President & CEO, Sun Corridor Inc.
In what ways has your organization had to “pivot” as the short-term impacts of the pandemic took hold?
The economic development business relies on strong relationships with site selectors and traditionally those relationships have been built in person. The standard site selection process is a difficult task amid COVID-19: the ability to physically visit a location. So, we have quickly shifted our mindset to virtual resources to maintain and build company and site selector relationships. With severely limited travel, we have become experts with Zoom and other virtual methods in order to stay top of mind in a very competitive landscape. These technical skills and the addition of other virtual tools in our arsenal allow us to continue aggressively promoting Tucson and Southern Arizona as a business center. We have been successful in this shift. Case in point – we recently landed a new company, Sandvik, which conducted their entire site selection process virtually. They signed the lease without ever having stepped foot in Tucson. Sandvik officials told us that finding partners like Sun Corridor Inc. that can connect with you virtually while advocating for you physically is invaluable in the new operating environment for growing businesses.
What trends are you experiencing in your own industry, across the U.S. and globally, related to expected long-term impacts of the pandemic?
There are several key trends emerging in economic development today. First, with the global disruption of supply chain caused by the pandemic, there is a growing trend of manufacturers considering near- and on-shoring their operations. Our proximity to Mexico and transportation infrastructure – via rail, air and highways with access to ports in LA – are huge benefits. We believe virtual tours and limited business travel will turn from short-term trends to long-term trends, as companies are finding that it’s cost-effective and still productive. However, there is Zoom fatigue. Ultimately, I believe it’ll be a mix. Face-to-face still matters. I believe that companies will not authorize travel at the same levels they did when the pandemic is behind us. I think virtual meetings are here to stay. People will be allowed to work from home at least partially. This will change the types of buildings we need in the future. It is important for us to create an ecosystem to support the remote worker. Incentives that support people working from home and creating communities with high quality of life will change economic development.
From your business vantage point, what qualities put the Tucson region in a position to recover quicker economically and more effectively than other regions?
First, we had a strong economic foundation prior to the pandemic and that means those contributing factors, with or without pandemic, still exist and will speed our return to a healthy economy. Economies that will be successful in the post-pandemic environment are those that offer a high quality pool of talent, innovative and effective workforce training and connected cost-effective real estate offerings. Site selectors and real estate consultants agree and predict that the most dynamic recoveries may bypass traditional powerhouses and take place in areas that were poised for growth in 2020 before COVID-19. Southern Arizona’s size, population density, wide open spaces and proximity to universities are our greatest strengths.
What are some of the attributes of Tucson that you personally enjoy?
I enjoy the outdoor amenities that Southern Arizona has to offer. From golfing to hiking to simply sitting by the pool.