January 24, 2015

Mayor’s Update – January 24, 2015

Mayor’s Update
Tucson, Arizona January 24, 2015
Tucson’s Year in Business

Looking back at 2014, Tucson made gains in areas that affect businesses and jobs, including all Five T’s – Technology, Trade, Transportation, Tourism, and Teaching.

City Incentives Help Businesses Grow
Celebrating the expansion of Modular Mining's Tucson corporate headquarters with Council Member Richard Fimbres
Celebrating the expansion of Modular Mining’s Tucson corporate headquarters with Council Member Richard Fimbres

The City of Tucson offers a number of incentive and assistance programs for new, expanding, and relocating businesses.

Passed in 2012, when the City designated a Central Business District, the GPLET incentive has been used by businesses to help develop downtown. GPLET stands for Government Property Lease Excise Tax. It can provide up to eight years of property tax abatement for projects that result in a property value increase of at least 100 percent. The incentive cannot exceed the economic benefit to taxpayers.

In 2014, a number of businesses applied for and received another City incentive – the Primary Jobs Incentive, which allows up to 100 percent of a project’s City of Tucson construction sales tax to be applied to qualifying expenses such as job training and public infrastructure. To qualify, projects must invest a minimum of $5 million in facilities or equipment, create at least 25 jobs that pay, on average, at least $52,400, and cover at least 75 percent of employee health insurance premiums. Incentives are helping bring jobs to Tucson.

2014 Primary Jobs Incentives

Recipient # Jobs Average Wage
CAID Industries
30 $56,638
Mister Car Wash*
40 $80,000
Modular Mining
50 $60,000
Northwest Hospital
(new construction)
33 $61,000
Project Freshwater
(new construction)
167 $65,500
Sante Partners
(new construction)
136 $72,000
*Received GPLET incentive as well
Downtown Development Moves Ahead
Artist's rendering of Johnny Gibson's Downtown Market
Artist’s rendering of Johnny Gibson’s Downtown Market

Johnny Gibson’s Downtown Market is finishing up construction, with a goal of opening in March.

Tucson’s downtown also has two new hotels in the works. One is an AC Hotel Marriott, to be located on Fifth Avenue between Broadway and Congress. This seven-story hotel includes plans for three restaurants, retail space, and a parking garage.

The other is a 140-room hotel on the northeast corner of Euclid Avenue and Fourth Street, with retail space and underground parking.

Both the grocery and the hotels will be very welcome additions to downtown. Stay tuned.

Helping Tucsonans Find Jobs, Careers
Speaking to business and education leaders at my STEM Internship Business Forum with the UA
Speaking to business and education leaders at my STEM Internship Business Forum with the UA

STEM Internships

In October, my office hosted a STEM Internship Business Forum in partnership with the University of Arizona STEM Learning Center. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The goal is to get local employers to offer internships as a way of keeping our graduates here, meeting our hiring needs, and strengthening our workforce. We know STEM employers want to hire graduates with one or two years of industry experience. Internships help bridge that gap.

We worked with the UA, Pima Community College, Pima JTED, and local high schools to make the process as easy as possible for employers – getting the information down to just one sheet. To learn more, visit mayorrothschild.com/stem

Veterans Job Fair

In September, my office held a job fair for veterans, along with Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve, Hero 2 Hired and Tucson Veterans Serving Veterans. Many thanks to the more than 50 employers who attended, and congratulations to the 74 veterans and servicemembers hired.

Manufacturing Block Party, Southern Arizona Construction Career Days

In March, the UA STEM Learning Center and the Arizona Technology Council sponsored a Manufacturing Block Party that attracted several hundred people, many of them students. And in November, more than 700 students from nearly 30 schools gathered at the Rodeo Grounds to learn about careers in the construction industry. Students met with local employers and experienced hands-on demonstrations and exhibits. Some were offered jobs. Many thanks to the organizations and businesses that organized these events. We all benefit when industry leaders step up and help youth enter the workforce.

Participants at Second Chance Job Fair
Participants at Second Chance Job Fair

Second Chance Job Fair

Helping returning citizens re-enter the workforce after incarceration fights both poverty and crime, as getting and keeping a job reduces the risk that a person will re-offend.

Working with a coalition of nonprofit, faith-based, government, law enforcement, and academic professionals, my office hosted a job fair in March at Pima Community College. My thanks to the employers and service providers who attended, and congratulations to the 50 Tucsonans who were offered jobs.

Ban the Box

In October, the City Council voted to remove the question regarding prior convictions from City of Tucson employment application forms. Instead, that question will be asked later on in the hiring process. The national movement to “ban the box,” the checkmark asking for conviction history, was started in 2004 by formerly incarcerated people and their families. Tucson has joined more than 45 cities and counties in this ban, including New York City, San Francisco and Seattle. By reserving this question for later, after a person’s qualifications have been considered, many with prior convictions are more likely to be hired, and less likely to fall into poverty.

Tucson’s City Limits Expand
Homes in the Empire Vista neighborhood
Homes in the Empire Vista neighborhood

By annexing adjacent land and making it part of the City of Tucson, more of our state tax dollars come back to our community – paying for roads, public safety, parks, and other city services.

Residents of the Empire Vista neighborhood were pleased to be among those annexed last year, and are enjoying their new city services. (Watch the Channel 12 video here.)

In 2014, the City completed 7 annexations encompassing 4.3 square miles, or 2,706 acres. Over 10 years, it’s estimated that these annexations will bring more than $39 million back to our community.

Annexations completed in 2014

  • Aero Park, .119 square miles
  • Aeronautical, .496 square miles
  • Century Park Marketplace, .255 square miles
  • Empire Vista, .157 square miles
  • Ghost River Ranch, .037 square miles
  • Tucson Airport Authority 1, 3.072 square miles
  • Tucson Airport Authority 2, .172 square miles

Others are in the works. Stay tuned.

Aid to Home Buyers
Tucsonans line up to learn about down payment assistance grants at the TCC NeighborhoodLIFT event
Tucsonans line up to learn about down payment assistance grants at the TCC NeighborhoodLIFT event

In September, together with Wells Fargo, Primavera, and NeighborWorks America, we held an event at the Tucson Convention Center to help low- and moderate-income home buyers apply for down payment assistance grants through the NeighborhoodLIFT program, which brought $5.5 million to the community – including Tucson and South Tucson.

Our housing market was hit hard during the recession. This program helps more Tucsonans overcome one of the biggest obstacles to home ownership: coming up with a down payment.

There are still funds available. For more information, contact Primavera.

The Industrial Development Authority of the City of Tucson

Tucson’s IDA is a nonprofit that issues revenue bonds to finance public-purpose projects in affordable housing and community and economic development. No City of Tucson funds are involved. Here are some projects from 2014.

Increased Mortgage Loan Program

In 2012, Tucson and Pima County IDAs joined together to provide the Pima Tucson Homebuyer’s Solution Program to qualifying home buyers in Pima County. Borrowers receive a 30-year, fixed-rate, fully-amortizing first mortgage loan, together with down payment and closing cost assistance.

Originally limited to $10 million in bonding capacity, the program proved so popular that it bumped up against its limit, which was increased to $15 million. In August 2014, the City Council extended the program through December 2016.

Catalunya and Miraflores Apartments

The IDA issued $15.2 million in bonds to help renovate two multi-family low-income rental housing units: Mayfair Manor Apartments, now known as Catalunya Apartments, at 5180 E. 22nd St., and Shadow Pines Apartments, now known as Miraflores Apartments, at 4011 N. First Ave. In all, 240 units will be renovated.

Advancing International Trade
Registration for my Borderlands Trade Conference.
Registration for my Borderlands Trade Conference

Trade, of course, is one of the Five Ts of Tucson’s economy. We received recognition as a trade and logistics hub from Global Trade magazine, which listed Tucson as a top 10 city for export assistance in its 2014 “America’s Best Cities for Global Trade” report.

Borderlands Trade Conference

In May, my office hosted the first-ever Borderlands Trade Conference at the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort. More than 200 attendees from the U.S. and Mexico gained practical knowledge on how to do business in both countries from experts in banking, business culture, law, taxation, visas, and more. Many thanks to the event’s sponsors and presenters.

Tucson’s Global Trade Resources

Last year, the City of Tucson opened trade offices in Hermosillo and Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, co-located with Visit Tucson’s tourism offices, ¡Vamos a Tucson! We joined with the Arizona Commerce Authority and others to open a trade office in Mexico City. To learn how Tucson’s trade offices can benefit your business, contact Juan Padrés in the City’s Economic Initiatives Office.

The City also sponsored production of the Arizona-Sonora Business Resource Guide, a project of the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Published in April, the 68-page guide provides economic data, tips on doing business internationally, and listings for administrative, legal, logistics, and manufacturing companies in Arizona and Sonora.

Also in April, the Arizona Commerce Authority held an ExporTech workshop in Tucson, helping companies develop export plans. Nationally, participants in ExporTech workshops have seen increases of, on average, $770,000 in new export sales. Contact the ACA to sign up for future workshops.

And in November, I welcomed Global Chamber Tucson to the community, an organization that helps businesses with cross-border trade and investment.

State Route 189 to Expand

State Route 189 is a bypass route for commercial truck traffic to and from Mexico. This four-mile highway will see more traffic as more trade flows through the newly-expanded Mariposa Port of Entry, which now has the capacity to process more than 4,000 trucks per day. (I attended its ribbon-cutting ceremony in October.) My office led efforts, along with regional partners, to lobby the Arizona Department of Transportation to include the route in its five-year improvement plan. Our efforts were successful, and SR 189 has been added to ADOT’s 2015-2019 plan.

Strengthening Relations with Mexico
With representatives from Sonora's Senate
With representatives from Sonora’s Senate

I continued to take trips to Mexico in 2014, meeting with government officials, business leaders, and investors to increase cross-border trade and tourism, and to improve transportation infrastructure. Tucson is both a gateway to the U.S. and Mexico. By working with our Mexican partners, we can help both our economies.

Sinaloa Trade Mission

Known as Mexico’s breadbasket, Sinaloa exports more than $700 million annually in vegetables to the U.S. Other exports include wheat, seafood, and mangoes. In February, Council Member Regina Romero joined me as we met with produce growers, shippers, manufacturers, and other business and government leaders. Tucson’s interest in inviting regional economic cooperation was received extremely well.

With Mexican officials after receiving the Ohtli Award
With Mexican officials after receiving the Ohtli Award

Hermosillo, Sonora

In February and November, I traveled to Hermosillo, Sonora, meeting with various Chambers of Commerce, business and government leaders. A highlight of the November trip was a tour of the local Ford plant, which sits on a 270-acre site and has more than 3,800 workers and 591 robots. It’s an impressive operation.


I was honored to be recognized by Mexican officials with an Ohtli Award from the Institute of Mexicans Abroad and a plaque from the PRI leadership of the Sonoran Congress. I take both as evidence of the friendship and mutual respect between the people of Tucson and the people of Mexico.

Transportation In and Around Tucson
Riding the streetcar with Council Member Richard Fimbres
Riding the streetcar with Council Member Richard Fimbres

I was among the 60,000-plus riders who climbed aboard the Sun Link streetcar during its inaugural weekend in July. It was, and is, a fun ride. And ridership continues to exceed expectations.

Economically, the streetcar is proving to be a boon, creating jobs and attracting hundreds of millions in private investment along the route.

The streetcars are electric, reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Easy to use and with convenient locations to board, I’m sure it will be very popular during the upcoming Gem Show.

At a residential street in Tucson that's being chip sealed
At a residential street in Tucson that’s being chip sealed

Streets Bond Pavement Restoration Begins

2014 was the first year of pavement restoration under the 5-year Streets Bond. Already, it has already made a noticeable difference on stretches of 22nd Street and Broadway, Speedway, and Tucson Boulevards. We expect to pick up the pace in 2015. Stay tuned.

Council Votes on Ronstadt, Downtown Links

In December, the City Council agreed to seek proposals from two firms regarding the Ronstadt Transit Center Joint Development project. The goal is to develop a mixed-use site combining transit with commercial and residential development.

The voter-approved Downtown Links project, which receives funding from the Regional Transportation Authority, is a 1.3-mile multi-modal roadway corridor linking I-10 and Broadway Boulevard along the railroad. St. Mary’s Road improvements were completed in May. In December, the City Council voted to authorize acquisition of parcels to complete Phase III of the project, from Church Avenue to Broadway Boulevard.

Tucson Explores Bike Share

Tucson is exploring implementing a bike share program, which would allow riders to rent bikes at automated, self-service kiosks. More than 50 U.S. cities have bike share programs that are used by residents and tourists alike. Tell us what you think by filling out the City’s survey here.

Developments at Tucson International Airport
At the opening of Tucson International Airport's Global Entry facility.
At the opening of the Tucson International Airport’s Global Entry facility.

In May, Tucson International Airport opened a Trusted Traveler Program Enrollment Center. Previously, Tucsonans who wanted to apply for Global Entry or other Trusted Traveler Programs, which reduce Customs wait times for international travelers, had to go to Nogales or Phoenix.

Tucson's historic control tower, built in 1958
Tucson’s historic control tower, built in 1958

In June, I was happy to help break ground for the new TIA control tower. The Federal Aviation Administration is investing $42 million in the project, which will be twice as tall as the existing control tower. Tucson’s historic control tower, a local landmark, will be retained and repurposed.

In December, the City annexed land at the airport, making it eligible for City incentives. Land surrounding the airport is particularly suited for manufacturers and distributors, as it has access not only to air, but also to railways and highways.

TCC and Tucson City Golf Under New Management
Surveying the renovated Convention Center
Surveying the renovated Convention Center

City government has many areas to be expert in – building codes, law enforcement, road construction, sanitation, and water service delivery, to name a few. But management of golf courses and entertainment venues – these are areas the private sector has expertise in. Already, Tucson is seeing the benefits of outsourcing management of our municipal golf courses and the Tucson Convention Center, in improved services and increased usage.

TCC Renovations

The Beach Boys performed at the inaugural concert of the renovated arena at the TCC, showing off its outstanding new acoustics.

A lot of work went into the improvements, which include 7,760 new seats, 990 new lights, 357 new signs, a new ceiling, a new entrance, a new scoreboard, new sound equipment, 14 renovated bathrooms, a renovated breezeway, renovated concession areas and flooring, fresh paint, ice floor improvements, and new hockey nets.

The City’s settlement with the Rio Nuevo District cleared the way for Rio Nuevo to pay $6 million toward the renovations, later increased to $7.8 million. The City, which managed the project (and did a great job), paid $1 million.

In October, SMG took over operation of the TCC, including the arena, music hall, and Leo Rich Theater. SMG manages properties worldwide, including facilities in major cities in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America. With the newly-renovated facility and SMG’s network giving us better access to talent, we expect to see some great acts coming to Tucson.

Tucson City Golf Managed by OB Sports

The City continues to own its five golf courses, but in February, OB Sports took over operations. Based in Scottsdale, OB Sports is a professional golf course management, development, and consulting company that operates 52 golf courses nationwide. So far, golfers are pleased with the results.

Supporting Local Business
With workers at AGM Container Controls, a Tucson manufacturing company since 1970
With workers at AGM Container Controls, a Tucson manufacturing company since 1970

In 2014, I toured a number of Tucson tech and manufacturing companies, to discuss opportunities and concerns. These sectors tend to have higher-paying jobs and the potential for rapid growth. They’re also more likely to export, bringing in money from outside the region.

Of course, as mayor, I’m always happy to welcome new businesses and celebrate the expansion of existing businesses.

Because a community does well when its businesses do well, in 2012, the City Council passed an ordinance giving local vendors preference points when bidding on City contracts. The Goldwater Institute sued to overturn the ordinance and, in 2014, a judge sided with them, so we’re looking at next steps.

In the meantime, we can all help local vendors by shopping locally. For every $100 spent at a locally-owned business, $73 remains in the local economy, as opposed to just $43 at a non-locally-owned business. For more information, visit Local First Arizona.

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