Q&A with Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities President & CEO Joe Snell
Q: TREO recently launched a new economic development strategy focused on strengths of diagnostics in Southern Arizona. How important are biomedical sciences to economic development?
A: Our bioscience assets, particularly in the field of diagnostics, are world class. It’s no secret that the size of the bioscience industry and its projected growth represent a massive opportunity, so positioning our region to benefit from the industry is very important. We identified bioscience as a targeted industry as part of our original Economic Blueprint, and we’ve stayed focused on building the cluster and refining our focus. We’ve worked very hard to help our large companies like Ventana Medical Systems, now a member of the Roche Group, and smaller companies like the newly-relocated Accelerate Diagnostics secure the talent and facilities they need to continue to prosper here. The presence of a top research university is a very strong asset. The economic impact is just beginning.
Q: The commercial real estate industry in the Valley is making a nice recovery from the recession. How have Tucson and Southern Arizona fared?
A: We’re seeing similar results. The general trends are certainly up and we’ve had two consecutive quarters of strong commercial leasing activity. Companies we’re working with are expressing a strong preference to lease rather than build and lease pricing is generally still attractive, but our supply of prime space is tightening.
Q: How is TREO doing in its mission of creating new businesses, expanding of existing businesses and attracting companies that offer high wage jobs?
A: Last year was very strong — more than 2,200 new jobs — and we’ve had one of our best years this year so far with more than 2,400 jobs announced. Our project pipeline has been very active across a very wide spectrum of industries and we’re excited about a number of working projects that are nearing fruition.
Q: The landscape of Downtown Tucson seems to have changed the past 5 years. What are some of the projects you’re excited about?
A: The building boom downtown has been great to watch, and there is tremendous entrepreneurial energy focused downtown right now. The urban feel and increased density, coupled with the mobility provided by the upcoming modern streetcar completion, has attracted a number of new restaurants, new retailers, small business incubation and co-working spaces. I’m excited to see the broad spectrum of the environment — new small and large business, public and private investment — accelerating development.
Q: What challenge or challenges does TREO face now? What will those challenges be in 5 years? In 10 years?
A: Tucson’s economy is very strong in the aerospace & defense sector. With sequestration effects looming, there will be challenges in adapting that industry to new marketplace realities. However, we are the best positioned to meet that challenge for a few reasons. First, our A&D sector has deep experience in commercial aviation, a market expected to grow substantially in future years. We also have a tremendous opportunity to capture the UAV business in coalition with our other state partners.
As president and CEO of TREO, Joe Snell brings 24 years of experience leading regional economic development organizations to an agency focused on the coordination of all economic development activities in Southern Arizona. He has led successful economic development organizations in communities of various sizes. His knowledge on building strategic, competitive and balanced economic development efforts has resulted in national recognition for his leadership role in creating strong economies in high growth communities. In his previous position he was president of the Metro Denver Network. Snell holds a bachelors degree from the University of Nebraska.