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AZTechCast | Tucson’s Economic Forecast: Poised for Growth

Tucson’s innovation economy is booming.

Known for its plentiful sunshine, natural beauty and diverse culture, Tucson also is home to world-class universities and unique resources that make it an ideal place to launch a startup or operate a business. While it’s no secret that Tucson has long led the way for pioneering developments in the aerospace and defense sector, this Southern Arizona city is also a leader in bioscience, healthcare, optics and mining. And with a close proximity to Mexico, Tucson holds a special geographic position for businesses engaged in international trade.

In the Arizona Technology Council’s August 2020 podcast, distinguished Tucson economic development leaders Joe Snell, President & CEO of Sun Corridor Inc. and Kevin Burke, City of Tucson Economic Initiatives Deputy Director joined Arizona Technology Council CEO Steve Zylstra to discuss the key drivers strengthening Tucson’s competitiveness, how Sun Corridor and the City of Tucson have been instrumental in accelerating economic growth in the region, the initiatives to attract, expand and retain businesses in Southern Arizona, as well as the factors fostering the innovation, technology and creativity needed to be a world-class tech hub.

This distinguished panel of economic development leaders kicked off the conversation by sharing the strategies organizations, local businesses and industry leaders can employ to respond and move past COVID quickly. As a result of its its very low population density and relatively high levels of educational attainment, it’s no surprise that Tucson was recently named among the top 10 U.S. cities best-positioned to thrive after the pandemic

“This ranking has given us an opportunity to take a closer look and examine what exactly propelled us forward to earn this recognition,” said Joe Snell, president and CEO of Sun Corridor, Inc. “Re-shoring and near-shoring have been increasingly important regarding supply chains. Tucson has a solid labor force, innovative companies, and a strong UArizona presence. Communities that can adapt and move quickly with upskilling and retraining in the new economy will fare better. Sun Corridor is also initiating a ton of new strategies to help Tucson move full-steam ahead.”

“Tucson’s innovation economy and the resiliency of the tech sector are two key factors for the ranking. Technology-based and IT-based companies illustrated how adaptable they were and were able to easily to pivot when COVID hit,” said Steven G. Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council. “Other components include the City of Tucson’s outstanding business attraction efforts to grow a vibrant entrepreneurial community, as well as supporting existing businesses and making sure the regulatory environment is business-friendly, as well as staying out of the way of business to let companies do what they do best.”

“The City of Tucson wants to do everything it can to support business,” said Kevin Burke, Economic Initiatives Deputy Director for the City of Tucson. “We proactively play a facilitating role and make connections to help Tucson businesses with the resources they need. Although we’ve seen a massive amount of businesses folding, I expect to see a resurgence in the wake of post-COVID.”

Zylstra added, “It’s worth noting that Tucson was well-positioned economically before the pandemic hit. Pre-COVID, many companies and a multitude of tech talent was already fleeing high-density cities across the country.”

The panel also provided insight on the programs and initiatives to support innovation, as well as attract, expand and retain businesses in Southern Arizona. One key group is StartUp Tucson, a community-oriented nonprofit committed to supporting the dreamers, builders and makers that fuel the future of this vibrant Southern Arizona city. The universities, colleges and local incubators are also helping to foster the innovation, technology and creativity needed to be a world-class tech hub. UArizona’s Centers of Excellence in automotive technologies and aerospace, among other areas of focus, bring together people from different disciplines and provide shared facilities and resources. 

In addition to sharing what exactly makes Tucson the innovation ecosystem it is, the panel also dispelled some of the major misconceptions about the City of Tucson.

“The biggest misconception is that Tucson is a sleepy, little town,” Snell said. “Tucson is a national player that can hold its own.”

“The sophistication of the technology in Tucson is absolutely mind-boggling,” Zylstra said. “Perfect examples are the rover on Mars, Tucson’s world class astronomy, optics and photonics, as well as its strength in aerospace and defense. Every missile in our country’s inventory is made in Tucson by Raytheon.”

“Without question, Tucson has a strong workforce and business community, Burke said. “Tucson is not recognized to the degree that it should be, and I’m glad to see that it’s changing.”

If you want to learn more about the factors helping Tucson to economically recover post-COVID, as well as the programs, strategies and initiatives guiding and impacting Tucson’s long-term regional economy, this podcast episode is for you!

If you want to learn more about the factors helping Tucson to economically recover post-COVID, as well as the programs, strategies and initiatives guiding and impacting Tucson’s long-term regional economy, this podcast episode is for you!


President and CEO
Sun Corridor, Inc.
Economic Initiatives Deputy Director
City of Tucson
President and CEO
Arizona Technology Council




About AZTechCast
The official podcast of the Arizona Technology Council, AZTechCast is dedicated to covering innovation and technology in Arizona and beyond. Through the art of the connected conversation, AZ TechCast’s hosts and guests share success stories, tech news and analysis about the region’s leading startups, companies and emerging technologies, as well as the latest industry trends and critical issues propelling Arizona’s growing technology ecosystem. Visit to learn more or to listen to recent episodes.

About Phoenix Business RadioX
Karen Nowicki is the owner and president of Phoenix Business RadioX. Amplifying the voice of business, Phoenix Business RadioX helps local businesses and professional associations get the word out about the important work they’re doing to serve their market, profession and community. A successful author, speaker and the creator of Deep Impact Leadership™ and SoulMarks Coaching™, Nowicki is a two-time recipient of the prestigious national Choice Award® for her book and personal development retreat. In addition, Nowicki has been an expert guest on regional TV and radio shows, including Fox Phoenix Morning Show, Sonoran Living, Good Morning Arizona, The Chat Room and Mid-Day Arizona. Recognized for her leadership and business acumen, she has been a regular contributor to many print and online magazines – publishing articles and blogs for business and education.


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