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Tucson s New Prosperity: Capitalizing on the Sun Corridor. A Sun Corridor Legacy Program Policy Technical Report Prepared by the Sonoran Institute

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Tucson s New Prosperity: Capitalizing on the Sun Corridor A Sun Corridor Legacy Program Policy Technical Report Prepared by the Sonoran Institute Mission Vision Sonoran Institute The Sonoran Institute
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Tucson s New Prosperity: Capitalizing on the Sun Corridor A Sun Corridor Legacy Program Policy Technical Report Prepared by the Sonoran Institute Mission Vision Sonoran Institute The Sonoran Institute inspires and enables community decisions and public policies that respect the land and people of western North America. The Sonoran Institute contributes to a vision of a West with: Healthy landscapes including native plants and wildlife, diverse habitats, open spaces, clean air and water from northern Mexico to western Canada. Vibrant communities where people embrace conservation to protect quality of life today and in the future. Resilient economies that support prosperous communities, diverse opportunities for residents, productive working landscapes, and stewardship of the natural world. A Collaborative, Community-Based Approach The nonprofit Sonoran Institute, founded in 1990, works across the rapidly changing West to conserve and restore natural and cultural assets and to promote better management of growth and change. The Institute s communitybased approach emphasizes collaboration, civil dialogue, sound information, local knowledge, practical solutions and big-picture thinking. Sonoran Institute Offices 7650 E. Broadway Blvd., Suite 203 Tucson, Arizona ; fax N. Tatum Blvd., Suite D101 Phoenix, Arizona ; fax S. Wallace Ave., Suite B3C Bozeman, Montana ; fax Colorado Ave., Suite 201 Glenwood Springs, Colorado ; fax Field Offices PO Box Cheyenne, Wyoming Magisterio #627 Col. Profesores Federales Mexicali, Baja California C.P Mexico East Alger St., Suite 211 Sheridan, Wyoming About the Sun Corridor Legacy Program Over the next 20 years, Phoenix and Tucson 100 miles apart will grow together to become one of the country s ten megaregions, home to more than ten million people. Called the Sun Corridor, this area s future prosperity and that of the state will be determined by how well it competes for human and financial resources in a global economy. To maintain a competitive advantage, Arizona must protect and enhance its quality of life. Good Decisions for Land and People To meet the West s challenges in the coming years, the Sonoran Institute is launching keystone initiatives in four specific landscapes to address growth and change and to serve as models for conservation, stewardship and sustainable development. One of the four is our Sun Corridor Legacy Program, which will cultivate collaborative approaches to better manage growth and development for rapidly urbanizing regions in the 21st century. The Sun Corridor Legacy Program is striving to achieve these five objectives: Promote a commuter rail system linking Phoenix and Tucson Create a new model for a sustainable desert community Advance a clean and secure energy future for the Sun Corridor Conserve more than one million acres of the Sonoran Desert Preserve three of the Sonoran Desert s remaining free-flowing rivers the San Pedro, Santa Cruz and Verde To find out more about the program s work, visit Acknowledgements Crisis or opportunity? A glass half-empty or half-full? What most see as a global economic meltdown, and a grinding halt to Arizona s growth machine, may be Tucson s ticket to a more economically prosperous and stable future. For metropolitan Tucson, the moment is serendipitous, a bust of the economic cycle when we can take full advantage of our Sun Corridor address on our own terms. Make no mistake, Tucson has never wanted to be like Phoenix. But we need to harness our enviable position as a partner in the West s largest economic powerhouse, the Sun Corridor, if we hope to maximize our strengths, protect what we value and secure our unique identity in the marketplace. This Sonoran Institute report is second in a series of Sun Corridor concept papers. Focused on Tucson s economic future, it explores the metropolitan area s economically favorable position in the mammoth Sun Corridor region, encouraging Tucson to embrace Phoenix as an asset, not a competitor. In this context, the report recommends actions that can help Tucson achieve status and benefits as a Sun Corridor leader. The report is a cooperative effort by many people. First, our lead researcher and author, Dan Hunting, did a superlative job, working with the Institute s esteemed board member and globally recognized economist Joe Kalt and myself. I also want to commend Sun Corridor Legacy Program Director Dave Richins for his insights in producing timely and relevant research, and Judy Crawford for her editing assistance. Most importantly, this report is made possible by the generous support and leadership of the Thomas R. Brown Family Foundation. Its abiding interest in finding ways to sustain our Tucson quality of life is greatly appreciated. Luther Propst Executive Director Sonoran Institute May 2010 About the Authors Dan Hunting is an Economic and Policy Analyst for the Sonoran Institute. His research interests include sustainable economic development in light of the Sun Corridor megapolitan concept, state trust land reform, and the role of arts and culture in economic development. After a career as a photojournalist, he pursued his interest in public policy at Arizona State University, where he helped develop core concepts of the Sun Corridor geography at the Morrison Institute while working on his master s in Public Administration. Upon graduation, he took a job with the Arizona legislature, working as a fiscal analyst for the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. Duties included budget development and program analysis for nine state agencies, including the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Administration. He has authored and contributed to works on domestic violence, sustainability, public art, and education. Joseph (Joe) Kalt is the Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is a principal author of the Project s latest book, The State of the Native Nations. Joe holds PhD and master s degrees in economics from UCLA, and a bachelor s degree in economics from Stanford University. He specializes in the economics of natural resources, economic development, antitrust, and regulation, and serves as senior economist with Lexecon, an FTI Consulting company. He serves on the boards of trustees/directors of Montana State University s Big Sky Institute, The Communications Institute, and the White Mountain Apache Tribe s Fort Apache Heritage Foundation. Luther Propst founded and directs the Sonoran Institute. The Institute works to conserve our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other public lands, promote smart growth; better manage water and reform local and state energy and climate change policies the core issues that define how the West is growing and changing. The Institute also is recognized as a leading practitioner in the North American West of community-based, collaborative and innovative efforts to advance and ground conservation in an understanding of economic values and implications. Previously, Propst practiced law, where he represented landowners, local governments and organizations nationwide in land-use matters, and with World Wildlife Fund in Washington D.C. Propst received his law degree and master s in regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Propst has co-authored three books, including Balancing Nature and Commerce in Gateway Communities, and frequently speaks and writes on western conservation, land use, economic development, and state trust lands. In addition, he serves on the boards of the National Conservation System Foundation, High Country News, Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at Arizona State University, the Murie Center and the Rincon Institute. Contents 2 Executive Summary 3 Tucson as Part of the Sun Corridor Putting Things in the Proper Scale Metro Phoenix is not a Competitor, It s an Asset Tucson has Competitive Advantages in the Sun Corridor Scheme 10 Tucson s Current Status and Ongoing Efforts Job Losses Low-Wage Economy Low Educational Attainment Poor Capture of State Shared Revenue 13 Vision for the Future: Capitalize on the Sun Corridor 14 Specific Recommendations for Action Become a Top Feeder Play to Our Competitive Advantages Protect Aspects of the Tucson Lifestyle that Differentiate it from Phoenix Build, Maintain, and Manage Municipal Infrastructure Education, Education, Education Develop an Industry Based on Climate-Optimized Architecture Promote Economic Links to Mexico Run the City and the County Well Revise Governance Structures Smart Structures for Smart Growth Separate Management from Politics Work with the Other Sun Corridor Players Post a Link to GPEC on the TREO Website Research and Quantify the Links of the Sun Corridor Connect Tucson and Phoenix by Inter-City Rail 20 Conclusion 21 End Notes Executive Summary 2 Metropolitan Tucson is restarting its economy after the collapse of the state s growth industry and unprecedented upheaval in global financial markets. Now is the time for leaders throughout Pima County to look at the changed economic landscape and plan for a prosperous, stable and sustainable future. Economic development plans for metro Tucson have traditionally not viewed the area in the context of a larger economic picture. In reality, Tucson is a key component of the Sun Corridor megapolitan, the huge integrated economy stretching from Nogales to Prescott. When viewed as part of the Sun Corridor, Tucson is not just another midsized Sun Belt city; it is a full partner in the largest and most dynamic economy in the West. Tucson s position in the Sun Corridor provides unique competitive advantages. It can position itself as being fully integrated with the Phoenix market, but with a lifestyle far surpassing anything in Maricopa County. Metro Tucson will be attractive to businesses that need access to the Sun Corridor economy, yet want the unparalleled lifestyle of a livable city that is surrounded by preserved land. Tucson is ideally situated to attract highly educated, high-wage workers. Now is the time for metropolitan Tucson to capitalize on the Sun Corridor concept by enhancing its unique natural setting and lifestyle, while reforming the governance structures and developing the regional links that will solidify its economic position. 3 Tucson as Part of the Sun Corridor In 1864, Tucson was the most populous city in the newly established Arizona Territory, yet the capital was placed in the tiny frontier camp of Prescott. Tucsonans may have been enraged at the slight, but the Lincoln administration wasn t about to locate the new capital in the Confederate stronghold of Tucson, no matter how big it was. A few years later, Tucson was able to snatch away the capital, only to lose it to Prescott when the political winds shifted yet again. In 1889, Tucson was plotting to regain its rightful status when the upstart little farming town of Phoenix was suddenly named as the capital city. Phoenix was an unlikely choice: It was located off the main rail line, had a shaky water supply, and was far removed from the copper and gold mines that powered Arizona s nascent economy. But somehow, its town fathers had pulled a fast one and snagged the Territorial capital. Phoenix never looked back. Over the next century, greater Tucson would grow from a dusty railroad town to a metropolis of over a million people. This growth would be the envy of almost any other city, but it was nothing compared to the growth of the state capital, which would come to dominate the West, with a metropolitan population of over 4 million. 1 Population since 1870 (millions) source: Census Bureau Maricopa County Pima County Phoenix is the nation s fifth largest city. Tucson comes in at a respectable, and livable, number 32 in terms of population. 1 The two cities have long had an uneasy relationship. Tucsonans mock the traffic and endless sprawl of Phoenix, and wonder why anyone would live in the soulless wasteland to the north. For their part, people in metro Phoenix barely acknowledge the existence of Tucson, treating the state s second largest city as if it s an isolated backwater, only slightly more noticeable than Ajo or Benson. As metropolitan Tucson searches for the tools that will lead it out of the Great Recession, it must take careful and realistic stock of its economic surroundings. Meaningful progress will not happen by simply putting more resources into faulty 4 old policies. The policies of the past have not sufficiently acknowledged the realities of how Tucson and Pima County are integrated into the overall economy of western North America. Southern Arizona is inextricably tied to a much larger economic web. Economic development studies across the nation have long stressed the need to plug into a global economy, but before it tackles the world, Tucson needs to develop its links to metropolitan Phoenix. Tucson is part of the Sun Corridor megapolitan region. This region stretches from the Mexican Border up through Tucson and Phoenix to Prescott 2 (Figure 2). The Sun Corridor defines the economic heart of Arizona and, more importantly, it forms the largest concentration of economic power in the eight states of the Intermountain West. 3 The Sun Corridor & its Realms 2 3 Protected & Tribal Lands in the Sun Corridor Pr otected and Tr ibal Lands in the Sun Cor r idor Prescott Prescott Central Valley East Valley Foothills Gateway Scottsdale Buckeye Phoenix Mesa Highlands Mid Corridor Scottsdale Buckeye Phoenix Mesa Casa Grande SouthCo Tucson Valley Upper East Valley West Valley Casa Grande Marana Tucson Marana Tucson Nogales Sierra Vista Nogales Sierra Vista The Sun Corridor is not about simply paving everything between Phoenix and Tucson. A 2008 report from the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, Megapolitan: Arizona s Sun Corridor, sub-divided the Sun Corridor into ten realms that capture the distinct aspects of each area. 4 Each of these realms retains its identity, even as it contributes to the whole economy of the region. A unique characteristic of the Sun Corridor is the large amount of public land contained within the megapolitan region. With 3,000 square miles, or 17% of the Sun Corridor already set aside as national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, other public lands and tribal lands (Figure 3), the region will never be a solid, urbanized mass like Southern California or the Northeast United States. The Sun Corridor is about developing connections across the region for the benefit of everyone. The future of metropolitan Tucson depends upon discovering and exploiting these connections. 5 Putting Things in the Proper Scale To understand Tucson s role in the Sun Corridor, the Tucson and Phoenix Metropolitan areas can be compared to other states and metropolitan areas in the West. Although these comparisons show figures for the Phoenix and Tucson Metros, a full accounting of the Sun Corridor would incorporate data from Prescott, Nogales and other areas of the mega-region Total Personal Income (billions) source: American Community Survey Wyoming Montana Idaho New Mexico Phoenix Seattle Denver Portland Las Vegas Salt Lake City Tucson Albuquerque 2008 Population (millions) source: American Community Survey Wyoming Montana Idaho New Mexico Phoenix Seattle Denver Portland Las Vegas Salt Lake City Tucson Albuquerque Metropolitan Tucson is one-quarter the size of Metro Phoenix, in both population and size of its economy (Figures 4 & 5). This isn t a reflection of how small Tucson is, but an example of the incredible size of Phoenix. Phoenix dominates the Intermountain West. Metropolitan Phoenix is economically larger than seven of eight states of the Intermountain West. The exception is the slightly larger economy of Colorado. The economy of metropolitan Phoenix alone is comparable to the combined economies of 6 Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and New Mexico. Note that Tucson is still a considerable player in the West, being the fifth largest city in the Intermountain West, with a population surpassing Montana and Wyoming. Phoenix is the epitome of extreme growth of an arid-land city. It has focused all of its resources on maintaining this growth model. The water and transportation infrastructure, zoning policies, and economic development plans of metropolitan Phoenix are all designed to support the industry of growth. There was an unspoken game in the 20th century to see which western city could grow the biggest. That game is now over: Phoenix has won the growth game, and won it decisively. Phoenix is not only the economic and population center of Arizona; it s also the dominant force in the Intermountain West. However, Phoenix is experiencing the downside of that victory. The pleasant environment that lured millions to the Valley of the Sun has now been largely paved over, making the area less attractive for economic opportunity. The most recent housing boom and bust cycle has saddled the area with infrastructure costs that will persist for decades. Phoenix won the growth game, which is a good thing for Tucson. Metro Phoenix is not a Competitor, it s an Asset Figures 4 and 5 show that the size of metro Phoenix puts it in a class by itself; larger in both population and economy than many states. Tucson cannot compete headto-head with Phoenix, just as a 140 pound welterweight boxer cannot be expected to compete against a 200 pound heavyweight. This doesn t mean that welterweight Tucson is any less of a competitor than heavyweight Phoenix; they are simply in different classes. It should be noted that both ESPN and Muhammad Ali himself consider the welterweight Sugar Ray Robinson to be the greatest boxer of all time, despite the heavyweight Ali s moniker as The Greatest. 5 Tucson doesn t need be a heavyweight, with all the burdens that come with competing in the heavyweight class. The last thing Tucson wants is to be a second-rate version of Phoenix. Tucson needs to be the best welterweight fighter that it can be. Tucson and Pima County must learn to treat Phoenix and Maricopa County not as competitors, but as assets that can help promote prosperity in southern Arizona. This will require a fundamental change in the mindset of the business and policy communities, as well as environmental and neighborhood advocates in metropolitan Tucson. Rather than pursuing development plans that simply try to build a larger downtown nucleus or a transportation network to rival that of Phoenix, consideration needs to be given to how Tucson functions within the geography of the Sun Corridor. This doesn t mean that new skyscrapers or freeways are necessarily a bad idea, but it may not be a good strategy to pursue conventional downtown high-rise development in Tucson if the Phoenix market is already oversaturated with such buildings. There is little advantage to replicating an urban form that has been executed on a much larger scale a hundred miles to the north. Instead, development plans need to capitalize on metropolitan Tucson s strongest asset in relation to Phoenix: the incredible natural amenities of southern Arizona coupled with a lifestyle centered on enjoying that environment. Under this model, the old tension of economic development versus smart growth and the environment disappears. With the environment as Tucson s prime competitive advantage in the Sun Corridor, it becomes clear that conservation and smart growth policies will spur economic development, not impede it. 7 By considering Tucson as part of the larger Sun Corridor economic system, plans can be made that will enhance Tucson s competitive advantage in the market, while capitalizing on the tremendous scale of the Metro Phoenix economy. As a standalone metropolitan area, Tucson s peer cities are places like Fresno, CA and Tulsa, OK. 6 When included as part of the Sun Corridor, however, Tucson can compete with Miami, Atlanta and Seattle. There are several advantages to competin
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