The lack of progress toward building a downtown hotel and improving the Tucson Convention Center could cause the city to lose its main gem show, the CEO of the American Gem Trade Association said Monday.
“I would have never considered leaving the city of Tucson for somewhere else, but I am now,” said Douglas Hucker, whose organization hosts GemFair Tucson each February at the TCC. “We’re not planning on leaving the city. But what we’re trying to say is not considering leaving is no longer an option.”
Hucker said he spoke Friday with City Manager Mike Hein and City Council staff members to express his concerns of what he characterizes as “a significant amount of inaction” in implementing the major pieces of the Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment project, which includes a new arena and a hotel that would cater to convention business.
“I’m not sure a bridge painting on Fourth Avenue, or some track being laid down for a (streetcar) ... that doesn’t represent significant movement for me,” he said. “There needs to be more. They (the city) better focus on revenue-producing things or they will lose their biggest revenue producer.”
Hucker said he told Hein and other city officials that the gem show is like a credit line for the city, helping to pump more than $100 million into the local economy each year.
Because of that, he said, the city has come to rely on that revenue, and has taken the gem show’s presence for granted rather than take steps to ensure it sticks around.
“The city has operated like the gem shows are a birthright, and I think they no longer are,” Hucker said. “I think that hotel and the convention center are key on everything the city has going forward.”