Sandra Watson

President & CEO
Arizona Commerce Authority

If you were to be asked by a site selector, what is the best part of doing business in Tucson, what are the areas you would highlight?

One of Arizona’s key economic development strengths lies in our team-centered approach. Arizona brings all partners to the table – state and local economic development agencies, utilities, universities and community colleges, workforce development leaders, and more – to streamline the site selection process. Nobody does this better than Arizona. 

With that in mind, we are incredibly grateful to all our local partners, including Sun Corridor Inc., Pima County and the City of Tucson. Working together, we’ve been able to win outstanding projects that are bringing good jobs and high-tech companies to Southern Arizona. 

Companies also prefer to do business in Arizona because we offer a premier business environment. This includes our skilled and growing workforce, modern transportation infrastructure, streamlined-regulatory structure, and world-class educational institutions.

What are some of the emerging trends in your industry that could have an impact locally on site selectors looking at the Tucson region?

Across our projects, we’re seeing companies place high consideration on workforce. Industries are prioritizing markets that can support ambitious hiring goals as well as partnering to train new workers. 

In this area, Arizona stands out as a leader. For example, Pima Community College celebrated the completion of its $15 million Aviation Technology Center expansion in October 2022, enabling PCC to train double the number of students, training hundreds for jobs in Southern Arizona’s aerospace industry. In addition, Pima Community College celebrated the grand opening of its $35 million Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence in spring 2023 with equipment for manufacturing, technology, robotics, optics and more, training students for the high-tech jobs.

The University of Arizona recently celebrated the grand opening of its new $85 million Applied Research Building in spring 2023. The facility will house state-of-the-art technologies to support scientific innovation, furthering the region’s reputation as a biotechnology epicenter.

Aside from the areas you would highlight to a site selector, what are you most optimistic about for the future economic development in the region?

Southern Arizona has emerged as a leader in advanced industries such as aerospace and defense, battery, biotech, optics, and more. Companies including American Battery Factory, Sion Power, EVelution Energy,, PowerPhotonic and Steel Jupiter have announced plans to establish or expand operations in Southern Arizona, building on the region’s economic momentum.

When one part of the state experiences growth, it often leads to expansions elsewhere. For example, Pinal County is attracting numerous semiconductor suppliers to support fab operations around the Phoenix metro area. Likewise, Arizona is developing a robust battery ecosystem, with manufacturing, recycling, and materials processing operations across Southern Arizona and beyond. I’m excited about the growth of these industry ecosystems, which promise to build additional synergies between Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties.


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