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TREND Report: Making Moves to Elevate the Innovation Ecosystem

Making Moves to Elevate the Innovation Ecosystem:

Startup Tucson Launches New Initiative to Attract Remote Workers

Written by: Sophia Gonzalez

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Dedicated to transforming the region’s economy through innovation and entrepreneurship, the non-profit Startup Tucson has been busy supporting our Tucson area entrepreneurs and small businesses and creating new opportunities for future residents over the last few months. Their four-person team has been working during the pandemic to equip founders with the tools they need to more successfully start, scale or pivot their businesses using a multi-pronged strategy to address today’s seismic shifts. Through various partnerships and funding support from the City of Tucson and the Thomas R. Brown Family Foundation, Startup Tucson can provide low and free cost programming to all types of entrepreneurs in our community and support the ever-increasing needs of small businesses and microventures. This is more important than ever as our city looks to recover post- COVID.


In addition to the day-to-day hands-on support of entrepreneurs through trainings and mentorship, Startup Tucson also looks to national trends for new ways to inspire regional economic development. One such initiative, inspired by various other cities around the country, is their recently launched Remote Tucson initiative. Remote Tucson is a coordinated community initiative to entice talented individuals who are currently employed in high-paying remote work positions to permanently relocate to Tucson while continuing to work remotely for those same employers, therefore stimulating our local economy. Through a comprehensive platform, remote workers are encouraged to discover the attractiveness of Tucson as a new home.


The program’s long-term goals relate specifically to talent attraction and the greater economic development of Tucson. “Unlike traditional talent attraction, for this program, workers will stay employed in their current positions, allowing them to continue to have pull in outside markets and maximizing their lifetime economic impact in Tucson. They won’t only be funneling outside dollars into our economy, but by not replacing current opportunities for local residents, these new residents result in net positive growth for Tucson,” said Liz Pocock. Built into the framework of the program is to thoughtfully accept professionals with strong reasons for staying long term in Tucson and with a desire to connect with Tucsonans through mentorship and community involvement. During the program pilot, each remote worker selected will receive over $7,500 in incentives made of a combination of direct funds to help with relocation expenses and other perks and benefits. In the first round, funding and collaboration support will allow for 10 total offers to be made. Financial sponsors of the program include the City of Tucson, Marshall Foundation, MainGate Square, TEP, Pima County, and Bourn Companies.


Program benefits are designed specifically to ease in the applicant’s relocation experience and make sure they are connected into the Tucson community as quickly as possible. These include:

• $1500 in moving expenses

A year of free GIG home internet provided by COX

Housing support provided by SouthwestUrban and partner career support provided by the Talent Store

Over three-months of complementary coworking at La Suprema, Common Workplace, Brings Coworking and the Post

Hotel nights at the soon to be completed Hampton Inn/Home 2 Suites

Welcome benefits including a local gift basket, curated night out, and Visit Tucson attractions passport

Community memberships within TYP and an art or cultural organization of the applicant’s choice


In addition to these perks and benefits, all selected applicants will be paired with a member of the program’s Welcome Committee, led by Tucson Young Professionals, to help them plan for their relocation and arrival in Tucson. “We look forward to helping to welcome the talented and energetic people who choose to relocate permanently to Tucson and that want to contribute to our community and our culture,” said Zach Yentzer, Executive Director of TYP. Promotional partners include Visit Tucson, Tucson Metro Chamber, Sun Corridor, Rio Nuevo, Local First Arizona, University Arizona Alumni Association, SAHBA and Tucson Association of Realtors.


Applications for the initial round of the program opened in early-November and were closed in December due to overwhelming initial interest. In the month, the pilot application was live, the Remote Tucson website saw 4,000 visitors and received over 500 applications from 39 states across the country. The average salaries of applicants were $128k and they originated from a wide variety of industries including tech, nonprofits, health care, and higher education and from some very familiar employers including Facebook, Teach for America, Pfizer, Amazon and many others. Applicants cited cost of living, quality of life and an existing connection to Tucson as some of the reasons they were considering a move supported by the program. Also of note was that about 60% of all applicants identified as “boomerangs”—individuals that lived in Tucson previously either growing up or attended college here. This indicates that as times have changed with COVID, prior members of our community are looking to return and contribute to Tucson’s growth.


The Startup Tucson team, along with a committee of community partners, will select ten individuals from this application pool to extend offers to in early 2021. Once they accept, the individuals must relocate to Tucson within six months for a minimum of a year. Once the pilot program is completed, Startup Tucson will look to start a second round in 2021 to continue to attract these talented individuals to our community. If interested in supporting the Remote Tucson program or joining Startup Tucson as a mentor or entrepreneurs, visit the Startup Tucson website at www.startuptucson.com.


Sophia Gonzalez is the Engagement Coordinator for Startup Tucson and oversees the hospitality and functionality of online programming and the Roy Place Business Innovation Hub. With an urban development and experiential education lens and with a background in food festivals, cultivation, and ecosystem, she is energized to enter the entrepreneurial ecosystem to make, facilitate, and encourage connections across Tucson, the region, and beyond. Innovation and creativity are already taking place here and she is eager to affirm and draw out the good work and actors committed to making Tucson an exciting place to grow. She can be reached at sophia@startuptucson.com.

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