Sun Corridor Inc.’s Post-Covid Economic Recovery Plan Private & Public Sector Leaders Build Game Plan
By Jay Gonzales
It’s unlikely anyone will openly suggest that the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has had any redeeming qualities worth the medical and economic destruction it has caused.
But that isn’t stopping many communities – the Tucson region among them – from trying to squeeze an ounce of good from an otherwise horrific and generational occurrence.
In an arguably historic display of collaboration in the region, private- and public-sector leaders have come together to build a game plan for a post-COVID-19 economic recovery in Southern Arizona. The Pivot Playbook is the outcome of a nearly year-long effort to capitalize on the national attention the community received as a region poised for recovery. It is a formal blueprint to address a number of economic development issues, some of which have plagued the region for decades.
Sun Corridor Inc. assembled what it called a COVID-19 Recovery and Response Steering Committee made up of organization leaders and board members who engaged additional business leaders in a detailed process to build the plan. It provides specific action items in five focus areas: company recruitment, talent acquisition and retention, workforce development and training, shovel-ready real estate and tourism.
There were 24 members on the steering committee chaired by retired Raytheon Missile Systems executive Steve Eggen. Each focus area had a subcommittee headed by an expert in the field. The report was released in an online presentation in May.
“The best thing that happened is that we had those senior business leaders from both the public and private sector engaged in this,” Eggen said. “These folks are tuned in to what’s going on not only in their businesses, but what’s going on in the community. It became very obvious where we needed to go.”
Among the “obvious” were the region’s roads, which are hundreds of millions of dollars behind in needed repair and reconstruction, having an inventory of shovel-ready real estate available to attract new business, and the all-encompassing task of developing a long-term talent pool to support companies that want to come here.
But it wasn’t so much the various recommendations coming out of the Pivot Playbook to address long-standing issues that impressed those involved. It was that the group of diverse business leaders with their own business agendas so easily came to agreement on what was important for the overall economic health of the region. That collaboration hasn’t always been so easy among business leaders.
“I think good begets good and positive energy creates positive energy,” said Judy Rich, current board chair of Sun Corridor Inc. and president and CEO of TMC Healthcare. “We got good news in the middle of a horrible pandemic and we would be wise to take advantage of the good things that are being said by people outside of Tucson.
“I really believe that’s why the teams came together. It was not about protecting turf or a political agenda. It was about how do we, in the middle of this horrible pandemic, do the best thing for our region?”
“The Pivot Playbook is a shining example of the willingness to collaborate, work together and overcome the impacts COVID-19 has had on our region,” said Adriana Kong Romero, senior VP and Tucson market president for Bank of America which sponsored the project. “With the Pivot Playbook in place and business leaders on board to implement these strategies, we will be in a great position to foster a stronger and more competitive community.”
Joe Snell, president and CEO of Sun Corridor Inc. and chair of the Company Recruitment subcommittee, said there was no time to waste when Tucson was being mentioned last spring by national economic development opinion leaders as being in prime position to have one of the quickest recoveries from the pandemic.
“We had to work cooperatively across all these industries, across all these players, and we had to move with some urgency and some flexibility,” Snell said. “I feel like we are in such a great position going forward. We’ve got well-thought-out strategies. We know this needs to be a living document.”
The Pivot Playbook was introduced to the community on May 20 in an online presentation of a 30-minute video produced by Sun Corridor Inc. The video and the Pivot Playbook document can both be found on the organization website at www.suncorridorinc.com.
Now comes the time to put all the ideas and recommendations in the Pivot Playbook to work, Eggen said.
“It has very specific focus areas that, even though they’re interlinked in what the outcome can be, each one can be addressed within itself,” Eggen said. “For instance, tourism has a specific action plan to be carried out. It doesn’t rely on what we’re going to be doing over here on workforce development.
“And how do you know whether it’s a success? I think we’re going to know it’s a success with how we’re able to bring in companies, how we’re able to retrain the displaced employees and how they do. What Sun Corridor is going to do subsequent to this is put together the right metrics so that we know if we’re making progress in the direction we want to go. You can’t do anything without the metrics.”