Opinion: Think regionally for improved economy, jobs

Our view: Community stronger when groups and governmental entities unite
2013-04-14T00:00:00Z 2013-04-14T15:06:05Z Opinion: Think regionally for improved economy, jobs Arizona Daily Star
April 14, 2013 12:00 am

Our community cannot afford provincial thinking. As the sixth-poorest of the nation's large metropolitan areas in 2011, regional collaboration is essential to elevate our community out of poverty and create a community in which our children and grandchildren can find substantive, decent-wage jobs.

Thus recent actions - Marana exiting areawide tourism promotion and Tucson's re-entering economic development - pose concern that regional efforts may be eroding.

"Regionalism is critical," said Joe Snell, president and CEO of industrial recruiter, Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities. Companies considering the Tucson area look at the market, not individual municipalities.

Golden goose of tourism

Earlier this month, the Star reported the Marana Town Council opted out of the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau and will consider its own tourism promotion.

Tourism is a golden goose. Visitors use few services or resources; they spend money and go home.

Local governmental entities, including two American Indian nations, pay for bureau services primarily from bed-tax dollars. Businesses in member jurisdictions - restaurants, hotels, attractions - can join the bureau.

Marana and the bureau have not had an agreement in several years, but the bureau allowed the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain and other Marana hotels to be members, Brent DeRaad, bureau president and CEO, told us.

When the two were unable to reach a "destination marketing agreement," DeRaad said, it was unfair to other entities for Marana to receive free services that others pay for.

Marana balked at the bureau because the town pays bed-tax rebates, impact-fee waivers and special-event sales-tax waivers to which it agreed to land the Ritz-Carlton and would not be able to put bed-tax dollars into its general fund, the Star reported.

Tourism generates money for business and government coffers. DeRaad said 70 percent of what a visitor spends goes to local, sales-tax generating businesses like restaurants and shops.

It is ludicrous that one of the region's premiere destination hotels will not be in the bureau's promotion portfolio.

We encourage the town and the bureau to reach an agreement that will help boost the economies of the town and the region.

"Complementary" to treo

Tucson's re-establishment of an economic development office could appear to be a step backward.

TREO, the group charged with job creation by attracting companies was formed in 2005 to be a unified effort that wiped out fragmentation and duplication among governments and business-development groups. It absorbed the city's economic-development responsibilities and its staff.

Last year TREO and the municipalities could not agree on how to justify the governments' expenditures. Big checks from private businesses now make up about 77 percent of TREO's $2 million budget. Pima County, the only government funder, contributes about $450,000.

All of the municipalities are represented on TREO's board and are promoted, Snell said.

Tucson reallocated the $400,000 it had budgeted for TREO and created a five-member department.

Chris Kaselemis, program director for the city's Economic Initiatives Office, said the new department is not a reversal of direction but is "complementary" to TREO because the city has a designated contact point. Snell agreed, adding that all municipalities have an economic-development representative.

The city office has four additional priorities - promoting commercial and retail expansion, international trade and entrepreneurship and being the lead department on annexation.

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild told us that he and the city are dedicated to regionalism, citing his multiple meetings and relationships with mayors in the Tucson and Phoenix areas. He said he attends TREO meetings.

The city understands the need for cooperation and wants to be a resource. However, the city needs some control over its economic destiny, Rothschild said.

Communication among the players on the economic development field will avoid overlapping efforts among municipalities and groups, Rothschild said.

We believe elevating the economy and quality job creation requires regional thinking and an understanding that what's good for one municipality is good for the entire community.

"We are stronger when we work together, as one entity, one community," DeRaad said.

We agree.

Arizona Daily Star

Did you know?

Tucson's economic-development promotion efforts began more than 100 years ago when in 1922 the Tucson Sunshine Climate Club lured visitors and residents here by emphasizing the postcard-perfect landscape and healthy climate. The Climate Club's mission expanded to generating new business. It was around until mid-1960s.

The string of organizations with nifty acronyms for nicknames has since promoted business and manufacturing relocation and expansion in Tucson: DATE (Development Authority for Tucson's Economy), TEDC (Tucson Economic Development Corporation) and GTEC (Greater Tucson Economic Council).

TREO - Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities - was formed in 2005 to be the regional go-to industrial-recruitment group as a collaboration among government entities and the private sector.

Arizona Daily Star

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