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  • Raytheon expansion, successful job fair signs of positive growth

    Pima County Works logo
    By John Moffatt 
    Economic Development Director

    Here in Pima County, we’ve known for a while that a lot of hard work went into preparing the economic ecosystem to attract new aerospace and defense companies and in keeping those already here in place. Now, everyone knows the story.

    Earlier this month, Site Selection magazine included the Raytheon Missile Systems' $550 million facilities expansion that included 2,000 new high-wage jobs among its top deals of 2019. While Site Selection may not be on the coffee tables of every living room or doctor’s office across the country, it has a readership of some very influential people who can direct the expansion efforts of many large companies. 

    John MoffattThis is very encouraging to us because it validates the years of work and cooperation that went into bringing this significant agreement to fruition. We’re also proud because this story shows our community’s willingness and ability to adjust and change course in the face of adversity.  

    Such an enormous expansion as Raytheon undertook was by no means ever a given. Several years ago, deep in the depths of the Great Recession, Raytheon announced it would expand its Standard Missile 3 weapon system not in Tucson but Alabama. This was a major blow to the community and had many reeling at the prospect of the region’s largest private employer looking outside to meet its future needs. 

    This prompted us to look inward and make some decisions about how and where the region and its economy should grow. What resulted was a concerted effort to increase our regional focus on economic development. We worked to acquire what is now the Aerospace Research Campus to protect Raytheon from residential encroachment; relocate Hughes Access Road; and collaborate with Raytheon, the City of Tucson, Tucson Airport Authority and 162nd Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard to develop a plan to create new buffers to make us more competitive for future weapon systems manufacturing facilities.

    The Raytheon example was a success because it not only showed what communities working together can achieve in terms of economic development, but  it also served as an example of how to handle potential crises. 
    Job Fair
    The latter example was put to the test recently when we learned that three area employers would lay off hundreds of workers. The largest of these was Concentrix, a call center whose parent company was making similar consolidation moves in other markets, which planned to lay off nearly 800 workers. 

    This was a potential crisis for the community, but the Pima County One-Stop Career Center ARIZONA@WORK, an important partner in economic development, acted quickly to organize a job fair and help the displaced workers regain employment. To everyone’s surprise, nearly 50 employers signed up to attend the job fair, all of whom were eager to fill open positions in their organizations, and just as important, nearly 500 residents appeared to seek employment. Everyone benefitted.

    We have known for a while now that our regional economy has recovered and indeed is growing. Recent analysis from the Brookings Institution’s Metro Monitor shows our region progressing positively in several key indicators such as prosperity, growth, and workforce inclusion. With so many employers showing up to recruit workers at the job fair, we received another positive indication that the economy in our area is strong. 

    Another strong indication that this region is moving up can be seen in the news of some major projects planned in the Pima County area. Two examples of these development partners are Harsch Investment Properties, which purchased existing facilities and began construction of 150,000-square feet of spec industrial space; and J.E. Dunn Construction, a contractor for major projects at Tucson Medical Center and the University of Arizona stadium. Dunn is in the process of working with Swaim and Associates to design a minimum of 150,000 square feet of Class A office space and 350 parking places downtown on County property on Broadway between Scott and Sixth avenues.  

    Recognizing the Raytheon expansion in Site Selection magazine, along with the strong showing from employers at the job fair and commitments from outside developers are all good indications that this region is in play. The word is out, and we are certain more good economic news for this community will follow. 
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