Now is an exciting time for Tucson – Arizona’s oldest incorporated city. The Modern Street Car Project is underway and significant private sector investment is taking place in downtown and the region. Tucson is recognized for promoting livability, sustainability, and innovation, and in May 2010 was ranked 19th on Forbes' list of 100 of America's Most Innovative Cities.
Doing business in Tucson means important access to development activity in the following industries: Aerospace and Defense, Bioscience, Solar, and Transportation and Logistics.Tucson is one of the nation’s most-renowned bioscience global hubs and an internationally-recognized location for solar energy activities. Tucson has also been identified as one of thirteen Solar America Cities in America, and several large scale initiatives are underway, including what will be the nation's largest distributed, community-wide solar power system at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. When complete it will be the largest solar-powered community in the continental U.S.
With clear skies and a low light ordinance, Tucson is also known informally as the "Astronomy Capital of the World." There are numerous astronomy related facilities located here such as Kitt Peak (which has the largest collection of optical telescopes in the world) the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the Mt. Lemmon Sky Center and the Stewart Observatory Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona (which is at the forefront of astronomy research and optical studies). The city is also the location of the Astronomy Camp, and internationally offered camp where students and adults of all ages explore "the heavens" with large telescopes and experience the excitement of scientific inquiry. The local company Starizona was even tapped for its expertise for the first 'star party' for middle school children on the White House lawn in October 2009.
Space exploration is another local focus as well and Tucson companies and organizations are leading the way. Paragon Space Development is a leading extreme-aerospace innovator recently dubbed a "space pioneer" by NASA. The University of Arizona has been awarded more NASA grants for space exploration than any other university and its observational, theoretical and space astronomy programs are ranked No. 1 in the country by the National Science Foundation. NASA recently selected the University to lead OSIRIS-REx - a sample-return mission to an asteroid. The University also houses the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory which led and completed a Mars mission to study the history of water and habitability potential in the Martian arctic's ice-rich soil. Want to learn more about artifacts from space? Watch Tucsonans Geoffrey Notkin, owner of Aerolite Meteors, and Steve Arnold on their adventures as the hosts of the Discovery Science Channel show – Meteorite Men which debuted last year.
Tucson is increasingly becoming a focus for the aerospace and defense industry. The City is more concentrated in the aerospace product and parts manufacturing industry than the average of all metropolitan statistical areas across the country, and in August 2011 Tucson was identified as the 6th largest Aerospace/Defense manufacturing cluster by Business Facilities Magazine. To support this industry and important cluster, the City is also working towards establishing an official Aerospace and Defense corridor. In 2010 Tucson was listed one of the Best Southwest Cities for Defense (and a Top Ten Cities for Defense Jobs in 2009). In addition, the FBI announced they are expanding and consolidating its Southern Arizona operations in Tucson, and Aria International, Inc. a national surveillance and communications systems contractor is relocating their headquarters to Tucson to be a member of the Border Security and Technology Commercialization Center at the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park.
Tucson is also home to international transportation and distribution services which take advantage of southern Arizona’s proximity to Mexico and to deep-water ports. The City has identified the need for and is working to create a Global Economic Development District and take advantage of Tucson's resources and support organizations. In addition to the above industries, Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, Inc. (TREO), the lead economic development agency for the greater Tucson area, has identified several other significant core industries: environmental technology, information technology, manufacturing, mining, optics, plastics and tourism.
Because of Tucson’s clean air and healthy lifestyle it is home to several top-ranked health and spa retreats, including Miraval and Canyon Ranch, as well as alternative health centers. In May of this year the American Lung Association picked Tucson as Cleanest U.S. City for 24 Hour Particle Pollution, Third Cleanest U.S. City for Year-round Particle Pollution
Tucson’s economic recovery is proceeding as residents, businesses and investors become more confident in the national outlook. With last quarter's 0.1.growth rate Tucson is now one of the 57 metros nationwide to have "fully recovered pre-recession output and gained on where they were before the recession" (source: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/Programs/Metro/metro_monitor/2011_03_metro_monitor/0314_mountain_monitor.pdf)
The importance of the University of Arizona to the city’s economy is also evident by the following citations:
“Part of Tucson's stability may come from its status as a university town.” – Mark Muro, co-director of Brookings Mountain West.
“The lesson seems to be, if you don't have a strong university nearby, you can't be an innovative city.” – Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis, Payscale.com.
"The university is a big driver," agreed Marshall Vest, director of the University of Arizona Economic and Business Research Center at the Eller College of Management.” The Center's mission is to provide business and public sector decision makers with applied research and information on economic, demographic and business trends. Its July 2010 Economic Forecast for Tucson is available online.