Showcase AZ: Benchmark Electronics

Benchmark Electronics, a global technology design and manufacturing company headquartered in Tempe, is taking full advantage of Arizona’s business-friendly environment.

The company moved its headquarters to the Phoenix area from Texas in 2017 to be closer to Sky Harbor International Airport, Arizona State University and endless blue skies.

“I have to say, with some bias and selfishness, one of the reasons that I was attracted to Benchmark as a company is I like to see a resurgence of technology companies in the Valley,” said Steve Beaver, vice president and general counsel at Benchmark Electronics. Beaver was born and raised in Phoenix and attended the University of Arizona in Tucson.

“My dad was a 38-year ‘Motorolan’ back when Motorola had a huge presence here, and I think this fit’s the governor’s narrative… to bring high-tech companies and attract them to the Valley,” Beaver said. “You don’t often hear about companies coming from Texas to Phoenix, so that’s quite an accomplishment in its own rite.”

Benchmark has been going through a transition, moving away from electronics manufacturing services (EMS) to product design, technology and solutions on a global scale, said Jan Janick, CTO and vice president of global engineering at Benchmark Electronics.

“Benchmark’s whole success is about making our customers and our partners successful, so what I see in our future is a lot of extended capability on the building blocks of technology around our product and their engineering design services,” Janick said.

Benchmark works with its global partners on all aspects of a product: from concept and design to manufacturing and aftermarket solutions. The company’s 23 global manufacturing sites — out of 27 total locations worldwide — give it the capability to meet the needs of a variety of industries.

“Benchmark primarily serves several markets: aerospace and defense, medical, next-generation telecommunications, test and instrumentation, and computing,” Beaver said. “Right now, our focus is more on the higher-value markets; we’re trying to migrate more toward the aerospace and defense and medical markets.”

Benchmark’s executive team wants to “forge deeper relationships” with the Arizona community, including the universities, state government, and business organizations.

“We want to create jobs here in the Valley,” Beaver said. “Our ultimate goal is to create at least 500 jobs, if not more, in the next five years. And we do have some manufacturing sites here in the Valley, hopefully with some opportunity for expansion in those areas as well.”

There are currently 109 employees at Benchmark’s new 60,000-square-foot corporate headquarters, located in a newly-constructed business park next to the Tempe Marketplace shopping center, and there is room in the building for 220 people. And that’s just a portion of the company’s 13,000 employees worldwide.

“Benchmark was founded in 1979 in a small town in Texas, and we originally started off really focused on medical products; in fact, we were a small subsidiary of a medical company,” said Mike Buseman, executive vice president of global operations at Benchmark Electronics. “What’s happened over those 40 years is we’ve now grown into a real global organization. We’re very focused on many other things beyond medical, but we’ve always been clear about our mission around really highly-complex products. Today, we’ve grown into an organization that has product design, that has advanced manufacturing and technical solutions across a wide range of industries.”

In November 2018, the Arizona Technology Council and Arizona Commerce Authority named Benchmark Electronics the Large Company Innovator of the Year at the Governor’s Celebration of Innovation.

Benchmark products fill too broad a range to pin down into one category, but its products for each industry are defined by their cutting-edge design and mobile capabilities.

Among its most recognizable products are computers and screens for U.S. Army soldiers, a mobile long-distance camera surveillance system that can be mounted on the back of U.S. Customs and Border Protection trucks, and a portable laser-light biometric scanner used to quickly and easily reveal arm veins in a medical environment.

The first floor of the new corporate headquarters includes a product design center as part of the Internet of Things (IOT), which includes any cloud-connected electronic devices. The center will “focus on sensor infrastructure, communications, wireless, battery life and general connection of our customers’ products to the cloud,” Janick said.

The company has big plans for Arizona, and the new headquarters is just the start.

“One of the key reasons we moved here was access to the skills — both the students and the professors — and expertise of ASU,” Janick said. “ASU has been a very, very willing partner to work with industry.”

The customer-base, industries and engineering teams that exist in the state make it a very fruitful place for Benchmark, especially when it comes to aerospace and defense, Janick said.

Graham Bosch

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