FLETCHER McCUSKER

CEO, UAVenture Capital

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

The relocation of Caterpillar’s mining division from Illinois was a huge win for Tucson, especially given that we were competing against Denver. Other mining interests have followed − Hexagon, AXISCADES and others. Over a dozen mining conglomerates now have a presence in Tucson. The incentives provided to Caterpillar by Rio Nuevo, the City and the State also cemented the thesis that our region will not win these large employers on weather alone. Arizona’s so-called “gift clause” that prohibits most jurisdictions from aggressive incentives needs to be changed. Rio Nuevo is exempt from the gift clause prohibition, otherwise Caterpillar would be in Colorado.

Have you experienced or received feedback from outside entities regarding the region’s economic development climate? If so, what are some of the specific comments you’ve heard about the region’s economic development efforts and strategies?

Tucson has been identified as a Top Five destination post Covid. The attributes mentioned most often include geographically dispersed, affordable, a great university, a vibrant downtown and a rapidly evolving start up ecosystem. If we could combine incentives with our affordability, no city could compete.

Are there industries that the region should be more aggressive in pursuing and how would those fit within the makeup of the Tucson business structure?

Film and television production would expand 10 times, but our New Mexico neighbors trump us with huge tax credits and incentives. The Arizona Legislature recognized that this year and introduced legislation to allow us to compete with New Mexico. Clearly, our elected colleagues are beginning to see that we need to have more arrows in the quiver. Likewise, optics will soon become a major source of employment in the region. We have had international photonics companies recently move to Tucson and Sahuarita. With great innovation coming from the University of Arizona, the No. 1 optics college in the U.S., there are a number of optics start-ups flourishing in the region. The resultant merger-and-acquisition activity, to the extent we can keep these superstar researchers in Tucson, will give us the chance to really be “Optics Valley.”

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 still believe Tucson can better tell our story, especially following the pandemic. All of us travel for promotional tours. All of us host company leaders that are looking at the region. We need to weaponize our results and allow site selectors, company CEOs, remote workers, escapees from California to see that Tucson is to Phoenix what Austin is to Dallas. And, incentives, incentives, incentives. We need to do what we can to make Tucson fiercely competitive in attraction and retention. That makes all of us public policy advocates. Now is our time.

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