When analyzing the economy, people often focus on the hard numbers and do not consider the whole picture. But looking at the overall health of a community and deeper attachments can provide a better understanding of a city’s economy.
While many may think of Tucson strictly as a college town, there is a lot more happening than you may realize. There are many with businesses, organizations and new initiatives that are pushing the economy in a healthy direction.
The Great Recession began in 2007 and greatly affected the entire country after the housing bubble collapsed, and the subprime mortgage crisis hit. Like the rest of the country, Tucson was crippled. Arizona’s housing collapse and cuts in federal spending did not help the situation; but Tucson is showing signs of positive economic growth.
At the University of Arizona’s Annual Economic Forecast event, George Hammond, Director of the Economic and Business Research Center in the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona, explained that Tucson’s economic growth will be incremental in 2015. “The Tucson area economy is expected to grow 0.8 percent this year, slightly more than 1 percent in 2015 and 1.3 percent in 2016…Tucson should be about on par with national growth by 2016.”
While Phoenix and the rest of the nation have seen increases in employment rates in the past few years, Tucson has only replaced about half of the jobs lost when the economy plummeted. But with federal spending cuts coming to a close, gas prices lowering and federal contracts expected to rise, a positive turnaround is expected in the Tucson economy. Currently, Tucson’s unemployment rate sits at 5.90% which is less than the National unemployment rate at 6.30%.
Tucson is also home to Rathyeon Missile Systems which continues to be the Tucson areas largest employer. Government jobs with Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and US Border Control are continuing to employ the people of Tucson. The University of Arizona also provides many job opportunities as well as the promise of startup companies in the biosciences field.
The economy does not turn around overnight. It progresses slowly over time and you can see the strides it is making when you examine the housing industry in Tucson. In 2013 the median home price increased by 8.2% and over the next four years is expected to climb at an annual rate of 7.2% – 7.5%. These numbers are a positive sign that the economy truly is taking a positive turn in Tucson. Aside from housing growth and employment rates, it is important to consider long time successes in Tucson, like tourism.
Tourism has been a long time money maker for Tucson and this still rings true. The Tucson area takes in $2 billion annually and there are many Tucson businesses banding together to keep money in Tucson’s economy and in the hands of small business owners. The Tucson Originals was founded in 1999 with the hope of educating the people of Tucson about their local dining options versus larger well known chain restaurants. “The Tucson Originals have been the driving force and model for similar groups all across America who are working to preserve the culinary spirit of their communities. With the rapid rise of chain eateries, this alliance has helped many of Tucson’s signature restaurants survive and thrive. They are your neighbors and friends who contribute endlessly to the betterment of our community.”
The founder of The Tucson Originals, Sam Alboy, is also on the board of Local First Arizona which is also playing a vital role in supporting local Arizona businesses to keep money within their own economy. Armed with the motto “change starts locally,” Local First Arizona has “empowers individuals to build the life they want in their local community. Together we can create a stronger economy, a more vibrant community, and better job opportunities for Arizonans.”
Organizations like The Tucson Originals and Local First Arizona are important in keeping an economy vibrant. They support local businesses which keeps money within the local economy and goes to the people that are keeping Tucson unique.
Forbes Magazine recently did a piece on the large impact small businesses actually have on the economy: “According to Entrepreneur Magazine there are between 25 million and 27 million small businesses in the U.S. that account for 60 to 80 percent of all U.S. jobs. And, a recent study by Paychex, says that small businesses produce 13 times more patents that larger firms.”
This means that small businesses are vital in the overall success of an economy and people in Tucson want to keep supporting local business owners. When analyzing economic growth in a city people often look at employment rates, housing rates, and federal spending. But what analysts may not consider are the qualities that make a community feel attached and invested in their home.
In a recent study done by Gallup, it was found that people feel more attached to their city did this through “physical beauty, opportunities for socializing and a city’s openness to all people,” rather than jobs and the economy. The survey also showed that communities with the highest levels of attachment also had the “highest rates of gross domestic product growth and the strongest economies.”
This study proves that place goes beyond a pinpoint on a map. The characteristics and qualities of a community – social, cultural, visual and environmental – give meaning and help create an overall sense of place. Each community is unique and the cities that embrace this idea may see more economic growth because of this.
If you have ever been to Tucson you will see how unique it truly is. In recent years, there have been countless projects aimed at celebrating the culture in Tucson and bringing the people together. For example, in 2014 Tucson installed the Sun Link Streetcar which brings together mass transit and public art. The $2.1 billion public transportation project runs along 3.9 miles through Tucson and connects its citizens. But what makes this project unlike any other mass transit you have seen in other cities, the Sun Link Streetcar was funded through the Percent for Art public art program, which allocations 1% of all major capital improvement projects to the creation of public art.
Along the 21 streetcar stops, there are unique art installations done by local artists. Some incorporate high-tech LED poetry boards, others involve and intricate iron work and one is a massive glowing blue head. It is an incredible way to bring function to the city via public transportation, while contributing to the vibrancy of art and culture in Tucson.
What does all of this mean? It means that Tucson has the recipe for economic success. The unemployment rate is decreasing, housing prices are increasing alongside employment rates and job growth, tourism is still bringing in $2 billion annually, small businesses are finding their stride and organizations are helping create a sense of place in Tucson.
Street Car Stop Image Via: 1