By Ken Abramczyk
Calgary native John Hopkinson often flies between his Calgary International Airport and the Scottsdale Airport, where his company, Hopkinson Aircraft Sales, is located.
Hopkinson likes the convenience. He says he can fly from Calgary to Scottsdale in two hours and 45 minutes.
“For us, the Airpark gets good corporate traffic, traveled by the big decision makers,” says Hopkinson, whose company acquires, brokers and sells new and preowned corporate jets. It works closely with Landmark Aviation.
Hopkinson is one of the Canadian travelers who represent 87% of all international flights into Scottsdale Airport.
Glenn Williamson, CEO and founder of the Canada Arizona Business Council, rattles off statistics and names like he’s flipping a Rolodex. The council found that 581 Canadian companies employ 12,467 workers in Maricopa County. Statewide, that figure is 18,272 employees at 772 businesses.
Williamson says he believes the number of affluent Canadians is increasing in Arizona. Numbers have yet to be tracked in the Airpark, but, he notes, there has been an influx of Canadian jets in terminals.
Williamson highlighted many companies: Hopkinson Aviation, Gemini Group, Carpay and others. Bank of Montreal, which has a local headquarters on Camelback Road, operates a bank near the Airpark. Irene Clary, the principal of CatClar Development and developer of Soho Scottsdale, relocated here from Toronto.
“You just see oodles and oodles of little Canadian companies,” Williamson says.
More than 895,000 Canadians visited Arizona in 2013, spending $923 million, according to the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. More than 132,200 Arizona jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada. Canada and Arizona spend $3.7 billion in annual bilateral trade.
Hopkinson says he chose to open an office here because the Scottsdale Airport operates as a general and private aviation hub.
“Many western Canadians spend time in Arizona,” Hopkinson says. “We have had a personal connection to the airport since we first visited Scottsdale and purchased a home around 20 years ago.”
Increased flights boosted travel
Williamson says the reasons for flying to Scottsdale haven’t changed. Williamson sits in meetings where business leaders discuss—sometimes overanalyzing this topic—why they do business in Arizona and leave the homeland. “Hey guys, it’s simple: it’s cold,” Williamson says.
Once airlines scheduled more nonstop flights from Canadian cities into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, travel increased to Arizona. Combine that with the cost of square footage of offices and homes back home, and Canadians, many in the middle of their careers, began moving to the area, Williamson says.
“In the last decade Scottsdale has grown into the Palm Springs and Naples (Florida) category,” Williamson explains.
Not only is the Airpark obviously conducive to his business, but many executives fly corporate jets to Scottsdale to attend conventions, conduct business, golf or stay in second homes, he adds.
“The other airports cater more heavily to training or commercial traffic and are far away from where the action is,” Hopkinson says. “The Scottsdale Airpark is in the center and handles almost exclusively corporate aircraft, and has very friendly customs personnel.”
Western provinces rule in home ownership
The economic impact spreads into the real estate market as well.
Canadians own 22,424 residential properties in Maricopa County, according to statistics from the Maricopa County Assessor’s office. They own 94% of internationally owned residential properties, and 3,707 homes in Scottsdale. About 70% of Canadians who own residential properties in Maricopa County are from Alberta and British Columbia.
Calgary native Don Matheson, founder of The Matheson Team, says Canadians are drawn to the Airpark’s strengths: a large employment center, retail, business hub and strong property values, including the nearby luxury homes in Grayhawk, DC Ranch and McDowell Mountain Ranch. Matheson bought a home here about 20 years ago, and travels between Arizona and Canada about two or three times a year.
“We see a lot of interest from Canadians in the second home market. They are restricted by the days they can spend here, but they are interested, from condos to super luxury homes.”
Matheson describes himself as: “Canadian by birth, American by choice.” The housing market has slowed a bit since the Canadian dollar weakened and oil prices fell, but “there’s still a lot of interest from Canadians.”
Hopkinson credits the low corporate tax and great winter climate as big draws for Canadian businesses to relocate in Scottsdale.
Williamson says he believes the business potential can only grow. “I think you will see Canadian investors shift their money here from California.” Scottsdale and Arizona can extend their reach from western Canada to Montreal where Canadian aerospace companies are located, he adds.
“We’re in a premier position where we should be pulling the best of the best and let them know what we have here,” Williamson says. “We’ve done a decent job to get companies into Arizona and into the Airpark.
“If Arizona is the destination, then the Airpark is the reception area coming in.”