A few of you may have heard of PAG… if not, it is Pima Association of Governments, our region’s metropolitan planning organization. It’s an entity you should learn more about. Millions of state and federal dollars flow through PAG and fund short- and long-range transportation projects throughout Pima County. In addition, PAG manages the Regional Transportation Authority. We approved the RTA plan and a ½ cent sales tax over 9years ago to generate local dollars to meet growing transportation infrastructure demands as well as to have more local control of placing the dollars where they are most needed.
This regional organization is an untapped asset in our community. It is the only organization where every jurisdiction and the tribes are engaged and have an equal seat at the table. Decisions are made by consensus impacting the entire region. The chief elected officials of Pima County, the Cities of Tucson and South Tucson, the Towns of Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita, as well as the Pascua Yaqui and Tohono O’odham tribes serve as the Regional Council. Our community has debated regional government for decades, yet this entity has existed since 1970 and is a launch pad for collaboration.
Recent PAG activities with regional economic impact include:
January 2015: PAG Regional Council approved a resolution supporting the addition of the Sonoran Corridor to the state highway system.June 2014: PAG leaders continue to participate in the Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance (TTCA) Steering Committee, which completed the TTCA Roadmap strategic planning document.January 2014: The Regional Council approved a resolution recognizing the importance of the Interstate 11 and Intermountain West Corridor and supported further study.Ongoing: Coordination with local, regional and state bi-national partners in promoting the Building an International Economic Network (BIEN) website for businesses in Arizona, Mexico and Canada.Ongoing: The Regional Transportation Authority plan, approved by voters, in May 2006, has contributed hundreds of jobs and economic redevelopment impact, most recently with the 2014 launch of the Sun Link streetcar.
About a year ago, I was asked to chair a newly formed committee within PAG–the Economic Vitality Advisory Committee (EVAC). The EVAC provides a unique platform to create stronger regional collaboration, as it brings together representatives of leading organizations from the public, private, educational and nonprofit sectors to work together toward shared interests. The purpose of the committee is to explore various topics of regional significance that affect the community’s economic vitality, such as land use, tourism and trade, as well as align the region’s transportation planning efforts with economic development opportunities.
Recently, our committee hosted a half day work session to focus on a collaborative effort to improve the economy of the region. The work session was attended by county, city, town, tribaland business leaders, and was designed to fully engage EVAC members in a deliberative process to develop consensus around the most important opportunities and challenges that impact economic vitality in southern Arizona.
The work session resulted in consensus that economic diversification is the ultimate goal of all of the opportunities, challenges and priorities that were discussed. It was evident to all of us in attendance that economic vitality and the ultimate goal of economic diversification can be achieved through trusting, collaborative partnerships between and among our organizations, a shared vision for the region; the political will to commit to purposeful and focused action; clearly defined roles and leveraging of resources, and the internal capacity and infrastructure to support the realization of this goal.
During the work session, we brainstormed and determined the following four priorities to enhance economic vitality in our region.
Economic Diversification: the overarching goal of economic vitality efforts.Infrastructure – Transport/Utilities: paramount to achieving economic diversification and vitality.Mexico Trade/Commerce: a unique competitive advantage for southern Arizona (and the State of Arizona) that needs to be fully maximized; a significant factor in the achievement of a more diverse, globally competitive economy.Workforce Enhancement: a globally competitive, talented workforce and superior P-20 educational institutions to educate and prepare this workforce are paramount to the region’s future.We debated what we believe are southern Arizona’s economic vitality priorities, important actions needed and impediments to achieving these priorities. Just as important, we discussed what PAG’s role should be in this effort. Would PAG be the Convener? The Coordinator?
Our region clearly needs a regional strategy that integrates, incorporates and synthesizes each of our individual organizations’/communities’ plans and efforts. Many of the committee members quickly came to the realization that PAG as it is designed, including its role as Council of Governments, could lead this effort.
The role of the EVAC was strongly supported and will continue to develop. Though many of our business organizations focus on economic development, PAG provides the only venue for the business community to work collaboratively with all jurisdictions in the County. Where do we go from here? Following the work session, the EVACestablished two distinct workgroups. One focusing on Transportation Infrastructure and the other on Trade with Mexico. In both cases, the EVAC’s role shall be to convene and help focus on regional priorities, efforts, initiatives, and to coordinate the efforts of our organizations and jurisdictions.
Take a moment to learn more about the Pima Association of Governments at www.PAGregion.com. Economic Vitality Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public with the next meeting on Sept. 9. Our effort regionally can be coordinated with our state’s efforts to boost Arizona’s economy. Let’s focus on building the economic vitality of our region by collaborating and sharing our priorities.
Lea Marquez Peterson is President/CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber and its affiliate chambers in Nogales, Douglas and Sierra Vista. In addition, she serves as the Chair of the Economic Vitality Committee for Pima Association of Governments. She can be reached at email@example.com.