Jobs increasing in AZ but not quite reaching southern part of the state, yet

Jobs increasing in AZ but not quite reaching southern part of the state, yet

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The latest Arizona economic report shows jobs are increasing statewide and the unemployment rate is d ropping, although it's still above the federal figures.

And while the state has every reason to celebrate the good news, things are not as stellar in southern Arizona.

Pima County lost jobs, even in the coveted manufacturing sector.

The reasons, according to U of A Economist George Hammond, are the same that have been hampering southern Arizona for decades.

Pima County, Hammond says, "has an over reliance on government jobs and those jobs are shrinking."

Tucson has eliminated more than a 1,000 of its workers and Pima County has bled even more - 1,500.

Couple that with Congress's sequestration, 20 percent across the board cuts, and Tucson is bleeding military jobs as well.

There is another issue that southern Arizona faces and not one of its own making.

The Mexican Peso has lost 37 percent of its value against the American dollar. That means the Mexican shopper won't cross the border because American products have ballooned in price. Tourists, who generally fill Tucson's hotels this time of year, are staying home.

Service workers get cut.

Federal policies, talk of the wall, a potential trade war, all have effects.

The test for Tucson is how to take out some of the ups and downs created by uncertainty.

One of those is to increase the manufacturing sector, long ignored by political leaders in this part of the state.

It's why One Stop, a county funded program, has spent the past six years trying to bring politicians, education leaders and manufacturing companies to the same table.

It has not been easy.

"But I'm persistent," said Gerri Brunson, the Business Services Program Coordinator for One Stop. "You plant the seed and in time, something grows from the seed."

It's been nearly twenty years since she started planting those seeds, which is about the same age as 19-year-old Jacob Dibbern, a lathe operator for Industrial Tool and Die, near the intersection of Irvington and Alvernon in Tucson.

But these are not your fathers hand cranked lathes or those most of us worked with during wood shop in high school. They are sophisticated, computerized and take technical training to operate.

Which is why Dibbern is everything those seed planters could have hoped to grow. He became interested in the trades at Tucson High School and has become part of the training program which uses Pima Community College as a partner. He is working, well paid and will be getting an associates degree.

"I'm a CNC," he said. "That's Computer Numerical Control."

Finding a job has not been an issue. They come looking for him.

"I came in here and had a full time job," he said. "I would consider this quite successful without going to a four year college."

He believes the country is in need of an attitude shift.

"Trade schools are just as viable as college," he said. That's a message One Stop and Tucson leaders are trying to get out.

College may not be for everybody and manufacturing jobs can easily pay into the six figures.

"If I were talking to kids not yet out of high school, I'd tell them machining, manufacturing, something like that rather than going to college four years, spend a ton of money and still not knowing what you're doing," he said.

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