Cities across the country work hard to attract major employers. Remember the competition that went on for Amazon’s second headquarters, or the auto manufacturing plants that went into South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
The motivation is simple — ongoing employment, payroll taxes, corporate taxes and most importantly — jobs. Tucson is doing well in this regard, with several fabulous anchors already in place, such as Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, TMC HealthCare and newly arrived Caterpillar, to name a few.
There is another regional employment hub on the southeast side, and let me tell you, this one is an economic powerhouse. I’m talking about the University of Arizona Tech Park. This one campus is home to many, serving as technology’s best address, where...
- 52 companies reside, representing 15 different industries;
- 5,870 employees work;
- The average wage is $74,028 (the average Pima County wage is $47,327);
- $465 million in direct wages are paid to employees;
- A $2 billion economic impact is created for the state of Arizona (according to VP Research & Consulting — 2017 Economic Impact Report for UA Tech Park.)
I met with Carol Stewart, assistant vice president, and Ken Marcus, to learn what they do at the UA Tech Park to generate such powerful results.
Carol began with an interesting description — “If you’ve seen one tech park, you’ve seen one tech park”. (The quote is attributed originally to Prof. Albert Link of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro).
Each of the 200 university tech parks in North America is unique. Each park takes on a mission that reflects the strengths of the university to which it is affiliated.
As its name implies, The UA Tech Park is directly affiliated with the University of Arizona. The UA Tech Park is a technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem, reflecting the strengths of the technology and entrepreneurism programs within UA.
What the UA Tech Park does is extend those strengths beyond the main university campus. It works with the industry from the inside out, helping establish partnerships between the industry and the university, working from the outside in.
IBM founded the park in 1978. It sold the facilities to UA in 1994, and is still one of the premier tenants today. Besides IBM, other major technology tenants include Raytheon, Coherent, Oracle, Citi and United Health Systems. These companies are the kind of employment anchors any city would envy, and a major reason Tucson has them is the UA Tech Park.
Within the UA Tech Park is the UA Center for Innovation, an incubator for early stage technology businesses. Nearly half of the companies in the park are small or start-up businesses. The park is the place where they bring great ideas to life, and leading-edge products into the marketplace.
The companies work in more than 15 industries aligned with University of Arizona strengths, as well as in cross-cutting industry sectors where newly developed technologies have multiple applications.
The special benefit that companies receive from locating at the UA Tech Park is customized business support, which takes form in many ways — from individual scale-up support, to identifying potential partners, to building unique spaces.
Carol Stewart stated, “We are a cheerleader for our companies. We want them to be successful, so we help to remove barriers and facilitate connections.”
One of the most important areas of support is talent. Part of the University of Arizona’s mission is to retain and grow talent in Arizona, particularly Southern Arizona. The UA Tech Park is a fulfillment arm for that mission. Students have the opportunity to work as interns and in paid positions with the companies in the park.
Startup companies and the larger companies take advantage of the talent at the university. They also tap into the vast array of resources UA offers. They collaborate with the highly talented staff, programs and research strength at UA, initiating and developing leading edge technologies and products.
Rounding out the customized support, the park offers companies laboratory space, meeting and event space, a prototyping center, workshops and training.
About 40 years ago, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple in their garage. About 80 years ago, Bill Hewlett and David Packard started HP in their one-car garage. They each, in their own way, represented the generational birth and power of innovative technologies.
Today’s generation of innovative thinkers has an advantage — the University of Arizona Tech Park. The park is a really big, really high-tech garage — full service facilities and programs, connectivity to the University of Arizona and relationship building throughout Greater Tucson and beyond.
Tucson has a multi-faceted anchor magnet that nurtures and grows the technologies of tomorrow. The UA Tech Park and its tenants help build businesses, and the University of Arizona helps build the talent that births and grows those businesses.