DR. ROBERT C. ROBBINS

President, University of Arizona

Which economic development “victories” over the years have had the most impact on your business and why?

Any time we can attract major employers to the region or retain those that are here, it is a win, and I think of the University of Arizona’s partnership with Raytheon as a key asset for southern Arizona. The company has a need for talent in STEM fields, particularly areas like aerospace engineering, as well as business and other disciplines, and the university’s ability to educate students who can then go meet these needs, and those of other employers, is the core of our mission. 

Two of the top focus areas in the Pivot Playbook recovery plan are infrastructure and talent acquisition. Within those two focus areas, what are the most pressing issues for your organization and what can your organization do to address those?

The University of Arizona plays an important role in meeting the workforce needs of our region, and we are proud to partner with economic development organizations, our other state universities, community colleges, Pima JTED, and many others to create a pipeline of talent. Key to keeping talented graduates here in southern Arizona are two things: opportunity and quality of life. Through our research and innovation enterprise, we contribute new ideas and products that can make their way to market, spurring growth and opportunity. 

Tucson has developed a number of industry clusters that are gaining momentum in the region such as aerospace and defense, mining, biosciences and medicine, and various aspects of technology. Do you consider those to be areas that need continued focus and why?

We want to pursue every area of opportunity, but these three sectors − aerospace and defense, mining, and biosciences and medicine − are key points of strength and opportunity for our region. The university has prioritized all of them in our strategic plan as areas where we can have outsized impact because of our distinctive strengths and interdisciplinary culture. As I have said since I arrived in Arizona, the university, our region and the entire state are poised to lead in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the convergence of biological, digital and physical technologies that is transforming our world.

In what ways can you, as a member of the Sun Corridor Inc. Chairman’s Circle, contribute to continuing the momentum that has been generated in the region in recent years?

I take every opportunity I can to champion southern Arizona. We live in one of the most distinctively beautiful places in the world, and we have an amazing combination of talent, institutional capacity, history, and community spirit that I think will propel us onto the world stage in the years to come. Sharing this story is one of the most important things the members of the Chairman’s Circle can do to help contribute to the success of our region and our state, equally important as the work we do leading our individual institutions.

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