Oro Valley community and business leaders identified the town's strengths, needs and opportunities at the first town-sponsored economic development summit, held Friday, Oct. 15 in a room at the town's biotechnology superstar, Ventana Medical Systems.
A crowd of some 65 people gathered, then broke into small, facilitated groups that identified assets, needs and obstacles, then made recommendations on how to proceed.
Among Oro Valley's assets are its environment, public safety, the existence of bioscience businesses such as Ventana and sanofi-aventis, proximity to larger cities, and an emerging pro-business attitude within town government, participants agreed.
Oro Valley must maintain and enhance its commitment to tourism, and do a better job communicating what it is doing, and why, people said. A critical mass of people in Oro Valley, with a population now near 44,000, would help many businesses and industries. The creation of primary jobs is "vital." And town government must diversify its revenue stream, participants suggested.
Oro Valley should brand itself as part of a bioscience corridor. It should be "a leader in promoting regionalism," leveraging partnerships as it's done in the newly announced Ventana expansion, one group said.
The community must do more to enhance the arts. And Oro Valley needs "a hub, a town center," another believes.
It's important that town government offer the ability to put projects on a fast track. One group suggested the need for an "ombudsman" of development, someone who could help move a project through the entire review and permitting process.
Before smaller groups undertook their tasks, Mayor Satish Hiremath assured the crowd Oro Valley is "dedicated to strong economic development." He said community leaders are "at the ground floor of Oro Valley's fiscal and economic strategy.
"We want to hear what your thoughts are in developing economic priorities," Hiremath said.
Town Manager Jerene Watson said Oro Valley has created "a much more streamlined development services process" that should help the community pursue "a prosperous economic future.
Part of that prosperous future is Ventana, which last week announced a $180 million, five-year expansion of its Innovation Park operations that should result in 500 new jobs paying an average wage of $75,000 a year.
"Thank you so much for all the support that you give Ventana," said Ventana president and summit co-host Hany Massarany. "We are very focused on cancer patients, and improving their lives. It's really about cancer patients, it's what we're in it for, why we get out of bed in the morning. We're very passionate about it.
"I can't tell you how much we rely on your continued support and partnership," Massarany continued. "It's terrific to be in a town that's thinking about how it can support people like Ventana and others."