Today the nation celebrates Labor Day, a day set aside to reflect on the social and economic achievements of American workers. According to the Department of Labor, the day “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
The opportunity to contribute to the prosperity, and well-being of Pima County has been limited by a government that continues to direct monies to a questionable organization, Sun Corridor, that has had success in bringing mostly low-wage call center jobs to the area.
On Tuesday, the Pima County Board of Supervisors are expected once again to approve a $650,000 award to Sun Corridor for economic development services. The Board of Supervisors in a 3-2 vote already approved the County’s Fiscal Year 2019/20 Budget, which included funding for Sun Corridor.
According to a memo from Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, the Sun Corridor Board “ “also recently met to approve their FY2019/20 Budget (Exhibit B). This contract is retroactive to the start of Fiscal Year 2019/20 (July 1, 2019).”
The Sun Corridor Board includes Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson, Rio Nuevo’s Fletcher McCusker, and UA President Robert C. Robbins.
According to Sun Corridor’s latest available Form 990, that budget has included generous salaries for the organization’s leadership: (View 2017 990)
● Joe Snell President $398,403
● Mary Casper CFO $139,454
● David Welsh Executive Vice-President $190,515
● Laura Shaw Senior Vice-President $140,818
While the salaries might raise eyebrows, given the fact that Huckelberry is one of the second highest paid administrators in the U.S., making an annualized salary of $413,633.47 making an annualized salary of $413,633.47, and Robbins is one of the highest paid public employees in the state, making $875,000 plus a year, Snell’s exorbitant salary is on par with the powers-that-be.
According to background materials available on the Pima County website, “On July 1, 2015, SCI (Sun Corridor) expanded its geographic coverage to more effectively serve and represent the assets and economic activities of the mega region of Southern Arizona. SCI now brings the economic potential of Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz and Cochise Counties together to create opportunity and prosperity. (View background materials)
Related article: ima Supervisors Vote To Pay Sun Corridor For Jobs Out Of The County
A review of the organization’s budget, seems to indicate that the only “stakeholder” picking up the tab is Pima County:
Before voting on the contract in 2016, Supervisor Ally Miller asked a series of question of Huckelberry because Sun Corridor head Joe Snell had already fled the room. When asked by Miller what the other participating counties; Pinal, Cochise, and Santa Cruz, would be paying Sun Corridor for services, Huckelberry claimed ignorance. Miller then advised Huckelberry that she had contacted Pinal County. She revealed that while Pima County will be paying Sun Corridor the six-figure amount, Pinal County, would only pay $50,000, and Cochise and Santa Cruz counties would be paying nothing for the same services.
In a memo discussing the contract at the time, Huckelberry wrote to the supervisors: “The County is agnostic as to where new jobs and economic opportunities are located, provided they are within Pima County or on the boundary of Pima County where our residents will substantially benefit from those opportunities.”
In 2017, the median household income in Pima County was $51,425.
Although Pima County residents have forked over millions of dollars to Sun Corridor over the years, the employment situation has not improved as compared to the rest of the country:
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.
While the name changed, its record of failure has not.
At the same time, the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved the budget that included the $650,000 Sun Corridor contract, they approved a tax rate that will once again result in an increase of taxes for residents.
While Pima County laborers struggle to cover their own living expenses through their low-wage jobs, not only are the paying the tab for economic development in other counties, they are paying the highest property taxes in the state.