KGUN9 Viewer: Why did TREO choose San Diego, a city that boycotted Arizona?
KGUN9 News gets the answer from TREOPhoto: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – There are still a lot of questions swirling around the economic trip Tucson leaders took to San Diego in mid-May. Although Joe Snell, the President of the Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO) spoke to 9 On Your Side Wednesday about how it spends taxpayer dollars, many viewers still had questions.
Caroline Byrne was one of them. She points out that TREO's mission is to provide "leadership, a unified business voice and connectivity to accelerate economic prosperity." She emailed KGUN9 News, asking: Why spend nearly $60,000 -- even if it's private dollars - at a place where people supported a boycott of Arizona?
"With my understanding of leadership, the best way to leadership to lead is by example. And so their leadership demonstrates that one should spend $58,000 in San Diego, which is the city that publicly called for a boycott of our state," Byrne said.
So KGUN9 News brought the question to Laura Shaw, TREO's Vice-President of Marketing and Communications.
"It's important to understand that TREO is an organization that is a private 501(c)(6) organization. We are an economic development group with a very specific mission. We are not a public policy group. Others in our community do that," Shaw said.
Shaw added that TREO's business and political leaders went to San Diego with very specific economic reasons, including learning about entrepreneurship as well as the city's successes in bio-science and border issues. Shaw argued that sending 36 participants to the Torrey Pines Resort -- who all paid their own way -- is cheaper and more efficient than getting information from a consultant, whom she estimates would cost $150,000 to $200,000.
"It's important to get people out as a group into another computer so they can experience it. They can see it, touch it, feel it. Know what those folks are talking about. There's nothing that takes the place of face-to-face interaction with your peers in another community," Shaw said.
However, Byrne argues that the money could've gone toward any of the many resorts in Tucson, so the city can better recover from the hit Arizona took during the boycotts. And she adds that the lack of representation of those in the hospitality industry may have been the reason why they did not consider Tucson as a conference destination.
"There were a lot of people who lost their jobs. There were a lot of people who had to take on several other people's jobs because their resorts were struggling. They lost millions of dollars because of those boycotts," Byrne said.
KGUN9 News obtained a copy of TREO's agenda in San Diego, and it includes a number of tours of the city and companies there.
Still, Byrne said that her family cancelled their trip to San Diego since the boycotts, and they haven't been back because they choose to spend their money locally.
TREO will unveil the report on the benefits of the San Diego trip at the next city council meeting on Tuesday, June 12.