Last week’s announcement that at least half the A-10 fleet at Davis–Monthan AFB was going away, should have underscored a bit of dawning reality in the minds of Tucson’s movers & shakers. Otherwise, here’s some in-your-face, new realities for the Old Pueblo.
#1. Arizona’s seniority in Congress is the lowest it’s been since World War II. Added to the fact John McCain had a mini-warehouse-sized collection of enemies—on K Street, in the Pentagon, and on Capitol Hill. Post COVID-19 procurements will most likely push defense dollars to more influential (and suffering) states. They will gleefully take this from Arizona, without so much as a complementary McCain-style backstab or insult.
#2. Mexico is the new China for manufacturing. Other border states’ planning & industrial recruitments are swinging into high gear. Even clueless California, seeing its tech industry move to Texas, has figured out their next victim. And it won’t be CA’s Mexican business; moves are already underway to protect this and expand it. Speaking of Texas, cue El Paso/Juarez interests’ in a direct highway to, and expansion of the Port of Guaymas.
#3. Tucson’s vulnerable underbelly of small & medium enterprises has been badly hurt. Capital flight has given way to questions of “what capital?” Whole family businesses with decades of proud history wiped-out, or deeply wounded. Additionally, AZ’s Phoenix-centric business elite allowed an astounding 49% jump (14.2% compounded) in the minimum wage since 2018. Nobody in Tucson’s beleaguered small biz community supported this. It’s on top of local sales & property tax increases by the breathtakingly corrupt Pima County.
#4. The University of Arizona is nowhere near its potential in attracting outside investment. UA reminds me of Voltaire’s assessment of Prussia, as an “army that had its own country”; UA is a non-profit healthcare bureaucracy with its own university. They have turned a deaf-ear to ASU Prez Michael Crow’s [successful] doctrine of 21st century universities as major private-sector job creators. Is it any wonder >80% of the 45% that actually graduate UA leave Tucson? UA’s bloated carcass of sinecured parasites should face legislative weight-loss surgery, and forced private-sector job creation metrics. [Hey, what’s coming will make it happen anyway.]
#5. Tucson’s elite stumbles along like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. From the old saw about quit diggin’ if you’re in a hole, they’re still hidebound to a long-passed progressive era. For numerous transplanted rich Northeast liberals, it’s a blinkered world-view straight from the Bernie Sanders playbook. Same crowd that thought IBM could never leave Tucson (& why), and willfully ignores downstream R&D opportunities here in the North American Copper & Lithium Belt.
None of the suffering and de-construction of yishuv olam (“settling the world”) has to happen. I recently laid out a simplified plan of 4 actions that could be taken (see “Tucson’s Best Economic Recovery Moves Now”), restoring a powerful and reinforcing cycle of virtue & prosperity.
But a stern commitment to some critical-path actions items, not more process, must be adopted. Especially by those with the power to enforce them. Otherwise, sell out and move on.
Sellers is a South Park Republican who lives in incorporated Oro Valley. His background is federal tech-transfer commercialization. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org