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Huge Hughes Transfer Proves Both Boon, Bane to Tucson : Relocation: Transfer of 2,000 from Southern California has boosted the local economy but also hastened urban sprawl.


"You talk to the average businessman and he'll tell you business has never been better," Vest added. "And then he'll tell you he's really worried, because he knows it's too good to last and the economy will turn down again."


Many of the Hughes arrivals who helped spark the good times were just as worried--for different reasons.

"I wasn't going to come," said McClendon, a 43-year-old single mother of two sons, 23 and 17, all of whom moved here last March using a rented U-Haul truck. "California was home" to her sons, and "I was afraid to rock the boat" by moving, she said.

Just adapting to a much smaller, isolated city far removed from the Pacific Ocean took time for many. George Martinez, communications director for the Tucson Unified School District, remembered meeting some of them when they first arrived for tours of the region.

"It was obvious they were not happy," he said. "They were up front about it, that they were disappointed they had to leave California."

The 4,000 Hughes workers already in Tucson weren't thrilled either. "A lot of the California people weren't welcomed real well by the Tucson Hughes people," said Debbie Esparza.

The Tucson veterans "kept hearing how hard it was" for the Californians who moved, "and all the things they had to go through, and yet they were buying houses that the Tucson people couldn't afford," she said.

Hughes, a Los Angeles-based unit of General Motors Corp., brought the Californians to Arizona to streamline its billion-dollar missile business, which makes the Tomahawk, Standard and Maverick warheads, among others. With Pentagon spending for missiles waning, Hughes consolidated to slash its production costs and keep earning a profit on what contracts remain.

That decision paid off last September, when Hughes defeated McDonnell Douglas Corp. in a contest to be the Navy's sole builder of the Tomahawk missile, a victory worth at least $1 billion to the Tucson division.

The win alleviated the Tucson employees' layoff fears and partly eased the internal frictions. But the resentments have not disappeared entirely.

"There's still some very clear lines of demarcation between" the California transplants and the Arizonans that were already there, said Stew Ernst. "Just this morning, I had some people ask me, 'Why are all the California folks taking over?' "

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