Surprise residents enjoy clean, safe neighbourhoods, a family-friendly environment and impressive retail and recreational amenities. (Photo courtesy of Surprise Economic Development)

With more than 140,000 residents and the average household earning more than $69,000 per year, Surprise, Arizona, is quickly becoming a premier destination to do business. Indeed, the 7,000 companies that are based there enjoy a young, skilled population that is keen to work and enjoy itself when it comes to downtime.

But what else does the area have to offer, and why might companies from Europe and further abroad wish to invest there?

The cost of business

Despite the growing population and economic development of Surprise in recent years, Arizona’s government prides itself on fiscal accountability, with lowering taxes as an example. The state enjoys some of the lowest corporate and individual income tax rates in the US; corporation tax, for instance, is just 4.9%. Yet despite its low-tax approach, Surprise is still able to create jobs, foster research and development, and encourage capital investment.

The demographics

With its many golf courses and highly desired retirement communities, it is easy to overlook the fact that the average age of a Surprise resident is just 41. Since 2000, Surprise has put the ‘pop’ in population growth, having swelled from under 40,000 residents 20 years ago to 140,000-plus today, and exhibiting an average annual growth rate of 2.1%. By 2050, the population is projected to reach well over 350,000. This indication of the opportunities open to business is underpinned by low poverty rates (just 7%) and median earnings that top $84,000 in some sectors.

Enviable lifestyle

One of the strong pulls to Surprise for visitors and residents is the area’s sports heritage. Home to the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers spring training – as well as several stunning golf courses – Surprise is witnessing an understandable boom in the restaurant sector, which currently includes more than 185 restaurants that mix great food and fun entertainment.

In addition to the draw of sports, the area’s access to parks and shopping outlets means that visitors and residents have plenty to do in their spare time.

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Strong infrastructure

Whether it is supply chains, the ease with which business partners can travel there, or how amenable the area is to consumers, access and infrastructure are vital in driving economic development. At the state level, Arizona is located next to three large economies – California, Texas and Mexico – which represent 85 million consumers. Nearer to Surprise are some two million residents located in the West Valley, and its strong highway system means those residents can reach Surprise in just 30 minutes. Businesses also benefit from the freeway access, as well as the Ennis Spur of the BNSF Rail line that runs through the city’s modern industrial park, which is also a foreign-trade zone.

The city of Surprise has a rich sports heritage and is home to eight beautiful 18-hole golf courses. (Photo courtesy of Surprise Economic Development)

Internationally, businesses are supported by the close proximity of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Just a 40-minute drive from Surprise, the hub connects with more than 21 international destinations, including London, Frankfurt and Montreal. Within the US, the number of destinations swells to more than 100, with major cities represented across the economy.

The power of education and collaboration

According to US Census data, 67% of Surprise residents have a degree or some kind of college equivalent. While this is clearly a boon for some businesses, it also hints at the area’s strong academic standing. In Surprise City Center is the private Ottawa University, and a nearby world-class career and technical education campus, West-MEC. The latter of these focuses on giving students innovative career and technical education programmes, and on developing business partnerships with industry, state and local governments, as well as the local business community.

Surprise is not only big on growing the next generation of leaders, it is also big on growing businesses. Surprise’s AZ TechCelerator is a sign of both excellence and collaboration in a changing economy. Formed on a 66,000ft2 city-owned campus, its tailored domestic and international programmes are aimed at giving entrepreneurs access to mentors, training and affordable space – with notable successes in life sciences, cybersecurity and transportation. It is also used as a launching pad for international businesses through its Global Concierge Program. The programme includes assistance navigating issues like international patents, work visas, local business licences, incorporating in the US and other issues that are unique to foreign locates.

Considered in total, it is easy to see why investors are beginning to think of Surprise as a pleasant Surprise.