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Commentary

Becoming a World Class Region

Create healthy, vibrant and  prosperous communities

A vision is a declaration of something that hasn’t happened yet. It is a stand, a strategy, a hope backed by intention. It’s the first step in creating a future.

Personal Preferences

The majority of Tucson’s population moved here from other places. Only in the last 20 years have the numbers grown by people being born and raised here. Many of the people who have settled here are committed to this beautiful and exotic region as their home. Tucson is also a training ground of developing talent who will move on when their career or professional path calls for it.

Choosing Tucson as your personal preference for where you want to be and then acting on making it a better place is the first mission of realizing Tucson as a healthy, prosperous community.

Character of the Local Economy

Although Tucson is the oldest European settlement the United States it is a new city. It prospered on Cattle, Copper and Cotton for decades, then built an economic base on government and institutions that pushed the housing industry. There are over 30,000 small businesses in the metropolitan region because there are few large employers. These factors still drive the economy.

In the past decade the character of the local economy began to change. The government and institutions still lead in employment while proven principles are being applied to small businesses – management principles, planning and business growth. Enterprises are surviving their founders and new generations of owners are moving in. New businesses are starting up. Business vitality is the second mission of realizing Tucson as a healthy, prosperous community.

Workforce Development

In today’s labor-tight, knowledge-based economy, this is far and away the single most important factor. Two forces are at work when workforce development is considered.

First, we live in a consumer based society. People must work to earn money, be it as a small business owner, a professional offering services, an executive leading an enterprise or a laborer.

Second, businesses and enterprises need trained and motivated workers and managers to perform the tasks of creating and fulfilling products and services.

Efforts are underway now through government and private sector bureaucracies to create a world-class workforce for companies to recruit from.

The opportunity in this new economic reality is the promise that we all do work that matters. Every individual who enters the workforce has an unprecedented responsibility to themselves – to chose work training that challenges and satisfies their need of fulfillment. In this new economic reality where people will change employment numerous times in their work life, they need to embrace the idea that they have work to do, whoever employs them, they’re not just doing a job. This is a key to self-motivation.

Companies need to respond by offering employees salaries, benefits and training that are competitive in the industry and the region. Competitive in the industry because, once trained and skilled, workers are motivated to find the best employer even if it means relocating. Competitive in the region because the success of a company will be in it’s ability to retain and nurture talented employees. Workers, when they become employees are intellectual assets of the company.

When parents, brothers, sisters, friends and acquaintances are enjoying the work they do, the children will prosper and enjoy Tucson as a healthy, prosperous community. This is the third mission.

Educational Institutions

The most useful and significant education will not occur at the University of Arizona, it will occur in the technical institutions like Pima Community College and the Southern Arizona Institute of Advanced Technology. The types of employment that is developing is technical and service based that requires a two year education.

The University will remain in importance for it’s engineering, scientific, medical, and business executive training. It will also continue as a leader in research, and, when the technology transfer capability is in place; a source of new enterprises.

The health and prosperity of the Tucson community depends on the education institution leaders to shift career and work life development to this new paradigm of employment. When this is occurring, the fourth mission will be realized.

Cost of Living

Shelter and transportation are typically the two highest cost items in a household budget. In business, the cost of training and retaining a workforce usually is larger than the building and transportation costs, followed by capital investment in technology. In the first case, it’s the cost of living. In the second, it’s the cost of doing business.

Well managed skilled labor applied to a company’s product line that has market viability will generate growth and yield profits. A skilled workforce will stay in Tucson when a fair and equitable wage is considered the norm rather than the exception. Skill and talent will gravitate to the highest rewards.

The fifth mission of health and prosperity will manifest when the shift from the cost of living to the benefits of living in Tucson occurs.

Transportation

Tucson will always remain a secondary market for air travel. The Sky Harbor hub is simply too massive to compete against. Strategic business services like frequent van travel, feeder flights and the possible future of a high speed bullet train are solutions worth supporting.

Trucking, rail and air freight supply the region. The interstate highways, private sector rail lines and the municipal airport are our lifelines. Their maintenance and upgrades deserves strong advocates.

The challenge for regional planners is in designing and building an inter modal transportation system that includes mass transit and private vehicle road systems that serve users needs. Employment areas aren’t concentrated nor is the population large enough to justify light rail systems. The solution is found in increasing the effectiveness and efficiencies of existing systems from sidewalks to crosstown parkways.

A healthy and prosperous community has a strong transportation backbone. This is the sixth mission.

Technology

How wired is the Tucson region? Several interests have ringed the urban core with fiber optics but there is yet to be a cohesive mapping of the resource. The principal telephone utility and cable provider are expanding high speed internet access yet reliability of bandwidth remains an open question.

Enterprise zones, the Tucson Technology Incubator, technology transfer capability and economic development advocates like GTEC are reinforcing the foundations that strong strategies can be built on.

This mission has strong advocates in the CETA leadership, yet a healthy, prosperous, connected community – both locally and globally, is a ways off.

Sources of Funding

Venture capital activity has developed into a maturing presence in the Tucson and Southern Arizona region. There are venture capitalist groups and an angel investor group active now. Small cadres of funders are associating themselves closely with emerging enterprises, helping them move through the infant stage into the threshold of the go-go years.

Existing businesses are growing too; birthing new revenue streams, replicating through franchising, and branching off into supporting or parallel enterprises. These businesses, when built on solid histories, can benefit from unconventional funding too.

This mission, although last on this list, is high in importance. Established and emerging businesses are equally attractive in their growth potential when a strong plan is presented and a dynamic management team is in place. When funding is available across the board for deserving enterprises, Tucson will be a healthy and prosperous community

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