Every wonder why our local economy sucks? - Inside Tucson Business: Guest Opinion

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Every wonder why our local economy sucks?


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Posted: Friday, March 4, 2011 12:00 pm

You ever wonder why our local economy sucks?

Because you won't read this headline: Intel to build $5 billion plant in Tucson.

The news last month was that Intel is going to spend $5 billion for a new plant in Chandler.

Can you imagine what that investment means in terms of providing a property tax base for schools? Creating high-paying jobs? All that good stuff that allows communities to have in the way of infrastructure without a constant fiscal crisis?

I was comiserating with a long-time Tucsonan the other day about Tucson's failures when it comes to attracting companies that provide high-paying jobs. We recalled a list of companies going back to the 1950s that had considered locating in Tucson but got run out of town.

The factors:

• A complex matrix of special interests who fight each other and make it virtually impossible for anyone from outside the region to navigate through the web of conflicting economic interests, jurisdictions and agencies. There is no single point of coordination any outside company can rely on to help navigate their landing here to success.

• A hostile network of neighborhood and environmental groups who fear anything new that will cause change. Rather than even discuss something - like the Rosemont Copper Mine - opponents shout down ideas. Curiously, these people are often anglos, financially secure and not concerned about the daily stuggles of others trying to make their mortgage or rent payments.

• News media that fuel opposition to economic development, maybe intentionally so. For example, the Arizona Daily Star's reporter primarily covering the Rosemont Mine is their environmental reporter and brings with him that bias.

Years ago, I worked in a peripheral way on two efforts to land some major high-paying jobs in the region. Both major national companies were run out of town: General Instruments by neighborhood activists on the westside and Hughes Helicopter by the inability of governmental jurisdictions to cooperate to get an Apache Helicopter manufacturing facility.

When the helicopter project was hovering over Tucson, all company officials could hear from locals was "we can't" provide runway access to the proposed plant, provide a sewer connection to the plant, etc. The company went to Mesa.

Over the years, a lot of very high-ranking national business leaders have had bad experiences with Tucson. One has to assume the CEO of one company might share that bad experience with a honcho at another company. Word gets around.

The U.S. Census Bureau is about to release data from its 2010 survey. A decade ago, Tucson's average family income was at least $8,000 a year less than the average family income in Maricopa County.

When the new data is released any day now, we will see if the income gap between Pima County and Maricopa County has grown or shrunk. With Maricopa County cities landing Intel plants, it doesn't look promising for Pima County.

We have to ask ourselves has our leadership - in government, business, neighborhood groups and environmentalists - served us well?

Why can't we protect our neighborhoods and the environment AND generate propserity?

Is Tucson's claim-to-fame going to be as the headquarters of anti-development environmental outfits?

Are we content to sink deeper economically while we allow Tucson to be defined as the place that means "no way."

Contact Hugh Holub, an attorney who works in real estate development, public utility, water and environmental law, at https://mce_host/insidetucsonbusiness.com/tncms/admin/action/editorial-asset/%20HughHolub@msn.com"> HughHolub@msn.com.

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