Members of the Tucson business community celebrated recent corporate recruiting wins and called for a major upgrade of Tucson International Airport at Sun Corridor’s annual luncheon.
The Sept. 12 luncheon honored the Southern Arizona-based business incubator’s efforts to drive economic development.
UNS Energy CEO David Hutchens spoke first, highlighting recent successes in the local economy, which were assisted by the efforts of Sun Corridor’s business development team.
“We’ve had many, many great successes, promoting Tucson and Southern Arizona, and believe it or not, next year, 2020, is the 14th year of Sun Corridor,” Hutchens told the crowd at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. “We have proven year after year after year that we are a professional, focused and world-class economic development team.”
Hutchens cited the consortium’s efforts in attracting several businesses, such as Amazon, Caterpillar, GEICO, Homegoods and Hexagon Mining.
Hutchens closed his comments by commending the various government officials and local figures who have played a role in building Tucson’s economy since the Great Recession.
“Successful economic growth within our region requires successful collaboration, and communication, and relationships with governments at all levels, federal, state, local, etcetera,” he said.
Sun Corridor CEO Joe Snell threw out the day’s biggest news at the tail end of the festivities, unveiling the Corridor’s Tucson International Airport 2019 Blueprint.
The blueprint includes establishing a new passenger terminal, building a limited access expressway that will link the location, which is on 600 acres of unused land adjacent to the current premises, to Interstate 10.
The blueprint also includes plans to evaluate the efficiency of an east-west rail line to connect the open land south of the airport to the Port of Tucson.
Snell alluded to the blueprint in his remarks, saying the move will help Tucson stay competitive with similarly sized cities across the country.
Snell and his team at Sun Corridor surveyed 24 cities over the last few years to see how their airports and transportation networks compared to those found in the Old Pueblo.
“We recognize that we need a very bold long-term strategic plan, or a blueprint if you will, if we’re going to capture true long-term economic success at the airport,” Snell said. “So, nearly a year ago we launched their airport blueprint process, which is a fancy term for a long-term strategic plan at the airport. And the effort has involved countless hours of research and the involvement of hundreds of stakeholders throughout the region.”
Snell cautioned that such a bold move would be needed to keep the region afloat economically, should the country encounter a recession in the next few years.
Embracing such a bold vision for the city’s lone passenger airport would allow Tucson to continue to attract business to the area, Snell said, while benefiting those that have recently flocked here at the same time.
“The perfect question going forward is what’s in store for us today and more importantly what’s the future look like?” Snell said. “I think that you probably agree with me that the warning signs that the economy is softening or weakening are there, how much or to what degree I don’t know, who knows, but what I do know is that the fight is going to get harder for us. We have to remain aggressive and double down on our efforts while the economy is still moving.”
Snell said the organization’s bold vision for the future needs to be met with enthusiasm from city residents and business owners, if Tucson is going to stay competitive in the future.
He warned that a lack of business-friendly solutions and failed bond measures could doom the city to mediocrity, with bold vision needed to keep the good times going unimpeded.
“We’ve got to pass our bond measures because our competition is doing just that,” Snell told the crowd. “We’ve got to do the same because the site selectors and the others watching us are noticing. We’ve got to remain committed to being business-friendly, understanding that we have fierce competition. This is a predatory business of retaining companies.”