August 21, 2023

The History — And Future — of Arizona Construction 

For 150-plus years, Arizona has been at the forefront of construction innovation. After all, the state’s terrain is downright rugged — ambitious construction projects were needed to make Arizona increasingly livable. 

That innovative past, along with its promising future, makes the Grand Canyon State an exciting place for construction innovation to continue. It’s exactly why we do what we do. (More on that later.) The past, present, and future are all connected, and that’s especially true in a state like Arizona, in an industry like construction. 

Where We’ve Been

Arizona’s construction legacy started in 1863 when it became an official United States territory. The gold rush brought thousands of migrants westward in wagons and caravans, hoping to find fortunes buried deep in the mountains of Wickenburg, Prescott, Quartzite, and more. The rush of new arrivals necessitated decades of infrastructure building. 

Let’s briefly recap some of these key decades in Arizona’s construction history. 

Where We’re Going

Arizona’s best days aren’t in the rearview — far from it! There’s a bunch of exciting construction on the horizon. And for that, we’ve got a new generation of workers and promising new technologies to thank. 

Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, augmented reality (AR), and the Internet of Things (IoT) are continuing to evolve, transforming the landscape of skilled trades. In the process, these technologies are streamlining processes, increasing efficiency, and improving safety. Take AI-powered algorithms, for example, which can analyze construction site data to predict potential hazards, thereby mitigating risks and enhancing workplace safety.  

Because Gen Z has been raised on cellphones, coding, and computer-assisted work, they’re well positioned to carry the construction industry into these oncoming phases, the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) noted. 

Some big local construction projects are nearing completion. Take, for example, the Northwest Extension Phase II of Valley Metro’s light rail system, Phase II was originally scheduled to open in 2026, but now it’s on target for a 2024 completion. It’s all part of Transportation 2050, a 35-year multi-modal transportation plan that Phoenix voters approved in 2015. Phoenix will gain an additional 42 miles of high-capacity light rail corridors, adding to its current 20-mile total. 

The People Building It

As always, the folks making this progress possible are the construction workers — and these workers come from diverse communities. 

For example, one in every three U.S. construction workers is Hispanic. That’s more than double what it was at the turn of the century. And in Arizona, approximately 25% of residents are of Mexican descent. They’re well represented in Arizona’s construction workforce.  

Recent estimates state that women hold 15.6% of all construction site jobs. And women have truly shaped the skilled trades in some important ways. While there’s still a long way to go, women are increasingly joining the ranks.  

“I know that a woman’s perspective can bring value to any construction trade and that they can play an integral role in such a male-dominated industry,” Dyna Mora, an estimator at Doors Sales & Installations, told us during a recent interview. 

It’s Why We’re Here

The diverse workforce, the emerging technologies, the legacy of excellence — construction is the place to be when you’re in Arizona. That’s why we’re dedicated to ensuring a bright future for this industry and the people who work in it. We’ve developed numerous tools to help potential construction professionals get started, like interactive career match tools, training directories, and important industry partnerships 

However you want to pursue a career in the skilled trades, we’re here to help, every step of the way. 

The Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation’s Construction Workforce Initiative, Build Your Future Arizona’s mission is to create a sustainable and skilled craft workforce by creating awareness about high-paying construction careers, training opportunities and mapping career paths to employment in these high-demand occupations.