identified. The EDO knows Gilbert’s workforce and industry strengths because of this foundational strategic planning work.

The next step is to take those strengths and market Gilbert as an attractive option for investment. Giovannini uses Emsi data and market knowledge to tell the community’s story through infographics, interactive visualizations, one-page handouts, and other materials. As an example, Gilbert uses the below interactive dashboard to visualize the community’s workforce.

<a href='#'><img alt=' ' src='https:&#47;&#47;;static&#47;images&#47;Oc&#47;OccupationAnalysis_1&#47;Dashboard1&#47;1_rss.png' style='border: none' /></a>

Commuter & Cost of Living Data A Key Advantage

One of the best stories Gilbert has to tell is about its skilled workforce. Gilbert (pop. nearly 250,000) is the fifth-largest municipality in Arizona, and it soon will be the third-largest in the Phoenix metro. Thousands of Gilbert residents, however, flood out of the town every day for work—an issue the EDO quantifies using Emsi’s detailed place-of-residence occupation data.

Gilbert knows the number and specific types of workers that are commuting out of Gilbert, and it’s able to pitch its resident workforce to employers.

“That data is extremely compelling to businesses looking to expand or locate in Gilbert” Giovannini said.

Gilbert is actively recruiting FinTech companies to the community using data that tells a story that there is available, high-quality workers leaving Gilbert for work every day. This information, as shown in the below visualization, gives confidence to companies that there is a local workforce to tap into.

<a href='http:&#47;&#47;;finovatefall2017&#47;'><img alt=' ' src='https:&#47;&#47;;static&#47;images&#47;Fi&#47;FinancialTechinGilbertAZ&#47;FINANCIALTECHINGILBERTAZ&#47;1_rss.png' style='border: none' /></a>

Giovannini has found the additional angle on occupation data (traditionally it’s reported and shown by place of work) to be an effective combo with cost-of-living-adjusted earnings. “When we’re comparing our region to others, we want to show part of the story is that you have more disposable income, which leads to a higher quality of life,” he said. “The Emsi data really helps tell that story.”

All of these numbers, well packaged, have enabled Gilbert to get callbacks and second meetings with interested businesses. “We’ve received specific feedback with recent companies we worked with,” Giovannini said, “that we are the only municipality that they met with that provided this type of data.”

Saving Time and Energy With Emsi

The fact that these many different data points are in one spot in Emsi Developer makes the software tool extremely valuable to Giovanninni as Gilbert’s lone researcher.

“I don’t have to go the BLS, the NCES, the BEA, and Census to pull data,” he said. “It comes down to the cost of my time: I’m the one-man research shop, and having a variety of workforce and demographic analytics in Emsi’s central database allows me to work efficiently. Our office is generating insight faster than ever before.”

About Gilbert, Arizona, Office of Economic Development

Located in the southeast valley of the Phoenix metropolitan area, Gilbert, Arizona, has a population of nearly 250,000 residents and is nationally recognized as the 22nd best place to live in the nation (CNN/Money Magazine, 2014); 2nd safest community in the nation (FBI Uniform Crime Report Data, 2016); Best City to Raise a Family in Arizona (WalletHub, 2017), and has the highest median income in the nation (WalletHub, 2016). For more information, follow Gilbert Economic Development on Twitter (@GilbertAZEcoDev) or visit

About Emsi

Emsi provides economic development organizations with labor market insights on their communities and regions to help them grow existing businesses, attract new businesses, and provide meaningful opportunities to their residents. For more information, email us at, call 866-999-EMSI (3674), or visit