Explorer file photo, A vibrant downtown can help Tucson recruit and keep the economically vital "creative class," TREO board members believe. unknown

Dr. Robert Shelton, president of the University of Arizona, believes greater Tucson needs a vibrant downtown “that attracts the creative class,” those people in early and mid-career who stimulate an economy.

“Some progress has been made in downtown development,” Shelton told the Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities annual meeting.

More must be done, and TREO is focusing its 2009 efforts on urban renaissance and education excellence, board member Daisy Jenkins said.

“The data tell us we have challenges and opportunities in these two areas,” the Raytheon Missile Systems vice president said. “When these two work well, many other areas fall into line.”

“We can all agree, downtown absolutely must succeed,” because as a city’s “heart and soul,” a downtown can “act as the magnet in attracting the creative class we all need,” Shelton said.

To illustrate, Jenkins told the story of a young Raytheon employee, trained at several company locations including Tucson, who chose Dallas as her permanent assignment.

“Tucson would have been her choice if she could just replace downtown Tucson with downtown Dallas,” Jenkins said.

Right now, 35.2 percent of UA graduates remain in and work in greater Tucson. The figure was just under 50 percent three years ago.

Shelton will have a sense of accomplishment when there are “more University of Arizona graduates staying in Tucson and contributing to the communities we all love.”

Jenkins urged the crowd to “attend and support downtown events and venues,” to inform themselves about issues and opportunities, and to seek accountability and progress in creating “a successful and vibrant Tucson region.”

“The true hero is brave in deeds as well as words,” Jenkins said. “Let’s make it happen, all of us.”

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