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in Tucson, Arizona


Employee ownership helps keep businesses thriving in our communities

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Tucson, AZ

Employee ownership as a strategy for business and workforce retention

Curbing the effects of the Silver Tsunami in Tucson

Small, locally owned businesses are essential to Tucson’s local economy and regional community vitality. Among the challenges the city faces is keeping businesses and the jobs they provide rooted in the community, as the Silver Tsunami – the retirement of baby boomer business owners – impacts the region.

Partners across Tucson are taking a proactive approach to assist locally owned businesses that are at risk of retention. These partnerships with Project Equity are helping business owners learn about the option of employee ownership succession.


The risk of the Silver Tsunami

Baby boomers (those born between 1946-1964) own half of all businesses with employees in Pima County and statewide in Arizona. Regions in the US need to understand the risk of the Silver Tsunami as these business owners retire. Many legacy businesses will sell to out of area buyers or close down due to lack of succession planning.

The added challenge of the Great Resignation

In 2021, workers quit their jobs at the highest rate on record according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and there were more than 11 million job openings in 2022. As businesses search for strategies to recruit and retain employees, employee ownership is a proven tool with a track record of strengthening business performance and resilience.

The underlying struggle of financial security

On top of recent challenges, communities are struggling with long-standing wealth inequality. Despite being employed, many frontline workers lack access to meaningful opportunities to acquire assets, build wealth, and achieve economic security. Employee ownership is a strategy to provide quality jobs and reduce the wealth gaps in your community.

Employee-owned companies in Tucson, AZ

Barrio Brewing Co.

KE & G Construction

Pima Medical Institute

Technicians for Sustainability

Tucson Asphalt

AGM Container Controls

J.B. Steel

Environmental Engineering Consultants (EEC)

Safi Home Works

Discover more employee-owned businesses at Certified EO

A proactive approach in Tucson

Project Equity and our partners in Tucson launched this initiative to assist at-risk businesses in learning about the option of employee ownership. The initiative provides the community with a tool to help business owners retain employees, build a succession plan, and preserve their business and legacy in Tucson.

The proof is in the numbers

Project Equity performed an analysis to quantify the number of privately held companies with ten or more employees in Tucson that are 20 years old or older and the impact if these businesses are not retained.

There are approximately 2,000 companies in the city that meet that criteria. These long standing businesses:

  • employ an estimated 60,000 individuals
  • generate about $16 billion in revenue

Local ownership over the long term

Keeping companies locally owned over the long term is a critical economic development strategy. Only 15% of businesses get passed onto the next generation and according to BizBuySell, the largest online marketplace for businesses, only 20% of businesses listed for sale ever sell. We need more strategies for local business succession to avoid businesses closing their doors due to lack of planning. The good news is employee ownership is a viable path for many companies.

Employee ownership may be unfamiliar to many, but it keeps companies rooted in place, provides quality jobs and strengthens businesses for the long term. It also offers a ready solution to the retiring business owner: there’s a buyer right there under your nose — the very employees who helped you build the company.

Local ownership is important to Arizona’s future. Let’s make sure that, as baby boomers retire, the businesses they created live on.

About Project Equity and our partners

As a national organization, Project Equity raises awareness of broad-based employee ownership, and we support businesses in transitioning to this highly beneficial business model. We support this work through amazing local partners like Connect Tucson and the City of Tucson.

Connect Tucson is the office of economic initiatives for the city and offers assistance to local small businesses and entrepreneurs and encourages workforce development in order to foster a long-term sustainable and diverse local economy.

Local First Arizona is on a mission to build equitable systems that earn that hometown pride and create a vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable Arizona economy.

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