The University of Arizona is working to increase its profile among local, state and federal governments in an effort to improve relationships with those who make funding decisions.
Government lobbying operations are expanding at all three levels of government, said Tim Bee, a UA senior associate vice president who oversees government relations.
Local lobbying efforts are expanding to every county in the state, Bee said, because the university operates in every county.
“We’re changing our focus from being solely a Tucson- and Southern Arizona-based focus to really looking at how we can interact with our local governments and local community groups statewide," he said. "We are the University of Arizona, the land grant university, and we are in every county and we see an opportunity there to really grow our relationships.”
The local government relations work will help the UA develop relationships with state and federal lawmakers, Bee said.
Additionally, the UA is increasing its presence in Phoenix. The university's Phoenix office hasn't been staffed the last few years, because of budget cuts, Bee said.
The changes are being paid for through savings from vacant positions and new funding that university President Ann Weaver Hart has dedicated to the expansion, Bee said. Once all the positions are added, he estimated the cost will be a couple hundred thousand dollars.
“Obviously we need to have a greater presence in Phoenix, where most of the state's population lives," he said. The Phoenix office will also house people who will lobby the Legislature, and prevent frequent trips from Tucson for those who need to meet with state lawmakers.
A similar expansion is under way in Washington, D.C. The university's federal lobbyist will relocate to Washington, and a new research grant specialist will also work there, Bee said.
“We’ve had a D.C. lobbyist and he’s lived in an airplane flying back and forth between Tucson and D.C., so we’re looking for some modest space for him to base an operation and to add a research outreach person that will be working with him to connect our efforts on campus to funding agencies in D.C.," Bee said.
The effort is meant to help attract funding for research.
“We’re in constant competition with universities all over the the country for the dollars that are available, and there’s an opportunity, particularly in health sciences and defense, where we can be more competitive for the dollars than we currently are," he said.