Mesa, Arizona - Home of the Chicago Cubs and Apple.

I haven't been to Phoenix for a few years. (Granted, this polar vortex has me rethinking that course of action.)

My grandmother spends her winters down there (and statistically speaking, so does yours), and millions flock to the area in February/March for MLB Spring Training.

And now, two of my favorite companies in the world - Apple and the Chicago Cubs - call the same Phoenix suburb their year-round home.

That Phoenix suburb - Mesa - recently invested heavily in both entities. Here's why.

Keeping the Cubs

The Cubs' Spring Training facility has been in Mesa for quite a while - HoHoKam Park opened in 1997, and it is still a good facility - not that long ago, was a state of the art facility.

But thanks to the never-ending march of Progress (especially regarding stadium amenities), HoHoKam started to look a little bit... less than.

All told, there are 15 MLB teams with Spring Training facilities in the Phoenix area, operating out of 10 stadiums.

The Dodgers' have Camelback Ranch in Glendale. The Diamondbacks and Rockies have Talking Stick in Scottsdale.

Both of those suburbs have more going on than Mesa - and the parks themselves are brand new and beautiful.

So, the Cubs did what any other MLB team with a reasonably large following, a team that could drive the needle for tax revenues and attracting crowds, would do: they used their leverage to work out a deal with the city of Mesa to build an entirely new spring training facility to replace their 15-year-old digs.

The city of Mesa spent $84 million in public money to build "Wrigley West", and that's before the $15 million in new infrastructure the city also chipped in.

That said, the Cubs' impact on Mesa is estimated to be worth $52 million annually.

And, it should be noted, the city didn't just hand the Cubs the new stadium. It's owned by the city, and will be leased to the Cubs.

The stadium is (eventually) going to be surrounded by a "Wrigleyville West" shopping/hotel neighborhood, which should entice some of the thousands of Cubs fans making an annual trek to Mesa to actually stay in Mesa, instead of finding a hotel up in Scottsdale.

And while they're at it, Mesa is renovating the old HoHoKam Park - with the idea that the A's will move in in 2015. Two MLB teams for the price of one? Could be a savvy investment by the city of Mesa.

Adding Apple

Mesa wasn't done there, either. It was recently announced that Apple would be opening their $114 million Sapphire Glass factory in Mesa.

It didn't come cheap. As they did with the Cubs, Mesa had to grant Apple all kinds of benefits - tax breaks, new electric infrastructure, even designating the factory as a "foreign trade zone".

But it could mean 700 jobs for the Mesa area - and considering how down-and-out Mesa was a few years back, with the housing market in tatters, and with even the Cubs threatening to leave, that's no small achievement.

Apple's new factory is a major investment in a very cool new technology. Within this factory, Apple will "cultivate" cylinders of synthetic sapphire, which can then be sliced into sheets thinner than 1mm.

The new Apple facility will make a LOT of synthetic sapphire.... as much as two times the current global capacity.

It seems likely that Apple has HUGE plans for this material - it's fair to expect that your next iPhone screen (or, at a minimum, the one after that) will have a super-tough screen made of sapphire.

This also continues a trend by Tim Cook-era Apple of bringing manufacturing jobs Stateside, which started with the new Mac Pro.

Blue-Chip Bets

Ultimately, time will tell if Mesa made the right call in spending so much public money on making things nicer for their new billionaire tenants. 

But you have to give them credit for their taste. If you're going to dip into the public coffers to attract (or retain) a tech company and a sports team, it's nice to know that you're getting one of the most recognizable brands in MLB, and THE most recognizable brand in tech. 

It won't turn Mesa into Scottsdale overnight - but they can certainly say they tried. I'll be there next year. 


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