The Area Development Frontline series offers insight into the innovative strategy being taken by businesses that are succeeding, intelligence on locations that are deploying winning policy to attract investment and talent, and reports on the industry trends that are affecting and shaping the global business climate now and into the future.
The aerospace/defense industry in Tucson, Arizona, is one of the nation's largest, employing 20,000 workers with an estimated annual payroll of $992 million. So when city leaders threw a community-wide business party marking a major economic development milestone, they invited the perfect keynote speaker - Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Admiral accepted, and on October 1 gave a pro-military, pro-business talk to 700-plus guests at a luncheon celebrating the fifth anniversary of Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO).
The Admiral's presence not only validated the city's importance in national defense matters, but also confirmed the value of this "game-changing" public-private partnership literally transforming southern Arizona at break-neck speed. TREO's accomplishments already are renowned in this city of one million residents. Led by Joe Snell, its team has facilitated the attraction/expansion of 37 companies to Tucson between 2005 and 2010. Collectively these firms are responsible for almost 9,300 new direct/indirect jobs and $398 million in capital investment - plus $1.4 billion total economic impact.
When TREO was created in 2005, it gave businesses a unified voice and strategically leveraged regional strengths. Since then, the city has experienced great success by targeting four high-paying growth industries: bioscience, solar, transportation/logistics, and its well-established aerospace/defense industry.
A Lengthy Corporate Roster
Today, Tucson boasts 200 aerospace-related organizations, 100+ bioscience companies, more than 40 solar-related businesses, and over 150 transportation/logistics firms. Other core industries with good representation by local companies include optics, plastics, tourism, mining, IT, environmental technology, and manufacturing.
Sargent Aerospace and Defense, a global supplier of engineered products and service solutions to the aerospace/ defense industry, is an example of a recent development success. After considering an expansion move outside Arizona, the company decided to stay put and construct a new 70,000-square-foot facility next to its existing 60,000- square-foot building. It's set to be completed next year.
Other Tucson employers of note include the University of Arizona (UA) and its BIO5 Institute for collaborative research, Raytheon Missile Systems (12,500 local workers), Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Fort Huachuca, IBM, Ventana Medical Systems, Honeywell, Bombardier Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Paragon Space Development Corp., Roche, Sanofi-Aventis, Schletter Inc., and SOLON.
UA, a top-10 research university, also operates one of North America's premier science and technology parks in Tucson. The 1,345-acre facility, home to 40-some tenants employing 7,000 workers, offers high-tech office, R&D, and laboratory facilities and commercialization know-how. Some companies housed at the park belong to its new Border Security and Technology Commercialization Center. It was created to identify, test, and bring to market new technologies along the U.S. and other international borders.
UA also is developing a 200-acre Solar Zone, a novel solar park designed to manufacture new products, conduct solar R&D, and showcase multiple groundbreaking solar technologies. The university already is a solar energy center of excellence and is the creator of the Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy (AZRise).
All told, a mixture of outstanding new and old corporate citizens are relying on the Tucson's science and technology resources and adding exponentially to the region's growth.