Pima County Supervisors Set To Give Sun Corridor Big Boost

ACA President & CEO, Sandra Watson, Sun Corridor director Joe Snell and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey celebrating the announcement of new Comcast call center jobs in 2015.

In May of 2015, in an effort to rid itself of its failed past, TREO (Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities) announced that it was changing its name to Sun Corridor Inc. Now, the Pima County Board of Supervisors is considering rewarding the failed enterprise with a bonus tacked on to the existing $441,000 professional services agreement in place for the fiscal year 2015/2016.

The proposed agreement, according to a memo from Pima County administrator Chuck Huckelberry includes an option for the County to increase Sun Corridor’s by another $210,000 “to provide direct support in advancing County-owned properties and facilities for export-based employment and growth opportunities.” In other words, Sun Corridor will receive private business owners’ property tax dollars to help the County compete with private property owners for tenets.

At the same time Pima County is upping the ante, the TREO – Sun Corridor crew convinced Pinal County to buy their services. Unlike Huckelberry, the less-than-sophisticated clan in Pinal County bought its seat at TREO – Sun Corridor’s table for a mere $50,000 a year.

TREO flew under the radar of businesses and the public until about 2012, when then candidate for Pima County Supervisor District 1, Ally Miller, began to publically challenge the shady organization. Until then, only the Town of Marana questioned why they would spend $50,000 on TREO for what Marana Councilmember Roxanne Ziegler described at the time as “nothing.”

Nothing new is certainly what TREO – Sun Corridor has brought the residents of southern Arizona. According to its website, the organization is only touting the slight expansions in current businesses, and the promise of a new mysterious organization. The website page reads:

First Six Months FY (July – December 2015) Business Development Announcements

GW Plastics is a global leader in plastic injection molding and the contract manufacturing partner of choice for the world’s most successful healthcare and automotive companies. The company plans to add 70 employees to the Tucson operation with an economic impact of $38 million.

Tucson Medical Center is initiating the process to begin construction of a 44,000 square foot, two-story medical office building on the southeast side to accommodate a primary care clinic through TMC One and a wound care center. TMC is expected to hire 61 employees with an economic impact of $60 million.

Mathematica’s main focus is the innovation of software programs to evaluate policy research. The company is expected to hire 75 new employees with an estimated economic impact of $35 million.

Project Alabaster represents a well-known Fortune 500 global provider of cloud-based human capital management systems and workforce solutions for large and small companies. While the company is not yet ready to announce its name, it plans to hire a wide range of advanced services positions, with 450 jobs and a capital investment of $12 million within 3 years. Total economic impact is $485 million. In partnership with the company, we will announce the name as soon as management is ready.

Otto Environmental Systems, a manufacturer and service provider in the collection and container industry, has announced an expansion of 32 manufacturing and assembly jobs at its current location in Eloy, AZ. This project has a capital investment of nearly $6 million and a total economic impact of nearly $9 million.

With the exception of the Project Alabaster, none of the companies are new to the area. Snell took credit for the Home Goods center, but there is little evidence that TREO – Sun Corridor played a role in its move to Tucson.

In 2005, TREO was created to replace the unsuccessful Greater Tucson Economic Council. The two major funding sources were the City of Tucson and Pima County. In 2009, the budget was $2.4 mil, according to a previous ADI article. In that same article, it is noted that since its inception, TREO has had little success and has cost a great deal of money. TREO received $936,000 in public money in 2012. At the time, the head of TREO, Joe Snell received a salary of $313,000, not including benefits. (view documents here) According to documents, his latest salary stands at $345,973.

TREO - Sun Corridor salaries
TREO – Sun Corridor salaries

In his memo, (view here) Huckelberry writes that TREO – Sun Corridor will “leverage” the Arizona Commerce Authority. The irony of this selling point is not lost on those familiar with Arizona Commerce Authority.

Like TREO – Sun Corridor, earlier this year the Arizona Auditor General found that the Arizona Commerce Authority spent more time and money promoting itself and the need for its services than filling the need – jobs – for which the agency was created.

And like TREO – Sun Corridor, the Arizona Commerce Authority had a great deal of success winning continued public funding, but far less success winning companies that actually provide those economic and business opportunities.

In the case of the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Arizona Auditor General found that it had fudged its performance numbers. According to the report, when the Authority reported “on its progress toward achieving its 5-year goals, which are to create 75,000 higher-wage jobs, increase average wages of jobs created, and increase capital investment by $6 billion between fiscal years 2013 and 2017,” it used the numbers based on “commitments companies announce rather than the actual jobs created or capital investment made.”

Ally Miller found the same thing when she went poking around TREO – Sun Corridor back in 2012. Miller questioned TREO’s self-issued report card. At the time, she stated, “I can find no concrete performance data aligning with this “report card” promised to the community. I see an annual report of bumper sticker slogans with nice pictures and little substance. I want performance metrics and those responsible for them held accountable.”

They never materialized and after the ugly sexual harassment scandal surrounding Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham on a TRE junket in San Diego, Snell and his troupe were nearly invisible until re-emerging as Sun Corridor.

Pima County Board of Supervisors candidate, Kim DeMarco stated on Monday, “TREO has been in existence since 2005 and the County has very little to show for it. The leader of the organization makes over $300,000 and County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry and the Board of Supervisors, minus Supervisor Miller, continue to fund a money pit. There is obviously a reason they continue to fund this organization even though it has produced few results. That is the question we should be asking. Why do they continue to fund TREO, now Sun Corridor, Inc?”

DeMarco, who is challenging Supervisor Sharon Bronson, concluded, “This is common practice for this County’s Government – irresponsible spending and poor business practices. It is apparent that Chuck Huckleberry, TREO, now Sun Corridor, Inc. and the Board of Supervisors are devoid of the ability to improve Pima County’s economy.”

Many see Snell as nothing more than Rio Nuevo Chair, Fletcher McCusker’s lap dog. As a good lap dog, Snell strokes the right egos and rubs the big shoulders, but in the business-unfriendly environment created by a majority on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, there is really little else he can do to make the region attractive to new business.

On the other hand, the Pima County Board of Supervisors is also being asked to increase the annual maximum allowance for its lobbyist, Racy and Associates, Inc., (view contract here) from $140,000 to $160,000 this year in order to push the gas tax increase the County want passed this year. If successful, that increase just might force Snell to morph from a lap dog into a guard dog tasked with keeping existing employers from fleeing the area.

15 Comments

  1. The perfect reason why we have no jobs down here, the people who are supposed to create them are just stealing the funds.

  2. the five largest employers in Pima County are government. They give tax benefits to retired government employee’s. to turn around tax business into foreclosure wage earners into dismal future of stagnate income raising taxes to cover cost of government. It is quite simple government cant be leading people it has to represent the people. If the economy turns governments turns the same way. the Old rule about a house divided cant stand. And with Chuck it appears the house has let the front door set up house keeping on it’s own

  3. I remember a Marana town council meeting where Council Woman Ziegler told the Executive Vice President of GTEC/TREO/ David Welsh, something to the affect of don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out. Welsh had just made a very condescending and patronizing presentation to the Marana Board on why they should continue to fund GTEC/TREO/ $50,000 for the coming year. Ziegler stated that GTEC/TREO had only brought 1 company to Marana in 10 years and that Marana’s taxpayers deserved more for their $50,000/annual investment. Vote was 5-2 to defund GTEC/TREO in the next budget cycle. Marana caught on to these guys a long time ago and seem to be doing just fine without them. I

  4. Happy New Year! Wish there was cause for optimism but PIMA County is even more corrupt than I thought.

  5. what again, on the contrary, the people do care but they are so PARTY oriented they think they are doing the right thing. Just like in national races, people fail to read and generally vote for the 1st name on the ballot that is why the d’s/libs fight to be 1st on the ballots. People on this site do care but they are in the minority and the libs/d’s take advantage of that point. See the nat’l news where they think wjklinton is the best thing since sliced bread? She accuses trump of sexism while allowing bjk free reign and the stupid people think its great. What a country we live in. elect a know nothing community organizer then let the parties to accuse the peoples choice of not being qualified to run!! Guess only party line folks are qualified even if they have never held a job in their life? same is true locally.

  6. Contrary to many of the comments above about horrible leadership in Tucson and Pima County, they are doing exactly what the voters want.

    No growth, no jobs, no future. 5th poorest city in the country, and damn proud of it.

  7. Tucson City, Marana, and Oro Valley wised up and dropped them because they did not deliver on bringing businesses. They do better with their own employees and less expensive. Looks REAL FISHY when Pima County wants to give them in total over $500,000. What favors are they paying off? We the TAXPAYERS are paying for this.

  8. Thanks ADI for keep us up with all the bull… If Chuck ask for this it will be approved.

    It not Pima County Board it the Chuck Huckleberry board. Let’s hope that ppl wake up and change this in just 11 short months.

  9. Tree-oh was and is a joke. About 10-12 years ago I worked for a large corp that wanted to expand its manuf base to here in So Az. No one stepped up to assist and what happened was that the small business side down in Sierra Vista got with the company and ‘HELPED’ expand the existing site. Not what was really wanted but bigger than what it had been. The politicians got involved and down in Mississippi the senator arm twisted the company to build the project there in conjunction with one of the miss colleges for ‘aeronautics’. Here I thought UA was a leader in that field, guess not or it was another example of our local pols and leaders sitting on their hands and wailing about no jobs in the area. Mclame et all failed everyone again and again but that was to be expected. Oh BTW some of the company business also went to Louisiana but that is another story.

    There is no political or local leadership of any kind that matters in this area. Everything that is done is done for SELF and the people be damned. Time to get rid of the tit sucking dems that have ruined this area and to find someone with a spine/backbone who is willing to lead. I dont know who it is since the local media is in the pocket of the dems/libs and will not publish accomplishments of those who could be possible leaders. Thus we are stuck with the Same Sh-t different day mentality that leads to no where. Yes put multiple princesses up on pedistals since they promise much and produce little, or have greasy fat ol men who have never really worked a day in their lives as ‘representatives’ of the ‘people’. The rinos and the d’s have had their way for too long, ol smilin bob wasted $40 million plus for the folly trolly yet he is some kind of ambassador for this area (?), the other rino idiot still on the city clowncil other than getting in the news for public urination and looking like a homeless guy on the streets gets little to nothing done period.

    The people need to clean house, the election process needs to be cleaned up for the sake of the electorate, not the clowns in/running for office who promote themselves as d’s. Come on folks wake up get involved find and nominate people who actually care.

  10. Let’s face it it pays to be Chuckleberry’s friend and you will pay if your not. Ms Oteboni in the story about retaliation clearly is paying for exercising her FIRST AMENDMENT rights by being abused by the evil dicktater.

    Wake up Tucson 2016 is the year of opportunity to change the environment in Pima county by electing a new County Board.

  11. IMO this smells of money laundering of sort. With Ally taking lead we should demand a full audit of what this money sucking mob organization has spent in total since it’s inception as TREO. How much actually worked to benefit Tucson with new jobs (call centers excluded) and how much has been spent to run and support the ‘organization’ itself. How we have let this go on for so long as our roads crumble, soccer fields are built that are empty and bicycle trails eat up millions is beyond comprehension.

  12. Let me see here. Hamburgers and call centers are all that Sun Corridor manages to land. What a great gig for Snell. A salary of over 300K for doing absolutely nothing. And as usual, the Huckster wants to give this sham organization some more taxpayer money. Both Snell and his organization along with Huckelberry should be gone. What leaches on the taxpayer. Any bets that our property taxes will go up again next year to pay for BS like this. None whatsoever in my mind. Its time to take out the trash in November then rid ourselves of Sun Corridor and Huckelberry. That change alone would do wonders for the county. The 651K should be transferred into the road funds where it would do more good that Snell using it as a private slush fund. If I am not mistaken the COT along with Marana pulled their funding. The COT was/is broke and Marana received nothing for their money except the Sun Corridor dog and pony show.

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