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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Tucson economy looking brighter through economic initiatives

The Tucson economy continues to grow, and more economic development initiatives are underway to ensure the city’s economic growth. 

According to the city of Tucson’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, published September 2014, the main strength of the city continues to be the workforce and population. 

The strategy outlines three key factors that make the Tucson workforce strong: the relatively young population, diverse and largely bilingual workers and the expanded growth of the population.

The Eller College of Management’s Mid-Year Economic Update: Breakfast with the Economists, held in June, concluded that Tucson is growing and should continue growing in the future. The economists suggest that the current low prices of gasoline coupled with the potential rise in home prices could lead to more growth in both the Tucson and Arizona economies respectively.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, data from July 2015 showed that the unemployment rate in Tucson has stayed consistent, hovering around 6 percent for the past 12 months. In both March and May, unemployment was below 5 percent, but strong fluctuations have kept the rate near 6 percent for the majority of this time period.

“We aren’t hearing as much trouble from people trying to find jobs,” said Andrew Squire, an economic development specialist for the city of Tucson. “We are still focused on trying to create better jobs by working with small businesses.”

Tucson has developed a primary jobs incentive program, Squire said, to create more jobs specifically in the medical, mining and business fields. Squire said the city is aiming to create more primary jobs that have a minimum salary ranging between $50,000 and $60,000.

“We talk daily with folks that are taking their first steps to start up a new business. We have one of the best entrepreneurial economies in the nation as far as people looking to create new businesses,” Squire said. “While there are always challenges to getting a business started, this is still a good place to start a new business.” 

The Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is also working on programs in order to expand the growth of the Tucson economy. Michael Varney, staff liaison for the small business council of the Tucson Metro Chamber, said the chamber has developed an economic plan for Tucson.

“Our plan is based on four pillars: to be aware of public policy, maintain workforce readiness, establish new economic development initiatives and perform small-business outreach,” Varney said. 

A Rocky Mountain Poll conducted in the second quarter of 2015 found the consumer confidence index of residents in the Tucson area has remained close to where it was a year ago.

In addition, the low gas prices in Tucson have given the economy more potential for growth in the foreseeable future.

“High gas prices can act as a tax, and as gas prices get cheaper people have more money in their pockets,” Varney said. “I don’t think anybody would argue that they would then be likely to spend that money, which is good for our local businesses and helps with sales tax revenue.”

One specific economic initiative, Varney said, is the potential development of a new non-stop airline service from Tucson to New York City. 

“Tucson is the largest city in the country without non-stop service to New York City,” Varney said. “We feel like we are close to getting a major airline to make that commitment.”

Through initiatives by the city of Tucson and the Tucson Metro Chamber, the sustainable growth of the Tucson economy remains a focus in the upcoming months.

Follow Sebastian Laguna on Twitter.

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