At mid-year - Tucson Local Media: Editorials

At mid-year

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Posted: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 11:00 pm

Inside this edition, we've taken a hurried (always), drive-by snapshot of economic activity in Northwest Tucson.

No judgments here about whether the glass is half full, half empty, or smashed to pieces. In all things, it's a matter of viewing perspective.

Economic well being starts at home, of course, and the value of that home is often front and center. A glimpse at statistics and comments from the real estate industry reveals several things – first, that prices may be at least stabilizing; second, that the supply of houses for sale is declining; and third, that housing markets are very regional, and the Northwest remains a relatively strong area of greater Tucson.

What's ahead in housing? No one's sure. Roger Yohem of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association warns about a potential wave of foreclosures that could come with five-year terms on adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMs, those complex home-financing devices.

The median sales price of a greater Tucson home in May 2009 was $170,000. That's up from $163,900 in April. The peak? In November 2006, median prices were $226,465, according to the Tucson Association of Realtors. The same watermark? September 2004, when the median price was $169,950.

Yes, economic well-being starts at home. Gasoline prices have risen of late, though they're not as high as they were a year ago. Too many people are out of work. Laura Shaw, senior vice president for Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, points out that primary jobs are crucial, and TREO is focused on those sorts of wealth-creating jobs.

There are bright spots, Shaw points out, mentioning the expanding Ventana Medical Systems presence in Oro Valley and, up the road, the big, new, soon-to-be-occupied Sanofi-aventis development. Those businesses, and their industries, can be banked on in the years ahead.

So can the resort industry. The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain is rising rapidly in north Marana. Almost instantly, it'll be a world-class resort … with more than 450 "ladies and gentlemen," as the company calls its employees, not to mention the hundreds more who'll work to service the resort, hotel and spa, and its guests. Meanwhile, renovations and expansions have taken place at the Westward Look and the Omni, and all the region's resorts are re-tooling themselves, and their offerings, for the day the world's economy gets back to "normal."

In the short term, don't sell short the impact of construction. Along with the Ritz-Carlton, and its more than 300 construction jobs, people are finding work re-building Oracle Road through Oro Valley. Across the way, in Marana, a very large road project – Twin Peaks, at more than $50 million – is in the early stage, and the Camino de Manana road project is soon to commence. Such infrastructure improvements boost communities in the long-term, and they keep people working and money flowing when times are less than flush.

There's so much going on. People are still taking risks – El Charro has opened a new location at Oracle Crossings, building continues in the Innovation Corporate Center near Oro Valley Hospital, investors are taking a new slant on a previously idle shopping development at Thornydale and Overton, some people are still building houses … there's much going on, even in an economic storm. Much depends on how you look at it.

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