Tucson Isn’t Diverse Enough to Attract Big, Rich Companies

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Tucson can’t win. Although the city is 43% Latino, it isn’t diverse enough to attract big, rich companies. It will have to accept its fate of having a poverty rate twice the national average, along with a corresponding high crime rate, substandard K-12 schools, and college graduates who leave for more prosperous cities with better opportunities—in spite of being home to a major research university, the University of Arizona.

That was the implication of a story in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal.

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The story says that companies are moving their headquarters and major offices from locales that aren’t very diverse to those that are, such as Atlanta, so that they can hire and retain diverse employees. As used in the article, “diversity” is synonymous with “black.”

Sorry, my fellow Tucsonans, but Tucson has the wrong type of diversity.

I know the pluses and minuses of Atlanta very well, as I conducted a lot of business over my career in Atlanta and other parts of Georgia. In one case, I led an effort at a plant in Macon to teach literacy to black employees so they could retain their jobs as the plant converted to computer-controlled equipment. In another case, I fired a good ole boy who was a longtime HR manager at a plant in rural southern Georgia, because he was right out of central casting as a redneck.

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Don’t think that the article won’t have an impact. In my years of management consulting, one of my biggest challenges was dealing with CEOs who would read a popular business book or business article about a new fad and then direct company managers to adopt the fad. Like most humans, most CEOs like to follow the herd.

The print edition of the article has a confusing chart that lists cities that have a high, medium, or low “tech-talent diversity score” and a lower cost of living.  Tucson doesn’t make the list.  Amazingly, nor does my boyhood home of St. Louis, although the metropolis is very racially diverse; has a diverse economy of industrial, biotech, and financial giants; has abundant cultural attractions; has two top-notch universities; has hip gentrified neighborhoods, and has a low cost of living and affordable housing. Phoenix did make the list, however, as having a medium score.

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