Week 3: The Silicon Desert

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    Chandler in 1966 was far from the sprawling suburbia that we know today.  Its 10,000 or so residents lived within a couple mile radius of the intersection of Chandler Boulevard and Arizona Avenue.  The sleepy community was surrounded by thousands of acres of cotton and sugar beet fields.  The small town eight miles from its nearest neighbor, Mesa, hardly seemed destined for a technology induced growth spurt. 

    Despite all of this Rogers Corporation, a technology company seeking to expand into the growing electronics industry, saw an opportunity to build its western headquarters in the small, dusty farm town.  Rogers was founded in Connecticut in 1832 by Peter Rogers as a paper mill.  For its first hundred years, it focused on making paper products.  In the 1930s, its business model changed to the field of polymers, and they made a wide variety of products from motor insulation to footwear.  By the 1960s, Rogers was the leading manufacturer of circuit boards and was looking to expand.  In 1967, Rogers opened its Circuit Systems Division in a 40,000 square foot facility in Chandler.  The opening of Rogers' factory set off a wave of development that has yet to slow down, and set Chandler on the path to being the center of the Silicon Desert.

    By the late 1970s, Chandler city leadership had realized the need to diversify the economy and move away from the traditional agricultural roots.  As Rogers continued to grow and expand its facilities in Chandler, city leaders actively courted an even larger technology company from Santa Clara, California – Intel.

    Intel was founded in 1968 as a semiconductor company building RAM for computers.  Throughout the 1970s, Intel developed a number of products, including microcontrollers, wafer circuit boards, and ultimately microprocessors that would become the computer industry standard.  In 1979, Fortune Magazine named Intel one of the ten greatest triumphs of the 1970s. 

    Chandler leaders lobbied hard to ensure that Intel’s next expansion would be located in their city.  In 1980, this became a reality as Intel opened its first manufacturing plant in Chandler off of Chandler Boulevard at Rural Road. 

    In the three plus decades since Intel's arrival, the high-tech industry has indeed become a huge economic driver for Chandler.  Intel has expanded many times, including a recent $5 billion expansion that was the largest construction project on the planet after the London Olympic Stadium.  Their Chandler campuses represent the width and breadth of their business, including planning and logistics, assembly/test and development, packaging development, corporate environmental health and safety, product research, development, venture capital, and sales and marketing.

    In addition to Intel, Chandler is home to campuses for Kaep (formerly InfusionSoft), Northrop Grumman (formerly Orbital Sciences), PayPal, and several other high-tech companies, including several enormous server farms, which power a surprisingly large portion of the world wide web.  Start-up tech companies lease spaces in the Innovations tech incubator, prototyping ideas and products with the hopes of hitting on Chandler’s next big thing.

    Chandler’s jewel, the Price Corridor, has been specifically designed to attract high-tech businesses to the area.  As it continues to expand and attract new high-tech businesses, Chandler and its Silicon Desert is poised to push the boundaries of technology in the 21st century.

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