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Strong digital industry has emerged in greater Phoenix, official says

FILE - This May 26, 2016, file photo, Paul Huntsman shakes hands with Salt Lake Tribune Editor and Publisher Terry Orme, left, after he and his father Jon Huntsman, right, addressed the Salt Lake Tribune staff following a transition of employee benefits meeting at the Tribune offices in Salt Lake City. Tribune owner Paul Huntsman said in a statement Friday, July 29, 2016, that he wanted a more digitally focused newsroom leader. Former reporter Jennifer Napier-Pearce will take over for Orme in September. (Steve Griffin /The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)

Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, recently said he’d call the Valley the “Digital Desert” if he had to put a label on the area’s business environment.

While on the Rob and Karie Show Wednesday, Broome elaborated on that label.

“This market’s already the No. 1 or No. 2 market in the United States at hosting and storing data,” he said. “So our data storage capabilities around the Valley are arguably the best in the United States.”

Broome said there are more than 6,200 “digital” companies in the greater Phoenix market. He said he works to enhance this industry so he can better attract companies from other markets and build a brand for the Valley.

“We (Valley business leaders) think the notion of us being branded around a contemporary technology that we’re world class in is an important part of the conversation,” he said.

But the digital companies aren’t the only ones fueling greater Phoenix’s economy, he said.

“This market is driven by aerospace and defense competencies, driven by engineering, driven by electronics, software and health care excellence,” Broome said.

He said that local universities will have to continue to produce the right kinds of highly skilled workers for which employers look. He added that one obstacle the Valley faces is a decline in innovation, citing the contraction of Motorola as well as sequestration and defense cuts that have hurt the region’s aerospace and defense sector.

“We’re going to have to be more purposeful and capable in our knowledge and innovation platform,” Broome said, referring to how Valley leaders should shape their economic development plans.

Even though the greater Phoenix market has seen a strong growth in the digital sector, he said local leaders should work to develop other industries as well.

“If you sit too long on a technology sector, you ride it down, just like Michigan did cars,” Broome said, also pointing to Motorola again as a local example.

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