TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A who's who of local politicians and dignitaries gathered under a small tent in the middle of dust and creosote just South of the Hughes Access Road on Tuesday afternoon to mark a new beginning.
Sen. John McCain, Congresswoman Martha McSally, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Pima County's Sharon Bronson, Ramone Valadez, Ray Carroll and many others mingled with officials from Raytheon.
They gathered to celebrate the first step in what may become one of the largest economic expansions in Tucson's history.
It all begins with a small, $6 million project to move Hughes Access Road a half mile to the South and rename it The Sonoran Corridor.
But the hope is, the corridor is just the beginning of things to come.
By moving the roadway, it gives Raytheon room to grow and expand. Five years ago it expanded in Huntsville, Alabama because it did not have room to grow in Tucson.
This project will likely insure expansion.
The project also gives the Tucson Airport the room it needs to build a new runway which will allow bigger airplanes and more traffic.
A $10 million TIGER grant is being used to expand the Port of Tucson, a rail system which connects to Mexico.
The Sonoran Corridor will connect I-19 and I-10 at the University Tech
's all coming together under the vision of many people corralled by Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry,
The county has already purchased 328 acres for the buffer and more is likely as the planned aerospace park is unveiled and expanded.
The property was purchased for nearly $6 million from developers who has visions of residential development which would have likely encroached on Raytheon's plans.
"Today is really a great day for the economic development for Tucson and and incredible investment in Southern Arizona," Gov. Ducey told the crowd. "Keeping Raytheon is important for the state of Arizona."
"This is where Tucson is going to grow," according to Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. He said the planned aerospace parkway is truly a bipartisan effort.
For Sen. John McCain the investment into the 4th largest defense contractor in the county "will help keep America safer."
For Congresswoman Martha McSally it's about the vision to grow and a defense and aerospace center is important to the area's economic vitality.
For Raytheon's Chief Executive Officer, Taylor Lawarence, the company has hit a point where expansion is essential and it insures the company can "continue the innovative spirit."