Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Technopolis and Buffel Grass

Yes, indeed, your humble blogger has contributed to the community of Southern Arizona. My entire participation in the long sessions of the Tucson Town Hall in May led to the following sentence at the top of page 14 of the Tucson Town Hall Report:

The Tucson region could be the next technopolis.

Without my dedicated participation, said sentence would be missing. The course of Tucson history would alter.

Alas, I am frustrated. I gave a whole speech on buffel grass. I warned profusely of the impending buffel trouble. Buffel does not appear anywhere in the Town Hall Report.

My prior employer, now led by Carol Somers, will attempt to spread the word. That’s right, SAIAT is offering buffel class. For only $49 you can learn how to baffle your own buffel before it is too late. Classes are scheduled for June 29 and July 14.

5 Comments:

Blogger Sirocco said...

I would love to see the Tucson area become the next "technopolis". It's not going to happen, but it would be nice.

I don't have figures, but my impression certainly is most of the local graduates from technology fields leave the area. I just don't see a sufficient educational base in the area to support an influx of a number of new technology firms.

6/14/2007 9:12 AM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Sirocco,

I could discuss this for hours. Your perception and conclusions are accurate. There is a chicken /egg situation where Tucson is not perceived to have the workforce to support high tech firms.

The UA is terrific, but our K-12 reputation is horrible. Good or not, the per capita spending statistic (2nd lowest in the country) just kills us. This exacerbates 1) local people able to succeed in tech programs at the UA and stay, 2) people willing to come here that care about the schools available for their children, and 3) businesses having same concerns as 2 and also lack confidence they can get workers.

I tried to be a part of the solution at SAIAT.

They butchered me. I don't know what they will do to Carol.

You can read about it next month.

6/14/2007 11:51 AM  
Blogger Framer said...

x4mr,

Actually we do have the necessary resources for a tech environment here, in some ways we already do with the U of A and Raytheon. A full-fledged Technopolis won't happen , and it has little to do with elementary ed. Utah spends less per pupil, but has a far better Tech atmosphere.

Tucson is much too provincial, and our city and county leadership fears change in the amount that is needed to bring something like this about. Where would this influx of tech workers reside? How would they get to work? Where's my damn beltroute? We have a lot of money to spend downtown with Rio Neuvo and we want to build a MUSEUM? Yeah, that will bring the jobs. Oh I forgot about the fort. That's the ticket. Or how about the tortoise shell arena that is designed with the main goal of not disturbing the good folk in the barrio district.

The problem is that there is not enough strong local capitalist power to counterbalance the influence of the university. If both influences are strong, great things happen. If one influence overpowers the other, it's not healthy. In our case, the "ivory tower" wins out over naked opportunism and risk. Both sides of the coin are needed to reach the highest rungs of the ladder.

What is Tucson's "Big Idea?" As far as I can tell, it is "leave us alone dammit, and don't drink our water!"

6/14/2007 9:46 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Framer,

Yes, UA is terrific, and Raytheon does support a sub-industry of contractors. Your remarks on transportation are an understatement.

I myself have lost the faith. Reasons why will be most available quite soon. I am finished with economic development. My work now attends to national issues in higher education.

Your party is causing me considerable consternation. I would be interested in your reaction to Michael Bryon's recent post.

I'm not kidding when I say I'm an Independent. I resonate with a lot of GOP ideas, but not W's, and sure as F not Cheney's.

What happened to guys like Milton Friedman and William Buckley?

6/14/2007 10:27 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

Well, my opinions about economic development in Tucson are pretty humble because I’ve only lived here for seven years and I’ve never been part of the local business community.

However, I agree with Framer, for the most part. It seems to me that what is lacking are visionary leaders in both the government and education communities who are going to get serious about the low wages and lack of opportunities and do more than talk about it. Economic development, depending on where you’re starting from, can take a decade or more before the benefits start rolling in. There doesn’t seem to be anyone or any group out there who has a real vision for what is possible AND has the fortitude and commitment to take this vision to the next level and beyond.

What seems to be lacking in American culture that is not so lacking in other cultures (ex: Chinese) is the idea that one generation works for the benefit of the next generation oftentimes without reaping any rewards for themselves. Americans want results and they want them soon. That is not going to happen in Tucson.

I believe that it stands to reason that the people who will be the most vested in the community are those who are raised here. The number one priority should be the people who are in school right now (K-12.) Higher education that is available in the community must be made accessible to every capable and motivated person who graduates from a local high school . This could mean attending Pima, the U of A, or a technical school. Furthermore, the U of A needs to be accessible to every Pima graduate who is capable of earning a higher level degree.

Concurrently, our visionary leaders in government (if we had them) should be competing with other cities for the desirable employers. This probably means offering much in the way of incentives, but that would eventually level out. There are significant challenges that are hard to defeat such as the poor transportation infrastructure and looming water issues. But there is also low cost housing, lower state/local taxes than many western cities, eight months of nice weather, and an excellent state university. However, the single most important incentive for desirable employers is ready to go, skilled labor. Without that, Tucson is just going to be what it is right now.

6/15/2007 1:04 PM  

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