Tucson is rapidly becoming a hotbed for innovation in Arizona, witnessing the origins of avant-garde startups and businesses trying to change the world of aerospace, optics, medicine and engineering through technology.
“The space industry is big and getting bigger, with companies like Vector and World View coming online,” said Doug Hockstad, assistant vice president of Tech Launch Arizona, a program through the University of Arizona that helps university-based startups commercialize new products.
Another growing area is optics, the branch of physics that deals with light and vision -- developing products like cameras, sensors, lasers and fiber optics.
The optics industry is beginning to permeate a lot of other tech fields: mining, one of Tucson’s most well-established industries; health, another growing industry in the region; and aerospace and defense. When Caterpillar moved its Surface Mining and Technology Division to Tucson in 2016, the company “really planted the flag” in the region, said Michael Guymon, vice president of the Tucson Metro Chamber.
“We’ve seen this play out very well in the aerospace and defense industry, because obviously we have Raytheon with soon-to-be 13,000 employees out there, and we have 200 companies in southern Arizona that are here because of that presence,” he added. “Not only is it the great school of aerospace and engineering that we have in the College of Engineering at the UA, but we’re also developing other skills at Pima Community College that are relative to that industry.”