The Pima County Board of Supervisors Sept. 3 voted 4-1 to approve renewing a contract with Sun Corridor, formerly known as TREO. Since 2005, Pima County taxpayers have given close to $11 million to the organization for “economic development.”
Over the past five years Sun Corridor has claimed to have assisted more than 60 companies to expand or relocate in Pima County. The group also claims to have added over 14,000 new jobs to the region. The claims are exaggerated at best, according to the organization’s critics, and baseless according to others.
During a discussion of the $650,000 contract, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry made the aforementioned claims and added that the average salary level of the new jobs Sun Corridor helped attract is more than $56,500 per year. He bragged that this salary level is roughly 19 percent higher than the regional average salary. Supervisor Ally Miller asked Huckelberry if those wages included the generous salaries paid to principals for organizations like World View. Huckelberry admitted that the inflated salaries were figured in with the salaries of the mostly low wage call-center jobs that Sun Corridor has been known to attract.
Huckelberry also admitted that Pima County pays $650,000 to Sun Corridor, for the same services provided to Pinal County, which pays a mere $50,000, and Santa Cruz and Cochise, which pay nothing.
“Is it any wonder we are the county with the highest property taxes when we are subsidizing economic development activities for other counties? We can’t afford this and other jurisdictions need to step up and pay their fair share” stated Miller.
Prior to the vote, members of the public blasted the Board of Supervisors for even considering renewing the Sun Corridor contract.
After the vote, the Pima County public relations crew released a statement in which they implied that the “associated economic growth” created through Sun Corridor “has also had an effect on the county’s tax base, which grew by more than 27 percent from fiscal year 2014 ($73.5 billion in full cash value) to fiscal year 2020 ($93.5 billion).”
In fact, southern Arizona has not experienced a recovery and the increase in the tax base is reflective of a slowly recovering real estate market.
“What Huckelberry fails to mention is the fact that many of these companies Sun Corridor attracts come with big hooks for taxpayer subsidies,” stated Miller. World View cost Pima County property taxpayers $16.5 million to build the facilities and at the end of the 19-year lease, World View can purchase that facility for ten dollars. Another example would be Caterpillar. Pima County taxpayers paid to subsidize Caterpillar while they were housed in a county building which included a remodel and furnishings. Caterpillar has since moved into the taxpayer funded $47 million building built by Rio Nuevo which is another government entity. The same county building that housed Caterpillar has now been leased to Southern New Hampshire University with furnishings including access/use of close to $1 million worth of Pima County furniture held in inventory at space Pima County taxpayers lease at Goodman’s Furniture.
“I would like to see the financial analysis with appropriate consideration of the subsidies so we could get an accurate assessment of Pima County economic development. I’d like to see an accurate picture of what each of the jobs are costing taxpayers on each of these deals. I think we might have a very different view if we included the true costs associated with many of these deals” concluded Miller.
From the Tucson Citizen 2005:
It’s the first official day of Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc., the first time city and county economic development efforts – including the Greater Tucson Economic Council – have rallied under a single entity. The council and the Tucson Office of Economic Development ceased to exist yesterday.
Staffers from the three agencies started cross training in each other’s specialties a couple of months ago. “We wanted to have a seamless start,” said Tom Moulton, the new group’s vice president of administration and marketing.
Its offices will be at 120 N. Stone Ave., Suite 200, in a Compass Bank building. But last-minute ceiling, carpet and furniture work means the group can’t move in until the week of July 11. Employees are working in a number of temporary settings, including their former offices and their homes.
The newly hired chief executive, Joseph Snell, will start in early August.
The new group is a private, nonprofit corporation headed by a board of directors including Tucson’s mayor, the chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, the president of the University of Arizona, the chancellor of Pima Community College and various business sector leaders.
As Miller noted, Huckelberry boasted of Sun Corridor’s hits, but he failed to mention its misses including World View’s announcement of layoffs in February 2019, and the fact that GW Plastics has announced three expansions of its Vermont and Ireland facilities recently. Apparently Sun Corridor has been unable to secure an expansion of GW Plastics in Arizona since 2017.
Among the companies celebrated as a great catch is Mathematica. A review of the company’s career page shows two open part-time positions in Tucson that offer a $12.75 hourly pay rate, with potential for health benefits and paid time off:
Survey Research Interviewer (Tucson, AZ)
Position Description: Research Project Assistant/ Part Time On-Call
Bilingual (Spanish) Research Project Assistant/ Part Time On-Call
What We Offer Researcher Interviewers:
•Paid orientation and training
•Flexible schedules based on project needs; day, eve, and weekend hours
•$12.75 hourly pay rate
•Potential for health benefits and paid time off
•Convenient location in Tucson, AZ: off E. Valencia near I-10
•Company sponsored events
•Friendly work environment; casual dress
•Opportunity to develop skills that can be applied to a variety of professions
In 2016, Sun Corridor touted the decision by Vector Space Systems to locate its “manufacturing facility in the Pima County Research Campus, and adding 200 high-wage jobs in Southern Arizona.” In August 2019, Vector Launch announced the departure of one of its founders, CEO Jim Cantrell, “in response to a significant change in financing.” In the statement posted to its website, Vector said it was “undertaking a pause of operations.
Related article: Vector Launch “Undertaking A Pause Of Operations”