TUCSON, Ariz. - Experts say 2018 was a positive year for the Old Pueblo, with many companies announcing plans to come to town or expand. KGUN9 met with the Tucson Metro Chamber to find out how they hope to continue last year's momentum.
In October, job numbers showed Tucson finally recovered from the recession.
Amber Smith, President and CEO of the Tucson Metro Chamber, says the Old Pueblo is seeing more recent business growth, than closures.
"We are certainly improving with the economy and seeing things that a lot of communities are not," Smith said.
Smith says the Chamber has big plans for 2019, including offering competitive health insurance for small businesses.
Businesses with 2 to 50 employees will be offered the health insurance, which may reduce overhead costs, and allowing them to reinvest those funds back into their own businesses, Smith said.
Another initiative for the year is workforce development.
Locally, Smith says trades and technical training jobs have an extraordinary high demand right now. Employers are struggling to fill open positions from apprenticeships through manager roles. Skilled workers are retiring and fewer people are interested, or aware of these jobs. Smith says the situation is made even worse with recent slashed funding for career tech education.
"We have an underemployment problem, not an unemployment problem," Smith said. "Unemployment is low, but we are still having difficulties finding the right type of talent to fill open positions in growing industries."
This year, the Chamber is working on identifying large growth sectors in Tucson, such as construction and healthcare, to determine what degree programs, certifications, and training is needed to build the future workforce.
On top of these initiatives, the Tucson Metro Chamber says there are also significant infrastructure needs that need to be addressed, such as our roads, before the next recession hits, so that the city can recover quicker than last time.