President & CEO, Tucson Airport Authority
What are some of the ways you have seen collaboration between the various economic development partners improve over the last several years?
The Tucson Airport Authority (TAA) has been the beneficiary of the tremendous work of economic developers coming together to bolster growth for southern Arizona. Sun Corridor Inc. has placed the spotlight on the Tucson International Airport (TUS) through the TUS Blueprint which highlighted the resources the airport could leverage to further economic growth in the region. TAA took that vision a step further by publishing the TAA Commercial and Industrial Business Implementation Plan. With over 7,000 acres of undeveloped land, the TAA recognizes that our airports − both TUS and Ryan Airfield − are major contributors to the economic success of the region, and we have enjoyed partnering in the various forums made available in the metro area.
Which economic development “victories” over the years have had the most impact on your business and why?
Our most recent and public victory was a great regional collaboration. In October 2021, Flair Airlines, a Canadian airline, met with TAA leadership and Visit Tucson to develop a plan to bring non-stop air service from Canada to TUS. That effort, with the financial support of the City of Tucson and Pima County promises to yield winter season service to five locations in Canada – potentially bringing thousands of Canadian visitors to southern Arizona for the first time. The TAA, with its five partner airports and Flair Airlines made our intentions public at the end of February.
In addition to the direct economic benefit to the community, TAA derives a significant portion of its revenue from its aeronautical tenants. Their success is our success:
- Raytheon Missiles & Defense is not only the region’s largest employer; they are TUS’ largest tenant.
- The expansion of the Pima Community College Aviation Campus is a much-needed development for the aviation community in Tucson.
- SkyWest Airlines is in the final stages of design for its much-anticipated 200K SF hangar facility.
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?
For the Tucson Airport Authority, infrastructure for Tucson International Airport and Ryan Airfield are extremely important. Like a highway system, standards of work change over time for runways and airfield configurations. As a result, TUS was prioritized by the FAA to complete the Airfield Safety Enhancement (ASE) program. The ASE Program, as defined, will transform the TUS airfield, which does not meet current FAA standards to a condition that meets current FAA safety standards.
In terms of talent acquisition, we understand our airlines and tenants need qualified aviation professionals. The ability to attract talent to the region and to create our own talent through educational opportunities, such as those offered by the Pima Community College Aviation Program, directly impacts our tenants and their bottom line.