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Small businesses are picking up talented newcomers, whether recent college graduates or seasoned workers laid off from other firms.
From health-care to mining to engineering positions, it seems Arizona's economy is on the move. President David Genovese (center) wants to beef up GPE Commercial Advisors' brokerage side. David Genovese admits that his commercial-real-estate firm is taking a bit of a gamble by expanding its staff and moving into a bigger office during one of the worst commercial-real-estate slumps on record. But Genovese, president of Scottsdale-based GPE Commercial Advisors, said he is looking beyond the downturn and employment crunch and positioning his company to be at the top of its game when the metro Phoenix economy recovers.
GPE Commercial, a locally owned company founded in 1973, already has expanded its relatively lean staff of brokers and property managers by 20 percent in recent months. Genovese said he doesn't buy into the notion of commercial real estate as a good-old-boys network. His plan is to add at least 10 more employees to the current staff of about 40, which will mean moving into a larger space when the lease on its office, near Scottsdale and Camelback roads, expires in September.
Several commercial-brokerage firms in the Phoenix area have added property-management staff over the past two years to pick up more business at a time when relatively few sale or lease transactions were taking place.
Genovese said GPE Commercial is doing the opposite, expanding its historical role as a boutique firm specializing in health-care-property management by beefing up the brokerage side of the business and expanding it to all types of commercial property. Genovese admitted that there are still a lot of problems with the commercial-real-estate market, but that it had reached a necessary first step toward recovery.
The Vanguard Group plans to beef up its Scottsdale call center with more than 300 hires by the end of the year.
The financial-services company's expansion is also part of a national trend: Many firms are expanding their customer-service staffs, according to an industry group. Vanguard plans to use the hires to improve customer service for existing investment clients.
Across the country, call centers have ramped up hiring "exponentially," said Paul Stockford, research director for the National Association of Call Centers, an industry group based at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Call-center workers not only help with customer service, they can also sell additional products to existing clients. Cecelia Walker of Glendale fills out a job application at the Bashas' Family of Food Stores job fair at the University of Phoenix West Valley Learning Center in Phoenix.
After shedding more than 4,000 jobs as it closed stores and reorganized in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding, Arizona's hometown grocer is growing and hiring again.
Earlier this month, Bashas' held job fairs in metro Phoenix and Tucson in an effort to fill about 400 positions, from managers to customer-service representatives.
The Chandler-based operator of 130 Bashas', Food City and AJ's Fine Foods supermarkets throughout Arizona was caught when the housing bust and recession put an end to a decadelong building boom.
The 79-year-old grocery chain filed for Chapter 11 protection in July 2009 and emerged 14 months later a leaner, financially viable company. In the process, Bashas' closed about 25 marginal stores and cut its workforce from 10,753 in 2008 to 6,641 in 2011. While it's not ready to announce the construction of new stores, Bashas' executives believe the company is in a position to begin hiring again.
Castillo said the job fairs on May 3, 4, 5 and 10 exceeded the company's expectations and drew substantially more applicants than they expected. At the company's May 4 fair in west Phoenix, the company had to bring in extra interviewers and open up more interview rooms to handle the thongs of job seekers. Jay Johnson of Phoenix was laid off in December as a landscaping estimator and applied for a job at Bashas' as a meat cutter.
Becky Kirkley (left), a registered nurse in radiation oncology, trains Alison Lehmbeck at Cancer Treatment Centers of American in Goodyear, which has expansion plans. As Cancer Treatment Centers of America expands its cancer-fighting offerings in Arizona, the hospital will seek to hire more medical staff members to care for patients.
Since opening a Goodyear campus in December 2008 with 144 employees, Cancer Treatment Centers of America has more than doubled its workforce to 314 health-care and administrative positions. That hiring surge will continue over the next year, with an expected 15 percent increase in the number of employees. The hospital serves a 13-state Western region, drawing 63 percent of its patients from outside Arizona. Ramirez said he is now recruiting applicants for 19 open positions, which include a mix of medical and non-medical positions. The hospital is hiring registered nurses, care managers, clinical nurse assistants, medical assistants and a vice president of patient-care services. The hospital also is adding non-medical staff positions such as those in finance, accounting, marketing and business services. Ramirez said that the hospital can be choosy when selecting new employees because so many people are applying for health-care jobs. Beyond matching positions with applicants who have the right education, skills and experience, Ramirez said CTCA also evaluates whether job seekers are a good fit for the culture of the cancer hospital.

The hospital screens potential workers with a detailed questionnaire that measures how well they meet the company's values of being hopeful, compassionate, empowering, ethical, responsive, innovative and team-spirited.
Programmer David Johnson (left) and senior developer Jeff Sager review and debug code at Omega Legal Systems in Scottsdale. Omega Legal Systems, a Scottsdale-based company that sells software to help law firms run more efficiently, expanded its workforce by about 12 percent over the past six months as the number of clients continued to grow. Omega was founded 35 years ago by Don Gall, now the president and CEO, to create software to help midsize to large law firms handle their time management, billing and accounting. Gall said he added workers not because of a sudden burst of new business as the economy improved, but because of a steady attention to three basics that helped his firm grow. The number of Omega clients has grown by more than 28 percent, and sales revenue has increased by more than 500 percent over the past four fiscal years. Gall said it's been a good time to find workers, although he has been flooded with applications from unqualified people. He said he has been able to take his time to find the best hires, whether recent college graduates or experienced people who had been laid off from other companies. The new jobs were mostly development, programming and project-management positions that were needed to support new sales. The company has been expanding mining operations at several of its Arizona properties, including in Miami, Morenci and Safford, and also has work available in New Mexico and Colorado. Not only does the company need people to drive the massive machinery that pulls copper ore from the ground and to manage the explosives used to free up that ore, but Freeport also needs a variety of office and managerial employees to help its operations run smoothly. Divya Yoder is an account executive for Cox Business, which sells Cox services to businesses. While some companies stopped or slowed their hiring during the depth of the recession, others such as Cox Communications kept adding people to keep the business growing. Nationally, Cox Business has increased such business sales about 15 percent over the past year and more than that in Arizona, he said.
Cox Business Arizona has doubled its sales force over the past few years to about 100 and now plans to add at least 10 more sales representatives this year. Cox Business last year installed the faster connection at the Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute to speed up connections between the institute and the main Arizona State University campus and help TGen's biomedical research.
Sukiennik said Cox has been able to grow because it provides a basic service that businesses need today, downturn or not. With a workforce of about 3,000 in Arizona, Cox Communications often has other openings to replace workers who have left, said Kevin Moran, vice president of human resources for Cox Communications Arizona. Parent company Cox Communications of Atlanta also offers advertising services and, for the home, broadband, cable and online TV and telephone services. Plenty of companies serving homeowners around the Phoenix metro area have been in pain lately. The installer and servicer of heating and air-conditioning systems boosted its revenues by 67 percent in 2010 and has been in a steady hiring mode lately.
The Phoenix firm has hired roughly 70 people since the start of 2011, with plans to add 20 or 30 more to its employee count of 240. The privately owned company recently secured two Small Business Administration loans totaling $2.8 million from Chase. Because the company doesn't service new residential construction and has had limited involvement with commercial projects, it has largely avoided the real-estate downturn.
Even last fall's freak hailstorm boosted George Brazil's business by damaging numerous air-conditioning units in metro Phoenix. Probst credits much of the firm's growth to what he calls an intense focus on training workers properly and a passion for providing top-notch customer service.
George Brazil Services is no longer directly affiliated with founder George Brazil, 82, who lives in Tempe. Electrical engineer Todd Kazmirski works at the Goodrich Electronics Systems Center in Phoenix. The company said the bulk of its hiring will be to staff an electronic-systems center with electrical, systems, software and mechanical engineers. Salaries will depend on experience, but Cronin said entry-level engineers can make upwards of $50,000. Electronic control boxes that connect to motors give customers the benefit of reduced weight and better reliability. Besides the hiring Cronin will do, the lighting-systems team plans to add between 50 and 60 positions this year. Goodrich has been in Phoenix since 1986 on Fifth Street between University Drive and Broadway Road. Marcia Rowley and John Rowley are co-founders of International Cruise and Excursions in Scottsdale. Over the past few years - a time when many consumers were second-guessing their vacation plans - business at Scottsdale-based International Cruise and Excursions Inc. John and Marcia Rowley, co-founders of the company, largely attribute growth during the recession to a travel package that offers customers a resort stay and cruise.

Now, the privately held company is hiring an additional 100 sales representatives, in part because of the popularity of the resort-and-cruise package and in part because of the February 2010 introduction of a second vacation package, which includes a hotel "city stay" and a cruise. Now, as vacation packages grow in popularity, swaps of timeshare and cruise swaps only account for about 50 percent of the company's current book of business, Marcia Rowley said.
The new employees who ICE is hiring will act as outbound sales representatives, selling the vacation packages to customers who have previously purchased vacations from ICE or one of its partners. Rather than buying a specific cruise, resort or hotel stay, consumers have more than a year to make their vacation plans. To apply for a sales job with ICE, you must be a high-school graduate and have basic computer skills.
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Larger companies have enough vacancies to host their own job fairs to fill hundreds of positions.
After three years of losses, the state has gained jobs for the past three months, and about 10,800 so far this year.
The company has expanded the square footage of commercial space under its management to 10 million from 7 million, and its client base has grown by about 40 percent, he said.
Vanguard also plans to relocate some customer-service jobs from other regions to metro Phoenix and drum up new business, said Phyllis Bruner, a human-resources manager. During a two-day hiring event this month, Vanguard interviewed candidates for 80 positions. She said she works at a convenience store that was recently robbed and she no longer feels safe.
Through a heavy dose of marketing and word-of-mouth referrals, CTCA has carved out a slice of the cancer-care market by appealing to patients who seek traditional medical treatments with complementary therapies such as nutrition, naturopathic medicine, counseling and physical therapy. Potential workers also are asked to provide an example of treating a patient in a manner that reflected those values. While that's not a lot of new positions, small companies collectively can have a major impact on employment trends. But because they couldn't adapt to technological changes, such as Microsoft Windows products, they shut down, Gall said.
As a result, the employee count has increased by 53 percent over the past five years to just under 50. But in many cases, the salary they want, they are not qualified for, which is interesting in these times, where a number of people are out of work," Gall said.
Someone being hired to sell Cox services to telecommunications companies, for example, should have a background in that field, Sukiennik said. Its fleet of 170 trucks makes service calls in 1,500 to 2,000 Valley homes each week during the summer months, said Jim Probst, president and one of three owners of the firm, which has two locations south of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Referrals, he said, have become a big source of new business, with the company placing a priority on rectifying mistakes. But Probst's company has a co-marketing agreement with Brazil's firm, which focuses on plumbing and electrical work.
Another Goodrich division has expanded operations in Phoenix and will be designing, testing and manufacturing exterior and interior lighting for military and commercial aircraft. But we've been talking about scenarios where we get on the order of 200 additional people or so on campus," said Dennis Cronin, vice president of the electronic-systems center. It provides braking, landing gear, actuation (flaps on the wings that control the airplane) and other systems to customers including Boeing and Airbus. John says sales for that product grew 57 percent in 2010, leading to a steady trickle of hiring over the past year.
The packages are sold as both a self-branded product and offered through some of ICE's partners, such as RCI, one of the largest time-share trade brokers in the world. Later, it began to provide vacation inventory to clients such as American Express and USAA from suppliers such as Carnival Cruise Lines and Disney Cruise Line. Arizona is good place to build a customer-service staff because the state's time zone allows the firm to offer extended customer-service hours and the desert climate means there are virtually no weather-related communications issues, Bruner said.
In the third and fourth quarters of 2010, the industry gained 3,929 and 9,695 net jobs, respectively.
The company has purchased a 42-acre site next to its existing campus in Goodyear, and it is plotting an expansion plan that could include a hotel.
Small businesses make up more than 95 percent of all Arizona companies and create 60 to 80 percent of new jobs, according the U.S. With confidence in the prices sticking around for some time, the company has recently been expanding operations at several of its U.S. Probst and his two partners started their company, Quality Home Maintenance, in 2005, before purchasing the George Brazil heating and air-conditioning operation in 2009.

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