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SPECIAL REPORT 2015

THE REGION’S BUSINESS MAGAZINE

ORO VALLEY IT’S IN OUR NATURE


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PHOTOS: COURTESY TOWN OF ORO VALLEY

Meet the New Growing Town Hits

When Satish Hiremath arrived in Oro Valley 25 years ago to launch his career as a dentist, he moved into a community where most residents were quietly enjoying their retirement. The Kalamazoo, Mich., native’s first visit to this area was at the invitation of an old tennis coach who brought him to the El Conquistador Resort to meet an acquaintance who would ultimately 158 BizTucson

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help him start his dental career. It was there, in the foothills of spectacular Pusch Ridge, that Hiremath realized he was home. “I fell in love with the area. I fell in love with Pusch Ridge,” said Hiremath, who is serving his second term as mayor of the Town of Oro Valley. “I knew this was the place for me.” Hiremath has seen his home grow

from about 5,000 residents in 1990 to more than 41,000 today. It’s a place of stunning natural beauty where residents of all ages can find everything they need without making the drive into Tucson. With exponential growth came a change in the vision for the community. It’s a town that wants to be everything to its residents, and not just a Tucson suburb. www.BizTucson.com


At 40+, Oro Valley is growing strong, with a vibrant business culture, growth in the bioscience and technology industries, a resurgence in housing development and new and expanded sports, recreation, arts and culture offerings. Whether raising a family, starting a business, launching a career, playing in the outdoors or enjoying the senior years, Oro Valley has plenty to offer.

Oro Valley

its Stride at 40+ “There’s nothing in this town that is done by accident or without a pointed purpose,” Hiremath said. “We don’t just let nature take its course. We’re molding nature into what we want this town to become.” And the rest of the country is taking notice. Oro Valley is listed among America’s 10 Safest Suburbs, the Best Place to Raise Kids in Arizona, a Playwww.BizTucson.com

By Jay Gonzales

ful City Community USA, one of the 10 Best Towns for Families and one of the 100 Best Places in America to Live and Launch a Small Business. It’s a town that originally was content with being a suburb of big sister Tucson. Its founders dreamed of creating the single largest retirement municipality in the country. But Hiremath said growth in the

1990s and beyond was bolstered by the housing bubble during which California homeowners moved here after selling their modest houses at monumental prices. Since then, Oro Valley has seen an influx of families, and with that came the need to provide them with the necessary infrastructure and amenities for a comcontinued on page 160 >>> Fall 2015 > > > BizTucson 159

PHOTO: DAVID SMITH

Among America’s Best


Incorporated 1974 14 miles north of downtown Tucson 36 square miles 41,011 population 17,804 households $71,628 median household income 96.8 percent of residents have a high school diploma or higher 51.5 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher Source: Town of Oro Valley

1. Ventana Medical Systems 2. Honeywell International 3. Oro Valley Hospital 4. Amphitheater School District 5. Hilton El Conquistador Resort 6. Town of Oro Valley 7. Walmart Supercenter 8. Fry’s Food & Drug Stores 9. Meggitt Securaplane 10. Splendido at Rancho Vistoso Other major employers include Sanofi and Sigma Technologies International Source: Town of Oro Valley

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– Satish Hiremath Mayor, Oro Valley continued from page 159

Oro Valley’s Top 10 Employers

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We expect Innovation Park to take Oro Valley from just a force to be reckoned with in Southern Arizona to putting us on the national and global map.

Fall 2015

munity that was no longer just for retirees, Hiremath said. It needed schools, businesses, jobs and things to do. Oro Valley has a strategic plan comparable to a business plan you would find in the private sector. It provides guidance on the town’s daily operations to achieve the community’s goals and vision. Town Manager Greg Caton is tasked with ensuring the town stays on track with the plan. But even with the broad vision set before him in the strategic plan, Caton said Oro Valley managed through a significant growth spurt in difficult economic times by sticking to the basic values that have been the identity of the town since before he arrived. “We were struggling financially just like any other community across the U.S.,” Caton said about what he saw when he arrived five years ago. “With the Town Council and management, we made some really tough decisions that ensured our future. I say we served ourselves well by sticking to four core pillars. “The first is public safety, which is our brand that is near and dear to who we are. Second is water quality and assurance. Third was roadway infrastructure, specifically in pavement preservation. We don’t have any potholes. We don’t allow it. We’ve really sepcontinued on page 162 >>>

PHOTO: DAVID SMITH

Oro Valley at a Glance

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PHOTO: BRENT G. MATHIS

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We don’t just let nature take its course. We’re molding nature into what we want this town to become.

– Satish Hiremath Mayor, Oro Valley

PHOTO: AMY HASKELL

continued from page 155

continued from page 160 companies like Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., a member of arated ourselves from other communities in Southern Arizona the Roche Group; Securaplane and pharmaceutical company with those three things. The fourth pillar where we were a little Sanofi. The town is deeply involved in weak and where we’ve added substantially the development of Innovation Park – is parks and recreation and quality of life the site of Ventana Medical Systems and with arts and culture.” Sanofi – as a hub for coveted bioscience In the last few years, the town has added and high-tech employers. to its arts and culture portfolio by annex“We expect Innovation Park to take ing Tohono Chul Park near Oracle and Oro Valley from just a force to be reckIna roads, developing a partnership with the Children’s Museum Tucson to open a oned with in Southern Arizona to putsatellite museum in Oro Valley, and having ting us on the national and global map,” a continuing partnership with the SouthHiremath said. ern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance. The overall vision, the mayor said, is For sports and recreation, the town into intentionally be a place that it wasn’t vested $5 million in upgrading the Oro when he arrived 25 years ago, where a Valley Aquatic Center to attract national person can literally grow up and do evcompetitions. The town also purchased erything within the confines of the town the El Conquistador Country Club for $1 – go to school, go to work, shop, dine, – Greg Caton Town Manager, Oro Valley play and retire. million and turned it into a community “I knew this was the spot for me,” and recreation center. Hiremath said. “And 25 years later, every day when I wake up, All the while, the town has continued high-level economic I know I’m in the right place.” development efforts that have landed and kept world-class Biz

We don’t have any potholes. We don’t allow it.

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BizTECHNOLOGY

Biotech Seed Bed Innovation Grows in Oro Valley

Ventana Medical Systems

By Dan Sorenson It will be tough to match the Silicon Valley-grade local success story that occurred when pharmaceutical giant Roche snapped up a University of Arizona researcher’s 1985 startup – Oro Valley’s Ventana Medical Systems, Inc, a member of the Roche Group – for $3.4 billion in 2008. But that’s the kind of thing the local biotech industry group BIOSA – Bioindustry Organization of Southern Arizona – wants to see happen. BIOSA has launched a new nonprofit organization, BIOSA-Innovation, with the singular goal of building on the potent opportunity for biotechnology expansion in Oro Valley and extending it through Southern Arizona. The vision is to create a biotech subsector like San Diego’s thriving biotech cluster. That’s going to take, among other things, fertile ground for startups. With the goal of developing that fertile ground, BIOSA is supporting a $15 million item in the upcoming Nov. 3 Pima County bond election that would build 50,000 square feet of new lab and office space in Oro Valley’s Innovation Park. The master-planned business park is situated on a 535-acre campus in Oro Valley, and is home to high-tech and medical companies, including Ventana Medical Systems, which is the town’s largest employer, as well as Sanofi and Oro Valley Hospital. 164 BizTucson

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High-tech industry is nothing new to Oro Valley, where scientific collaboration, technological innovation, business opportunity and a well-qualified workforce converge. And while it still has plenty of room to grow, Innovation Park is off to a good start, helped by the fact that Roche didn’t leave town with the goods when it acquired Ventana Medical Systems. The global leader in tissue diagnostics stayed here and grew, and continues to expand its footprint with new buildings currently under construction on the campus. The company’s level of success already has bred and attracted some startups and could spin off even more with the optimal local environment, said biotech industry booster, Dr. Ray Woosley. He said there is a natural flow of innovative thinkers from growing companies who want to strike out on their own. A look at the CVs of executives, board members and lead scientists from several smaller, local biotech firms shows “formerly of Ventana Medical Systems” behind many, if not most names. Oro Valley’s Sanofi Tucson Research Center also adds to the synergy. The startup pharmaceutical research company, Selectide, formed by four UA professors in 1990, was later acquired by the international drug giant. Woosley is on the board of BIOSA, a nonprofit trade group made up of lo-

Oro Valley Hospital

Sanofi cal industry execs and leading scientists. BIOSA is a driving force in the biotech business and research environment that is rapidly expanding in Southern Arizona. Woosley, like others on the BIOSA board, has impressive credentials. He is a physician, pharmacology researcher and professor, and a former VP of the UA Arizona Health Sciences Center and dean of the College of Medicine. He’s also the founder of Tucson-based Critical Path Institute, or C-Path, formed to foster collaboration between private sector, academic and FDA scientists to improve the drug development www.BizTucson.com


Photo of Sanofi: Gregg Mastorakos, courtesy of DPR Construction

and regulatory process for medical products. BIOSA has been very active under the leadership of board chair Nina Ossanna, a former UA technology transfer officer who is now principal of Sonora Bioconsulting. “She’s a natural for knowing exactly what young companies need,” Woosley said. “So she’s made recruiting and supporting young companies the specialty of this trade organization. There’s lots of biotech in the region, but the ones that really need the help now are the ones that are just getting started. “We need to establish a seed-to-success strategy. It must include incubawww.BizTucson.com

tion of scientific discoveries from the university and acceleration from concept through product development by connecting companies to community resources and expertise so that they can grow, prosper and remain in the region.” BIOSA works with the other groups in recruiting, including Sun Corridor Inc. – formerly Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, or TREO. Woosley said BIOSA worked closely with TREO and the Town of Oro Valley in bringing LCMS Solutions, a clinical testing lab, to Oro Valley from La Jolla, Calif., in March.

The $15 million bond project that would build the new lab and office space in Innovation Park is backed by BIOSA and also has the support of leaders at Ventana Medical Systems and Sanofi, both of which have committed to participating in the tech incubation project. Other organizations that have offered letters of support include the UA, Arizona State University, the biotech trade industry group AZCERT (a nonprofit dedicated to improved outcomes from the use of medications), the Town of Oro Valley, the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Desert Angels venture capitalists. The collaboration includes executives from BFL Construction, which was responsible for the construction of the Ventana facilities. BFL volunteered time and expertise to design the unique type of building that would be required to support collaboration and stimulate successful product development, Woosley said. Venture West, the company that owns and develops much of the real estate in Innovation Park, has also helped develop the plan. Biotech experts who guide and inform investment decisions by the Desert Angels have contributed their time and expertise as well, Woosley said. Ventana Medical Systems’ Chief Medical Officer Eric Walk is a strong backer of the bond item. “This building will facilitate collaborations between our scientists, Sanofi, university translational scientists and others working in biomedical research,” Walk said. “We are proud of this concept having originated in a ‘watering hole’ conference that was sponsored by TREO and hosted by Ventana in 2012. We have watched the vision mature as it has garnered backing from a broad coalition of Arizona leaders and organizations.” Walk, also a member of the BIOSA and BIOSA-Innovation boards said he worked on the proposal and believes it will contribute to high-wage employment opportunities for the region and provide a return on investment for the residents of Pima County. If the bond passes, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has indicated that the Oro Valley facility could be operated by BIOSA-Innovation.

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Fun & Games Recreation Contributes to Oro Valley’s Physical and Financial Health By Steve Rivera With a growing population that becomes more diverse by the day, Oro Valley finds itself tasked with finding a wide variety of places for its people to play. Among the latest investments by the town is the purchase of the Oro Valley Community & Recreation Center, formerly known as the El Conquistador Country Club. The new acquisition has 45 holes of golf, 31 lighted tennis courts, two swimming pools, a full-blown fitness center, a restaurant and a bevy of facilities and amenities for meetings and conferences. It serves as the centerpiece of Oro Valley’s efforts to give everyone a place to play. “It’s great,” said Ryan Knox, a former high school tennis player who has frequented the venue for seven years, well before the town took ownership. “I like to play tennis and work out there. I hope to see more people there. It has lots of potential.” Town Manager Greg Caton said membership sales in the first two months of operation exceeded projections for the entire year. Summer youth camps were booked to capacity. Residents have access to a series of free community enrichment programs at the center. “We’ve transitioned it into something everybody in Oro Valley can take part in,” Caton said. “There’s been a massive remodel and it’s created about 50,000 square feet of space to learn a new skill or get healthier.” 166 BizTucson

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But there’s more – including the renovated Oro Valley Aquatic Center – and the town is getting the word out locally and nationally by partnering with Visit Tucson to bring teams and events to Oro Valley, and not just Tucson proper. Visit Tucson and the Town of Oro Valley have partnered for more than a decade and currently are in a contract with three years remaining. ���We’re looking to partner with Oro Valley every opportunity we get,” said Brent DeRaad, president and CEO of Visit Tucson. “We’re off to a really good start,” Caton said. “These facilities are phenomenal. They represent a wise investment to ensure the recreational asset of the community. The Town Council decided to make it a strategic goal to develop youth and amateur sports opportunities.” The Oro Valley Aquatic Center is putting the town on the map for national swimming and diving competitions. After undergoing a $5 million renovation two years ago, the center won the 2013 Outstanding Facility Award from the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association. Then it hosted the 2014 National Synchronized Swimming Championships. “For us, it’s a wonderful community amenity,” Visit Tucson’s DeRaad said. “We’re trying to talk to groups throughout the United States and Canada to come here and train during the winter months. We want to lure people here. We’re continued on page 168 >>>

Oro Valley Aquatic Center

Naranja Park off-leash dog park

Naranja Park archery range


PHOTO: COURTESY TOWN OF ORO VALLEY

Naranja Park multi-use fields

Youth summer camp Oro Valley Community & Recreation Center

Oro Valley Community & Recreation Center

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continued from page 166 certainly going to try to find a lot of additional business to bring into that facility over the next couple of years.” But the Aquatic Center isn’t just a facility for competitions. The renovation included fun features for families, including a water slide, a splash pad and diving boards. “I call it the Oro Valley model,” Caton said. “We built it for the community. However, if you can upsize things for just a minor amount of additional cost and are able to attract events (from all over the country), then that’s good for everyone.” The town is doing the same thing with Naranja Park, which is transforming into a recreation haven. Archery, multi-purpose fields, a dog park and walking paths highlight an already glorious area where people can enjoy the outdoors. And what an outdoors it is – with hiking trails, bike paths, camping and horseback riding, all with wondrous views. The 2010 census made it clear to Oro Valley officials that the growing numbers of families and children would require even more family-oriented opportunities, Caton said. “Naranja Park sat idle for years and now it’s a multi-sport field,” Caton said. “The acquisition of El Conquistador is another improvement, with the opportunity to pick it up for $1 million paid over three years.” The recreation facilities have provided an economic benefit to the town of about $4 million since 2013, drawing visitors from around the country, Caton said. Before the year ends, Oro Valley will hold or participate in:

4 A national college golf team event Youth summer camp

4 El Tour de Tucson 4 Sprint Triathlon 4 10th Annual Harvest for Hope 5K 4 Flying Fish Arizona Swim Team Winter Lights Meet

“Quail Trail,” 2015 Transportation Art by Youth Public Art Project

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The Community Center and its golf and tennis facilities also could be a big draw, DeRaad said. Visit Tucson is looking to bring in professional golf events, such as mini tours. With top-notch tennis facilities, it’s also trying to attract national tennis events, he said. “Oro Valley is a very nice destination,” DeRaad said. “There’s a resort, it has nice hotels and great restaurants. From our standpoint, it’s all about economic development, making sure we bring in the maximum number of people possible to enjoy the area.” Caton said the facilities and their functions are a significant draw to the area. And with youth sports, if the parents like the venue, all the better. “Parents are so involved in their kids’ sports,” he said. “We call that forced tourism in that if the child comes, two or three more people come with them. We want part of that action. Parents will say, ‘Hey, Oro Valley is a great place. Let’s come back and visit and spend more time there.’ That helps our brand.”

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PHOTOS: COURTESY TOWN OF ORO VALLEY

4 Arizona Swimming Age Group State Championships


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BizCULTURE

Art at the Heart Oro Valley Grows Arts and Culture Offerings By Jay Gonzales

For a taste of Tchaikovsky or a peek at Picasso, Oro Valley residents for decades traveled to Tucson or Phoenix for their art and culture fix. Over the last couple of years, however, the town has added to its arts and culture portfolio by annexing Tohono Chul Park, opening a satellite branch of the Children’s Museum Tucson and continuing its strong partnership with the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance – or SAACA – to give the town an arts and culture heartbeat all its own. It’s all part of a formal plan for the town, said Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath. “We are trying to master plan the community where we have something for residents from birth all the way to death and everything in the middle,” Hiremath said. The most recent major development was the May opening of the first satellite branch of the Children’s Museum Tucson, which is located downtown. The Children’s Museum Oro Valley came to fruition after Executive Director Michael Luria was approached by Hiremath in 2014. “To be honest, it was not something we had thought about,” Luria said about his initial reaction to the idea. “But it aligns with the changing demographics of Oro Valley which has become younger and more family-oriented over time.” Luria and his staff took a hard look at what the museum should be. After surveys and discussions with interested groups, a museum was created for children up to age five. It was all about attention span. “For parents living in Oro Valley, if 170 BizTucson

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you have young ones with a short attention span, how often are you going to drive 30 minutes for an experience that may be from 30 to 60 minutes long, then turn around and drive home?” Luria said. “Our suspicion was not very often. When we did surveys they said they would come more often with young children if it was close to home.” The museum joined the portfolio of arts and culture offerings that has grown with the help of committed arts and culture organizations. One of those was Tohono Chul Park, named “One of the World’s Ten Best Botanical Gardens” by Travel + Leisure Magazine. Tohono Chul was willingly annexed into Oro Valley in 2013. With its gardens, galleries and bistro, it is a nearby haven for Oro Valley residents. Executive Director Christine Conte said the process to become a part of Oro Valley took a little longer than it did for the Children’s Museum, but the town was no less aggressive. “My very first day, I walked into my office and the very first phone call I got was from Oro Valley welcoming me as the new director and they wanted to talk to me about annexation,” Conte said. “It was a multi-year process, and eventually we realized this would be a very good thing because we had so many mutual goals. There was a very genuine desire to make the community better that matched. That’s what we’re here for.” Tohono Chul is now planning an event pavilion expansive enough to host concerts beyond what it can facilitate in continued on page 172 >>>


PHOTOS: DAVID SMITH

PHOTO: BRENT G. MATHIS

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continued from page 170 its current performance garden. All this is right up the alley of SAACA, which is focused on bringing a wide range of events to Oro Valley, including concerts, art exhibits, festivals and culinary and car shows. Among its business initiatives, SAACA helps developers in meeting the town’s requirement that 1 percent of all new commercial construction costs be dedicated to public art. You can find beauty throughout the town, from Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., a member of the Roche Group, to Oracle Crossings Shopping Center. Oro Valley artists showcase their creativity at the Art in Oro Valley exhibit hosted by Ventana. SAACA also played a role in the recent installation of the “Quail Trail” sculpture installed in Naranja Park in August, in conjunction with the Town of Oro Valley and Pima Association of Governments. Led by Tucson artists Jason Butler and Hiro Tashima, nine Oro Valley students created a charming, oversized quail family toting a skateboard, arrows and a picnic basket for their park adventure. The whimsical sculptures were constructed from steel and concrete. Born as the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council in 1997, SAACA expanded to become the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance to widen its audience and reach, making the organization more financially viable during the economic downturn. Executive Director Kate Marquez said Oro Valley continues to get a great deal of SAACA’s attention, and the group gets support from the town. “The intent was to help build a local arts agency that could support the type of activities and programming that the town wanted,” Marquez said of the organization’s roots, adding that there always is a business component involved in what the group puts together. “People know us for all the events we produce year after year,” Marquez said. “What they don’t always know is that each of those is a solid business and arts relationship. We know we have to put an economic development figure on the events and programs that we’re doing in the community. Now we build a case for the arts not founded in art only for art’s sake but in the economic value of the arts.”

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Excellence in Education School Success a Priority in Oro Valley By Jay Gonzales As Oro Valley transformed from a cozy retirement community in the 1990s to a significantly more diverse 21st century community, there were challenges to be addressed, not the least of which was making sure there were enough schools and that they would support the town’s long-term vision of becoming a high-tech employment hub. Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath estimated that 85 percent of the town was made up of retirees when he moved to the community in 1990. But by the 2010 census, the median age had dropped to 49.8 years, families were everywhere among the town’s 40,000-plus residents, and some high-tech companies had planted their flags in town, including Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., a member of the Roche Group, and pharmaceutical company Sanofi. Michelle Mason, head of school at the charter school BASIS Oro Valley, said her organization’s leadership recognized the educational need when it built what is now a K-12 school on Oracle Road. The BASIS high schools have 174 BizTucson

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been consistently ranked among the top high schools in the country. “When high-tech companies are trying to recruit people to come here, one of their concerns is always education,” Mason said. “That’s true whether they’re coming from the East Coast or if they’re recruiting from Europe.” Patrick Nelson, superintendent of Amphitheater Public Schools since 2012, said his district has welcomed the challenge and has long-term plans to address the need for education in the science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – fields. “We are making a concerted effort to build a STEM education for our students,” Nelson said. “We’ve added engineering classes to the high schools and middle schools. And we’re already planning to build a STEM elementary school that will open in 2017-2018.” The district has the added benefit of being served by a police department that has maintained its school resource officer – or SRO – program while some agencies in Southern Arizona and

throughout the nation have put those programs on the budget chopping block. “When the economy went down, I was adamant that we would not take officers out of schools,” said Oro Valley Police Chief Daniel Sharp. “When talking to educators that had SROs and lost their SROs, they said they started seeing additional problems. “The officers there are police officers, they’re counselors and they’re educators. They’re not campus cops so they truly are a resource to the kids.” While the SROs aren’t assigned to the private and charter high schools – BASIS Oro Valley, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy and Immaculate Heart School – administrators know police are nearby in case a safety issue arises. Working in collaboration with the Town of Oro Valley, the schools are focused on providing safe and engaging learning environments. “It’s been a joy to work with the Town of Oro Valley,” Nelson said. “We talk a lot and we have a lot of issues of mutual interest. Our visions are aligned.”

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From left PHOTO: BRENT G. MATHIS

Omar Mireles

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Executive VP, HSL Properties

Jerry Fischer

Project Manager, HSL Properties

Michael Censky

VP, HSL Construction Services

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GM, Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort www.BizTucson.com


BizTOURISM

PHOTOS: COURTESY HILTON TUCSON EL CONQUISTADOR GOLF & TENNIS RESORT

Polishing the Hilton El Conquistador Jewel

HSL Properties Invests $16 Million in Oro Valley Resort By Kimberly Schmitz The new local owners of the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort are investing $16 million to polish Oro Valley’s gem of a property at the base of Pusch Ridge in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The renovation is expected to make the iconic property an even stronger draw to Oro Valley. HSL Properties bought the 428-room resort for $15 million in 2014, then sold the golf, tennis and country club facilities to the Town of Oro Valley for a below-market price of $1 million. “We are looking to bring the resort back to its roots, enhancing the motif as a distinctively Tucson property, a Southwest property,” said HSL Properties’ Executive VP Omar Mireles. The El Conquistador Resort opened in 1982, and for 31 of its 33 years earned the AAA Four-Diamond Award.

This was the second time that HSL Properties made an offer on the iconic resort. Financial issues led the property to the auction block in 2012. “We first looked seriously at this property a few years ago when we were considering investing as a minority partner,” said Humberto Lopez, president of HSL Properties. “There were complications with the agreement structure and it didn’t work out.” The resort was acquired by key lender Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. In late 2014, Met Life received an aggressive purchase offer from HSL Properties. “This time we were all in the right place at the right time and the deal was done within 30 days from offer to closing,” Lopez said. Lopez and Mireles attended a conference to meet Hilton leadership. There

they encountered Prism Hotels & Resorts. “We felt we didn’t have the tools and resources to manage a property of this magnitude, so we decided to bring in Prism,” Mireles said. Prism took on management of all HSL Properties hotel assets – totaling 1,000 rooms at varying price points – and invested in the El Conquistador property and a Tucson-based management team. The deal included a property improvement plan requiring further investment in the form of functional and cosmetic enhancements to the resort. The $16 million renovation in progress will not only satisfy but also exceed the plan’s requirements, Mireles said, and the hotel will remain open throughout renovation. A possible name change is continued on page 178 >>>

Newly remodeled rooms

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continued from page 177 also being explored. Prism veteran Ghee Alexander took the reins of the resort as GM the same month the sale closed. Experienced in previous successful repositioning and renovation projects, his passion and excitement for this property are fresh and contagious. “This area is so unique, beautiful and calming,” Alexander said of Oro Valley. “Our goal is to integrate the region’s indigenous assets to create an experience completely authentic to the area. We’ll strive to create a true sense of Tucson’s corner of the Southwest and make people feel as though they are part of the ecology, environment, and culture – even if they don’t leave the resort.” The resort’s first impressions will be refreshed with new signage, landscaping and sunset viewing area at the entrance and roundabout. The recently renovated lobby will feature registration pods designed to embody Tucson’s welcoming spirit and natural beauty. Retractable doors in the Conquistador Lounge will open onto a spectacular courtyard with stunning mountain views. In the resort’s center, fire pits among leveled gathering spaces, a hummingbird garden, re-decked pools and new slides will provide opportunity for fun under the sun and moon. Activities will include regular Native American sunset flute serenades and tequila tastings. Inside, a business lounge/connectivity zone will adjoin a new coffee shop with grab-and-go menu options. Executive meeting facilities redone in 2012 will benefit from technological updates. Conference and pre-function areas also will be refreshed with new carpet, window treatments and décor. Epazote Kitchen & Cocktails and Sundance Café will receive locally inspired décor enhancements, more patio seating and expanded menus, which already include flights of beer, margaritas and tequila. Guest rooms and casita upgrades will include remodeled bathrooms and updated, regionally evocative décor, and a spa enhancement is in the planning stages. The new management is focusing on all things Southwest, and that extends to experiences offered at the resort. One example from this past summer was Back to True Self, presented by Tony Redhouse, Native American spiritual coach, musician and inspirational speaker. Alexander said he does not believe in making sweeping staff changes and commends the existing team for its accomplishments through the recent economic downturn and transition periods. He values the resort’s employees – some with 10, 15 and 20 years experience – as sources of local pride, institutional knowledge, founts of ideas and agents of positive change. “What we can accomplish here will truly elevate the resort’s offerings to guests and the community – and its profitability,” Alexander said. “This will be something that the owners, staff and I will be proud of all our lives.”

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BizHOUSING Rancho Del Cobre by Maracay Homes

The Uplands at Oro Valley by A.F. Sterling Homes

Stone Gate at Stone Canyon by Monterey Homes

Building Buzz

Oro Valley Construction on the Rebound By Jay Gonzales There’s a buzz around Oro Valley. But it’s not coming from any of the critters living in the desert around nearby Pusch Ridge. It’s coming from Oro Valley itself, said David Williamson, president of Fairfield Homes, one of the many homebuilders active in the town. “The Oro Valley/Tangerine corridor is really doing very well from a sales standpoint and from a permit standpoint,” Williamson said. “It just seems like there’s a lot happening here. It has a buzz.” Fairfield is building 70 high-end homes in the once-financially troubled Stone Canyon development, which is seeing a rebirth with the acquisition of the golf country club a little over a year ago by PGA TOUR golfer Phil Mickelson and his business partner Steve Loy. While the prospects at Stone Canyon are on the upswing, including the building of a new clubhouse, Williamson said his company chose to build in Oro Valley in large part because of the town’s overall attractiveness. There are currently more than a half dozen homebuilders active within the town, including one based in Canada, and permits have either been approved 180 BizTucson

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or are being generated for more than 1,200 homes. Among the builders active in Oro Valley are: • A.F. Sterling Homes • D.R. Horton • Fairfield Homes • Lennar • Maracay Homes • Mattamy Homes • Meritage Homes • Richmond American Homes • Sombra Homes “There’s no question Oro Valley is one of the top sub-markets in Southern Arizona,” said Josh Robinson, division president at Mattamy Homes, based in Toronto. “A lot of that comes from the level of services, the quality of the infrastructure, the quality of the town staff, the scenic setting, and the well-planned and thoughtful designs in and around the town limits.”

Mattamy Homes is currently going through the permitting process to build on 100 acres of land it owns in Rancho Vistoso, the one-time retirement development that has evolved into a much more diverse community with the surrounding growth. Robinson said his company has been satisfied enough with what it has seen so far that it is in the process of purchasing additional parcels in Oro Valley for future development. The builders agree that Oro Valley’s attention to infrastructure and planning are what makes the town attractive to them and others who are active there. “From a planning and road and infrastructure standpoint, they’ve done a nice job being mindful of what it takes to allow for growth,” Robinson said. “Like anything, there’s going to be unforeseen challenges. However, I do think they’ve been thoughtful in how they want to take on the growth.” Keeping the infrastructure in tip-top shape has been a priority for town managers albeit a difficult one to stay ahead of, said Oro Valley Town Manager Greg Caton. continued on page 182 >>> www.BizTucson.com


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BizHOUSING

A Sampling of Oro Valley’s New-Home Development Stone Gate at Stone Canyon by Monterey Homes Stone Gate offers new homes within Stone Canyon, Tucson’s premier private residential golf community. Situated in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains, new homes range from 2,888 to 3,397 square feet with dramatic designs and fine interior finishes. Rancho de Plata by Meritage Homes Situated at the base of the Catalina Mountains, Rancho De Plata offers new homebuyers an incredible value in Oro Valley. This intimate community of only 50 homes features floor plans from 2,278 to 3,671 square feet, priced from the upper $200s. Quick move-in homes are available for those looking to move before the end of the year. The Uplands at Oro Valley by A.F. Sterling Homes This gated community features spacious three- and four-bedroom homes with an extensive list of luxury appointments and included features, with easy access to schools, shopping, golf and Interstate 10. Rancho Del Cobre by Maracay Homes This development features 68 homesites with one-story home designs ranging from 2,723 to 3,845 square feet and priced from $374,000 to $452,000. Spacious great rooms, walk-in kitchen pantries and a secret passageway from the master closet to the laundry room are featured. CenterPointe Vistoso by Maracay Homes (Opening early 2016): This group of neighborhoods will feature 343 premium homesites and will be one of the final opportunities to build in the master-planned community of Rancho Vistoso. Offered are a variety of floor plans within five gated neighborhoods.

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I think the reason we’re not digging ourselves out of a hole as we’re coming out of this recession is we invested in our infrastructure. – Greg Caton Town Manager Oro Valley

continued from page 180 Knowing that other municipalities were having a tough time maintaining their infrastructure – primarily roads – in a down economy, Caton said Oro Valley wasn’t going to let theirs deteriorate due to a lack of money. They were going to find it somewhere and, he said, they did. “I think the reason we’re not digging ourselves out of a hole as we’re coming out of this recession is we invested in our infrastructure and maintained our previous funding levels,” Caton said. He recalled one of his first budget processes with the town when funding was nearly a half million dollars short of the $1.1 million needed for a pavement preservation project. “Guess what,” Caton said, “Council funded it at $1.1 million because the town engineer said if you don’t, you will never be able to dig yourself out of that hole. You never catch up. That is leadership by Town Council.” Tough choices have to be made every year, Caton said. But, the payoff is evident as voiced by the builders. “As you look at what’s been happening in the county and the city and budget issues and infrastructure challenges,” Robinson said, “Oro Valley has done a lot of things well, and it puts them in position to ultimately be a top destination for both retirees and families and hopefully more employment. They’ve got the whole package.”

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Thin Blue Line Reporting

From left – CEO Jacob Rhoads, COO Justin Harris and Chief Technology Officer Jonathan Rhoads

High-Tech Police Pioneers

Oro Valley PD Partners with Town Techies to Develop Thin Blue Line By Jay Gonzales When a group of tech-savvy entrepreneurs with Oro Valley connections was looking for the perfect law enforcement agency to try out an application they were developing, they had to look no further than their back yards. In the Oro Valley Police Department, they found a chief and a staff with a vision to be at the forefront of modern policing, using available technology and willing to work on developing new ways of operating. “We want to look at the future. We want to look at what’s coming at us,” said Oro Valley Police Chief Daniel Sharp. “We can’t police for today. We have to police for tomorrow.” The three founders of Thin Blue Line Reporting – brothers Jacob and Jonathan Rhoads and Justin Harris – ei184 BizTucson

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ther grew up or lived in Oro Valley. Jacob Rhoads and Harris graduated from Canyon Del Oro High School, and all three earned various bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arizona while living in the town. Together, they ventured into the hightech industry with an eye toward developing security and law enforcement software. When they developed their application to electronically issue traffic citations, they found the Oro Valley Police Department ready to collaborate with them to perfect it, expand it, and – more importantly – use it. “Oro Valley Police Department is known for their use of technology and forward-thinking and early adoption of the latest and greatest technology,” said Jacob Rhoads, Thin Blue Line’s CEO. Harris is the company’s COO, Jona-

than Rhoads is chief technology officer and Joe Panther is CFO. “We did some test marketing to law enforcement and found there was an overwhelming desire and need for this technology,” Jacob Rhoads said. “The next level was to find a couple of the agencies that fit a couple of criteria. Oro Valley came in as a target agency.” With a department of about 100 officers and an attitude that new technology was a good thing, the Oro Valley PD helped Thin Blue Line get the application ready to put on the streets in early 2014. Today, officers pull out an iPad instead of a pen and pad to issue traffic citations and warnings, gather and exchange information at traffic accidents, conduct accident investigations and write reports. continued on page 186 >>> www.BizTucson.com

PHOTO COURTESY THIN BLUE LINE REPORTING

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Oro Valley Police Department is known for their use of technology and forward-thinking and early adoption of the latest and greatest technology. – Jacob Rhoads, CEO, Thin Blue Line Reporting continued from page 184 “Jacob and his crew came and demonstrated that not only could their product help us out with e-tickets and warnings, they could develop software to do collision reports, information exchanges, basic case reports,” said Lt. Chris Olson, project manager on the work with Thin Blue Line. “Right now, we’re working on collaborating with them on a basic investigations module and a school resource officer module.” Thin Blue Line is maintaining its Oro Valley roots by keeping an office in the town – it is planning a move to Innova-

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tion Park – along with an office in Claremont, Calif., where the company has the Redlands Police Department as a client. The company has 25 employees. “The relationship with Oro Valley is definitely a special relationship,” Rhoads said. “We all have roots there. But on top of that, the leadership’s push to bring new technology and innovative companies to Oro Valley has been really helpful.” The application brought two important benefits to the department. By giving officers the ability to do their paperwork in the field with an iPad instead of handwriting – whether issuing tickets

or writing reports – officers can clear a scene quicker to get out of harm’s way and relieve congestion around a traffic incident. There’s also the aspect of showing Oro Valley that its police department is on top of things when it comes to new technology. “Citizens always get the newest and greatest consumer products to make their lives more efficient, and for whatever reason government always tends to be lagging behind,” Olson said. “We feel we’re a very progressive agency.”

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