January 24, 2012

Pima County Trying to Reshape Economic Development

New plan to focus on creating better jobs in Tucson metro area

Pima County is considering a new long-term plan to boost economic development in the Tucson metro area.

The county and the Tucson metro area need to become more competitive to create more jobs, says Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. He released a detailed economic development proposal to get that done, and asked for feedback from the Pima County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday.

Supervisor Sharon Bronson says some parts of the plan don’t go far enough.

“This emphasis as we look here, is on existing, basically existing businesses, small businesses, and tourism," she says, “You get money in your pocket by creating primary jobs, jobs like the jobs at Raytheon, or Sanofi Aventis or Roche.”

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The region has been focused on bringing new businesses to the area, Huckelberry says, but that focus must change to be competitive with other regions that are also trying to attract companies. That can be done by planning bond packages with transportation and infrastructure improvements in key employment areas, he says. He has already started working on a way to redo the road system at Raytheon’s worksite near Tucson International Airport..

Supervisor Ann Day cautioned that some of the ideas may not be easy to accomplish.

"There are a number of proposals in the report that are tied to a future bond election, and we should keep in mind that some of our representatives in the Legislature have introduced a bill that could severely impact our ability to call a bond election," Day said.

Another component of Huckelberry's plan is improving the relationship with the University of Arizona, because he says the entire area would benefit from capturing the new research and technologies that could also lead to new businesses here.

The economic development plan has 39 specific recommendations. County officials are seeking public comment on the proposal for the next several weeks, and plan to take it to the Board of Supervisors in early April for a final vote. Once there’s a final version of the proposal, Huckelberry will come up with a plan for how to implement and pay for the economic development strategies.

A copy of Huckelberry’s proposal is available on the county’s website.

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