Tucson is the second-largest metro area in Arizona, containing almost 1 million residents. The city of Tucson accounts for over half of the population with 527,400 individuals. Population growth in the metro is forecast to average 1 percent annually through 2017, with outer-lying areas such as Marana growing at a faster clip.
Tucson has capitalized on its high-tech cluster program, spawning local technology jobs and high-tech companies. In the early 1990s, the Greater Tucson Economic Council targeted businesses in the areas of aerospace and defense, bioscience, solar and information technology. Working with the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park (UA Tech Park), the council has helped attract high-technology manufacturers to the county.
UA Tech Park sits on 1,345 acres in Southeast Tucson. Almost 2 million square feet of space has already been developed, featuring high-tech office, R&D and laboratory facilities. The Park is also home to the Arizona Center for Innovation, a technology business incubator, and three educational institutions — UA South, Pima Community College, and Vail Academy and High School. The UA Tech Park contributes nearly $3 billion annually to Pima County's economy and is one of the region's largest employment centers.
Tucson is part of a federal empowerment zone program aimed to direct job creation in specific locations within the metro. By offering incentives to companies forming or expanding in low-income areas, these zones seek to strengthen both the local economy and linkage to international trade. Located only 60 miles from the Mexican border, the area benefits from increased international trade through NAFTA.
The Tucson metro area is situated entirely within Pima County in south central Arizona. The region is surrounded by four main mountain ranges: the Santa Catalina Mountains to the north, the Rincon Mountains to the east, the Santa Rita Mountains to the south, and the Tucson Mountains to the west. Mount Wrightson is the highest peak at over 9,400 feet. The county's location in the Sonoran Desert provides for an arid climate with temperate winters that attract "snowbirds."