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The Momentum Continues to Build The Tucson Metro Chamber is jubilantly celebrating its past, present and future. Founded in 1896, the Chamber recently observed an amazing milestone – its 120th anniversary as the oldest, largest and most influential business organization in Southern Arizona history. Chamber investors and business interests throughout metro Tucson also have good reason to rejoice the here and now as Tucson has finally emerged from a lengthy, bearish economic hibernation and looks to be bursting into a ragingly bullish local business cycle. What a difference a year makes. At this time 12 months ago, Michael Varney, the Chamber’s president and CEO, was bemoaning the frustration being felt by business people throughout Tucson, who widely complained that local government policies were failing to create the pro-business environment needed to jump-start a local economy that had seen nothing but slow or stagnant growth since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008. Now, just 12 short months later, following a year in which the Chamber emphasized an aggressive, proactive 72 BizTucson


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public policy and advocacy agenda, Varney is declaring Tucson and Southern Arizona to be “on a roll” and promises the chamber will do all it can to keep the high tide of local business growth and job creation rising well into the future. “Many business executives have told me that they have not felt this kind of positive momentum and economic adrenaline in our area in quite some

Many business executives have told me that they have not felt this kind of positive momentum and economic adrenaline in our area in quite some time.

Michael Varney President & CEO Tucson Metro Chamber –

time,” Varney said. “It feels good to win. Creating jobs and realizing a better community gives everyone a natural high and helps expand our economy.” In recent months the Tucson community has enjoyed a wealth of positive economic news, such as: • The announcement that about 2,000 jobs will be added at Raytheon Missile Systems over the next five years • The selection of downtown Tucson as home for Caterpillar Inc.’s surface mining and technology division, producing more than 600 high-paying jobs • HomeGoods’ move into its new $75 million West Coast distribution center, which employs some 400 people now and could grow to as many as 900 in the future • Comcast’s decision to renovate the former Home Furnishings building adjacent to Tucson Mall into a customer support center where about 1,200 are employed • Vector Space Systems will be a tenant at Pima’s County’s defense and aerospace park when it is fully built out, employing 200


By David Pittman Other good business stories in Tucson include the continuing development boom downtown; the arrival of a new sports franchise, the Tucson Roadrunners hockey team; and a recent report from Bloomberg citing that Tucson boasts the third-best, year-overyear job growth among U.S. cities with populations of 500,000 or more. And in a business and travel coup in which the Tucson Metro Chamber played a major role, on Oct. 7 American Airlines began nonstop, daily commercial air service between Tucson International Airport and JFK Airport in New York City. The new air route not only promises to significantly bolster the Southern Arizona tourism industry, but it also ends Tucson’s unwanted distinction of being the largest city in the nation without nonstop air service to the Big Apple. The New York flight is the result of a remarkably proactive effort by the Chamber to organize and oversee the fundraising effort needed to create a revenue-guarantee fund of more than $3 million to ensure American Airlines’ profitability during the first two years of operating the route.

Varney said the person responsible for organizing and leading the Chamber’s effort to establish the revenueguarantee fund is Bill Assenmacher, CEO of CAID Industries and a member of the Chamber’s board of directors, whom Varney refers to as “a maniac on a mission to get things done.” “Raising that amount of money wasn’t easy and it took a lot of work by a lot of people,” Assenmacher said. “But getting this route established was extremely important to the Tucson economy and it had broad-based support.” Varney said the Chamber’s next move may very likely be aimed at establishing daily nonstop flights to and from Washington, D.C. “We’re hoping none of the revenue-guarantee fund will be tapped over the next two years, which is the length of our commitment on the New York/Tucson route,” he said. “If there is a substantial amount of money left in the revenue-guarantee fund after two years – and we’re hopeful there will be – we will see if the donors are willing to make that money available as a revenue guarantee to establish a direct Tucson to Washington,

Vision Tucson Metro Chamber is the pre-eminent resource and advocate for business in Southern Arizona. Mission Leading and advocating for a successful community. Value Proposition The Tucson Metro Chamber provides area business owners and executives with a unique mix of products, services and advocacy to help them grow their businesses and build a better community. Mantra When business is good, life is good. Source: Tucson Metro Chamber

D.C. flight.” In the meantime, the Chamber recently unveiled a pair of dramatic, innovative, pro-business initiatives it will take on in the coming year. The first, called Project Prosperity, was derived from a task force of business leaders headed by Assenmacher that is recommending a seven-item agenda designed continued on page 74 >>> Winter 2017


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BizLEADERSHIP continued from page 73 to make city government more effective and streamline and simplify the regulatory maze required to open a business in Tucson. Implementing all the proposed suggestions (which are described in greater detail on page 76) will require actions by the Tucson City Council and the city manager’s office. The second initiative was developed by the Chamber’s Retail Theft Task Force, which is proposing an ambitious crackdown on organized retail theft through a coalition that includes retailers, local law enforcement agencies, the Pima County Attorney’s Office and local prosecutors. (More on this plan can be found on page 78.) Throughout the year the Chamber continued to be a staunch advocate for business at all levels of government. Ongoing advocacy is not as dramatic as new jobs and jet flights, but it is foundational for those and other successes to occur. Key advocacy priorities this year included: • Supporting the establishment of a high-tech business and manufacturing zone near Raytheon Missile Systems and Tucson International Airport • Expanding mission assignments at military installations throughout Southern Arizona • Keeping the Cherrybell Postal Distribution Center open and operating • Evaluating candidates for public office and administering a political action committee • Leading delegations of business leaders to the nation’s Capital to address members of the Arizona Congressional delegation and Pentagon officials • Participating in a coalition that successfully lobbied to reinstate JTED funding cuts • Hiring two new government affairs employees to expand the number of local public meetings the Chamber can attend

The Chamber also provided an online help desk resource for members, educated business owners and managers on procurement strategies, made advancements in workforce development efforts, hosted the Emerging Leaders Council, collaborated with

Greater Tucson Leadership and promoted a positive perception of Tucson. The Chamber’s broad scope is entirely funded by member investments, Chamber advertising opportunities and special events. The Chamber represents 1,500 businesses that employ more than 160,000 employees in Tucson and Pima County. Small business makes up approximately 60 percent of Chamber membership.

For the Chamber to rise to a position of impact and relevance is what it’s all about. There’s electricity in the boardroom because things are getting done – and we all know that we are just getting started.

Thomas P. McGovern 2015-16 Board Chair Tucson Metro Chamber –

Thomas P. McGovern, the Chamber’s 2015-16 board chair, credits Varney with modernizing the organization and reinvigorating its board of directors to be both more invested in the community and committed to advocacy for job creation and business growth. “Mike (Varney) is an accomplished businessman himself and he has introduced the most modern business concepts in chamber work,” said McGovern, a civil engineer who is regional director for Psomas, a leading engineering firm in Arizona, California and Utah. “For the Chamber to rise from where we’ve been to a position of impact and relevance is what it’s all about. There’s electricity in the boardroom because things are getting done and we all know that we are just getting started.”

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Chamber is Greatest Advocate for Business Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry called the Tucson Metro Chamber “the greatest advocate for business in Pima County.” In an interview with BizTucson, Huckelberry also said that under the leadership of Michael Varney, the Chamber has been instrumental in creating a more cooperative environment between Pima County government and the private sector. “We have turned the phrase ‘public/private partnership’ from a cliché into reality here in Pima County,” Huckelberry said. “There is greater communication and understanding between the private and public sectors than in the past. The Chamber is providing a communications conduit to local government officials and acting as a voice for local businesses.” The Chamber’s advocacy supports job-creating economic development proposals and efforts to make business interaction with government less burdensome. The Chamber also invites high-ranking Pima County and City of Tucson leaders – including Huckelberry, Pima County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bronson, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and City Manager Michael Ortega – to participate in Interface meetings with business owners and executives at which public issues that affect businesses are openly and freely discussed. “It’s been very productive,” Huckelberry said. “The Chamber is very positive and promotes a can-do attitude.”


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Project Prosperity

What Business-Friendly Looks Like By David Pittman Top city officials and a group of business leaders have formalized a remarkable agreement designed to pave the way for reforms that cut regulatory red tape, make doing business in Tucson more predictable, and encourage increased investment and urban growth. The document, known as Project Prosperity, has been endorsed by Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, City Manager Michael Ortega and members of the City Council, who have agreed to implement the seven basic tenets it contains. In some cases that will be easy – in others, not so much. For instance, a review of the process of applying for and receiving a city business license outlined in the pact was found to be highly satisfactory. However, proposed designation of new infill incentive areas will take more work and Council approval. The roots of Project Prosperity come from the mind of Michael Varney, the president and CEO of the Tucson Metro Chamber, who explained his vision this way: “For years we’d been trying to convince the City of Tucson to be more business-friendly. Then one night it occurred to me that we had never expressed to them what being more business-friendly looked like, which is what Project Prosperity has been all about.” Varney said Rothschild and Ortega “deserve a ton of credit” for the consensus agreement reached in Project Prosperity “because they are the ones who have to drive it. None of this would have been possible without their input and cooperation. “All of us who were involved in Project Prosperity are very grateful for the willingness of the mayor, the city manager and council members to consider these proposals and help us make changes that we never could have done by ourselves.” Varney also praised the involvement of Bill Assenmacher, CEO of CAID 76 BizTucson


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Industries, who served as chair of the Project Prosperity Task Force from its beginning two years ago to the announcement that city leaders would attempt to implement its provisions and were on board with its objectives to make Tucson more business-friendly and bolster its economic growth. Project Prosperity started as an 11-member taskforce made up exclusively of Chamber investors who interacted with city government on such things as permitting and regulatory processes. Those investors included Varney; Assenmacher; Robert Medler, the Chamber’s VP of government affairs; Garry Brav, BFL Construction; Jude Cook, Cook & Company Signmakers; Joe Davey, Tucson Federal Credit Union; Trea Johnston, Tuff Shed; Omar Mireles, HSL Properties; Barbi Reuter, Cushman & Wakefield |PICOR; Richard Studwell, Durazo Construction; and Thomas Warne, JL Investments. “After we had been at this for nearly a year, it was decided that if we broadened our base it would increase our chances for success,” Varney said. That was when Andrea Ballard of Tucson Association of Realtors; David Godlewski of Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association and Amber Smith of Metropolitan Pima Alliance joined the task force. Soon thereafter Mayor Rothschild and City Manager Ortega joined the group. “We reached out to City Manager Ortega and Mayor Rothschild, who were receptive to many of the ideas being suggested,” Assenmacher said. “Mike (Ortega) was very open to the city becoming more business-friendly. Mayor Rothschild was impressed that we wanted to work hand-in-hand with the city. Soon Council members and city staff also became involved in helping craft the package.”


Chamber, City Agree on Seven Actions The seven principle tenets recommended in the Project Prosperity document are designed to make Tucson more business-friendly. They are:


Simplify the process of applying for and receiving a new business license.


Make construction permitting and inspection processes more predictable and efficient.


Streamline and modernize code ordinances.


Create infill districts, similar to those being used to stimulate downtown development, in designated areas in all city wards to spur investment, create jobs and increase the tax base.


Require quantification of business opportunities that are realized, lost or denied in the City of Tucson during the zoning process (and not after the fact). Data collection would include such things as the number of jobs a project would create, anticipated sales taxes, and revenue flowing to the city from development and construction fees.


Host a Chamber-sponsored workshop on business operations and job creation for Tucson City Council, mayor, city manager and department heads.


Make changes to the City Charter to eliminate civil service status for department heads, modernize descriptions of city positions to reflect current circumstances, and give the mayor a vote on some things from which he is now excluded. This vote occurred and the proposed changes were adopted. Other changes, similar to ones defeated by city voters in 2010, would have to be placed on the ballot by the City Council and approved by voters to be implemented.


CART to Tackle Organized Retail Crime

Local Losses Total $5.9 Million A Year By David Pittman Organized retail crime is a serious and growing problem that cost Pima County retailers $5.9 million last year. Now a coalition led by the Tucson Metro Chamber plans to unveil a new program in January to fight back. The coalition includes local retailers, area law enforcement agencies, the Pima County Attorney’s Office and local prosecutors. The program – called “We Watch. We Prosecute.” – was developed over the past year by the Coalition Against Retail Theft or CART. “Organized retail theft is not a 6-yearold kid putting a candy bar in his pocket or a single mom taking a loaf of bread to feed her children. It is people who make their living stealing off the shelves of retailers and turning that inventory into cash, typically on internet sites or at swap meets,” said Michael Varney, president and CEO of the chamber. “It’s their career.” While organized retail theft goes unnoticed by many people, it is a huge problem. Using data provided by the Arizona Department of Taxation and a formula used by the National Retail Federation, organized retail theft cost Pima County retailers $5.9 million last 78 BizTucson


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year. And those losses are often passed on to paying customers in the form of higher prices. “CART was formed because the Chamber kept hearing complaints from retailers, both large and small, about the growing problem that organized retail theft was causing,” Varney said. “When businesses in our community have a problem, it’s the Chamber’s job to respond as best we can. Our response was to bring retailers, police and prosecutors together to work with the Chamber.” One action CART and the Chamber promise is to introduce a bill at the Arizona Legislature that would require everyone convicted of misdemeanor retail theft to be fingerprinted and photographed. Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, an active participant in CART, said if the measure becomes law it would make it easier to identify repeat retail theft offenders and increase the likelihood they would face felony charges that would make them eligible for incarceration if convicted. “These are people who steal enormous amounts of merchandise,” she said. “I’m optimistic this proposal will

have bipartisan support because the state is losing a lot of sales tax revenue because of these crimes. Passing this proposal would be an economic benefit to the state.” Other CART efforts include: • Providing 90-minute workshops to retail organizations detailing steps that can be taken to curtail retail theft – such as reducing blind corners in stores, efficient placement of mirrors, keeping goods away from exits, upgrading security and camera systems, increasing staff numbers and training employees to observe and document crime. Police officers will be specially trained to present these workshops. Media announcements will inform retailers of the availability of the workshops. • Stickers and decals will allow retailers to post on windows and entry doors that they are participants in the “We Watch. We Prosecute.” program. Caliber Group, a marketing/ public relations firm, is working on a pro-bono basis to produce materials for CART.


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Chamber History Exhibits By David Pittman In reviewing the 120-year history of the Tucson Metro Chamber, those within the organization are struck by the realization that the more things change, the more they stay the same. “I find it very interesting that today we are still talking about the same topics we have from day one in 1896,” said Michael Varney, the Chamber’s president and CEO. “Transportation, jobs, education, water, economic expansion were the issues the Chamber was most concerned about when we were starting and, in one way or another, they remain top priorities to this day.” The Chamber story begins in 1896 when the Tucson Grocer’s Association, the precursor to the Tucson Metro Chamber, was incorporated and Hugo J. Donau was selected as its

first chairman. The very next year, in 1897, the Chamber made recommendations to Congress that led to the City of Tucson being given the authority to finance water works construction. In 1902, the group assumed the name Tucson Chamber of Commerce and set dues at $1 per month. In 1918, a chamber committee worked on getting a gravel road built from Tucson to Casa Grande. In 1919, the Chamber helped spearhead a drive to establish not only the first municipal airport in Tucson, but the first municipal airport in the entire United States. The Tucson Municipal Flying Field was four miles south of Tucson on Nogales Highway, now the site of the Tucson Rodeo Grounds. “Today our transportation concerns are more about im-

Here’s a sampling of other Chamber milestones: 1925




The Chamber sponsored the first “Fiesta de los Vaqueros” rodeo.

The Tucson City Council, with support from the Chamber, replaced the city’s first airfield with a new one, which was built on a site where Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is today. Charles Lindbergh, who months earlier made his historic flight across the Atlantic, flew into Tucson to dedicate the new airport.

The Chamber, led by its Chairman Monte Mansfield (a Ford dealer who was the Jim Click of his day), brought together 15 like-minded civic leaders to charter the Tucson Airport Authority.

The Chamber raised the money needed to construct a new headquarters at its present location at 465 W. St. Mary’s Road.

Chamber of Commerce building early 1900's. Photo: Arizona Historical Society (AHS# 10038)

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‘Déjà Vu All Over Again’ proving our streets and highways, and expanding airline service to Tucson International Airport,” Varney said. Shirley Wilka, Varney’s executive assistant, is the longest serving staffer at the Chamber. She began working there in 1971 while still in high school. “When I started working here it was through a program called Cooperative Office Education,” she said. “It was very much like JTED is today.” Wilka said the biggest changes at the Chamber during her tenure have been advancements in communications technology. “When I started here I worked with an old plug-in switchboard telephone system, and we worked with typewriters, not computers,” she said. “When the first computer was brought

in, it was shared by everyone and it was the only one we had. For a while fax machines were utilized extensively, but that has been replaced by email. “The way we communicate with our investors has changed, but the issues and what we communicate hasn’t. If you read the minutes from past Chamber board meetings, the same subjects keep popping up. The issues are still transportation, education, city government, water and economic development.” The Chamber reflected on its history and looked forward to its priorities and program of work to lead and advocate for a successful community during a Nov. 17 ceremony with live entertainment, food and beverages. The Chamber also collected items to be placed in a sealed time capsule that will be opened in 30 years, on the Chamber’s 150th anniversary.






The Chamber is a key player in a proactive coalition that successfully removed Davis-Monthan Air Force Base from the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list.

The Chamber receives the U.S. Department of Commerce Outstanding International Services Award for facilitating international trade.

The Chamber is rebranded with a new logo and name change to Tucson Metro Chamber.

The Chamber, in partnership with six member businesses, successfully completed the First Impressions Project, a $360,000 endeavor that beautified a sixtenths-of-a-mile stretch of Tucson Boulevard at the gateway to Tucson International Airport.

For a more detailed history of the Tucson Metro Chamber visit

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Student intern at Micro Import Service

High School Interns Cash In Program Eases Workforce Shortages By Rhonda Bodfield Trish Williams has hired a lot of technicians at her automotive repair shop, Micro Import Service. And she could not have been more impressed with the incoming high school seniors selected as part of a new paid internship program developed by the Tucson Metro Chamber that’s designed to match companies in need of talent with ambitious young people who can grow into those roles. Their résumés were impeccable. They dressed professionally. And they looked her in the eye when they interviewed. “It was like they were seasoned pros.”

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The internship program was launched in the summer of 2016 in response to a couple of seemingly conflicting truisms that Lori Banzhaf has heard for years in her role as the Chamber’s executive VP: • Jobs go begging because businesses can’t find the workforce they need locally. • Young people leave Tucson because there are no jobs.

Last fall, Banzhaf pulled together a roundtable discussion with about 80 CEOs who are Chamber investors. She asked for examples of workforce chal-

lenges they were facing. One hospitality industry leader said he was about to hire abroad because he could not find staff locally with the right mix of technical and soft skills. That’s when Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez urged him to look again, noting the district teaches culinary arts. The employer’s reponse? “How would I know that?” And that became an “aha moment” for Banzhaf. “We have one silo over here with lots of educational institutions doing what they do to advance education, and we have another silo over here that is free enterprise. We aren’t

talking to one another and we aren’t connecting the dots properly.” As the Chamber’s task force thought through what the internship should look like, they determined it should be paid. That is fairly unusual for high school internship opportunities, but Banzhaf said students too often must turn down more traditional programs because they don’t have the luxury of going without a paycheck when they have to help support their families or prepare for life after school. She also wanted to reach incoming seniors before “senior-itis” kicked in. And while the taskforce had identified about 10 industry sectors with employee shortfalls, she wanted to pilot one, noting, “We have to walk before we run.” Auto technology was the first. And then the work really began. TUSD met with the auto technology sector to review the curriculum being taught and ensure that in addition to the state mandates, their programs were teaching the skills businesses needed. In addition to tweaking the program to more closely align with business needs, the district then identified students based on the criteria outlined by the businesses: • The students had to be enrolled in the auto tech program. • They had to have a passion for the work. • And while they didn’t have to have the highest grade-point average, their attendance had to be up to par. If they didn’t go to school, they might not get to the job site either.

Most of the students stayed on longer than the six-week program. In Williams’ case, her intern stayed on longer and signed up to work both the fall and winter breaks. He will be hired on fulltime after graduation and the company will pay for his continued schooling in the auto technology program at Pima Community College. Williams couldn’t be happier. “It’s clear to those of us who watch industry trends, that we’re in a place where there will be a lot of technicians retiring soon and there aren’t people ready to move into the field to replace them,” she said. “This gives students exposure to the industry, and at the same time, you’ve got these students now who will graduate into really great careers and who will be contributing members of our own community, instead of going elsewhere.” TUSD’s Sanchez said the district is honored to work with the Chamber on this program. “It is our hope that businesses in the Tucson community take advantage of the opportunity to join forces with us and the Tucson Metro Chamber to provide on-the-job experience to our students as well as reap the benefits of the hard work and dedication our interns will provide,” Sanchez said. Banzhaf said work is beginning now to gear up for next summer, including an expansion to four additional sectors – healthcare, engineering sciences, hospitality and construction. She is in the process of identifying companies who are willing to participate. “I took on this project because the Chamber cares about our community,”

Connecting our future workforce with the companies who need qualified workers – that’s the right place for the Chamber to be.

Lori Banzhaf Executive VP Tucson Metro Chamber –

she said. “Connecting our future workforce with the companies who need qualified workers – that’s the right place for the Chamber to be.”


Businesses interested in this internship program can contact Lori Banzhaf at 792-2250 Ext. 152 or

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From left

Melissa Vito, Senior VP of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and Senior Vice Provost at University of Arizona; Cristie Street, Co-Founder and CEO, Nextrio; Kate Hoffman, Executive Director, Earn To Learn; Adam Begody, Non-Profit Program Development, Fundraising and Workforce Development, Earn To Learn

College Students ‘Earn to Learn’

Ready for Internship-to-Employment Pipeline By Renée Schafer Horton In May, nearly 50 students who otherwise might never have gone to college will hear their names called at the University of Arizona commencement ceremony. They will celebrate this milestone with their family and friends because of the Earn to Learn program – a one-of-a-kind “savings to scholarship” program helping low- to moderateincome Arizona students reach their dream of a bachelor’s degree. If Tucson Metro Chamber President and CEO Michael Varney has his way, these graduates will hang their framed degrees in Tucson, contributing to what local leaders hope is a “brain gain” for the city. Earn to Learn was founded in part86 BizTucson


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nership with the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University and the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Assets for Independence program. Students in the program save $500 each year while participating in personal finance training to earn a $4,000 annual scholarship; $2,000 of which is funded through AFI grants with the remaining $2,000 provided by matched funds from UA, NAU or ASU. Since January 2013 Earn to Learn students have completed more than 12,000 hours of personal finance training and will have invested almost $1 million towards their own college educations. Earn to Learn administers the schol-

arships while providing students college-readiness training in high school and ongoing mentoring throughout college. “There is widespread agreement that the key factor in economic expansion is having a ready, willing, qualified workforce,” Varney said. “So many of our students graduate and leave town for work. We have Earn to Learn scholars right here at the UA and we want to keep them here.” To do that, the Chamber is partnering with Earn to Learn to launch what they hope will become an internshipto-employment pipeline, said Earn to Learn CEO Kate Hoffman. continued on page 88 >>>

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continued from page 86 “Our mission is empowering students to successfully complete college,” Hoffman said. “With this partnership, we are engaging the local business community to support talent development that will ultimately impact our local workforce.” To help its 1,500 members understand the Earn to Learn value proposition, the Chamber will host information sessions in early 2017. “Basically it comes down to this – rather than spending 20 percent of a new recruit’s salary on training and relocation, local businesses can invest in an Earn to Learn scholarship and be paired with a college senior to intern at their company,” Varney said. Once interns earn their degrees, “it would be a natural fit” for the company sponsoring their internship to hire them full-time, Varney said. “It’s a mutually beneficial way for Chamber investors to contribute to the scholar’s life cycle while also meeting business recruiting needs,” he said. 88 BizTucson


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The critical X factor that we can control in economic expansion is creating homegrown, UA graduates as employees for our businesses – which is what Earn to Learn can help us do. –

Cristie Street, CEO, Nextrio

The Chamber is especially interested in Earn to Learn students because many are pursuing STEM careers in science, technology, engineering or math – and many have close Tucson family ties, making them most interested in careers with local businesses.

Cristie Street, CEO of Nextrio, a Tucson-based technology solutions provider, is one of the biggest evangelists of the Chamber’s Earn to Learn proposition. “Tucson is not a large city, we’re not a beach community, and while we are trying to build our brand as a science, technology, engineering and space destination, we’re at the beginning stages of that ecosystem,” she said. “The critical X factor that we can control in economic expansion is creating homegrown UA graduates as employees for our businesses – which is what Earn to Learn can help us do.” Varney said the intern-to-work proposition could also help draw new employers to Tucson. “When we invest in something like this,” he said, “it says to businesses that might be looking to relocate, ‘look, here’s how we’ve primed the employee pipeline for you. Come here and take your choice of students wanting internships and simplify your recruiting process.’ ”


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Michael Varney By David Pittman

Q. How would you de-

scribe the state of the Tucson Metro Chamber in terms of membership and financial health?

The state of the Chamber has A. never been better. The number of investors in the Chamber is slightly

above 1,500 – which is the highest level since the Great Recession – and our operating budget has doubled over the last five years. We are a resource that companies of any size can invest in and benefit from.”

have more money, they spend more money. Our economy is largely driven by consumers, so consumer spending levels are vital to our prosperity. When people spend more money, they pay more sales taxes. Sales tax revenue is a primary source of revenue for the City of Tucson, which uses those funds to pave roads, build parks and ensure our public safety. When business thrives and people have good jobs, property tax revenue can increase. Property taxes are a primary source of needed revenue for Pima County. We want to see tax revenues rise – but we want it to be because the economic pie is growing, not because tax rates are being increased.”

Q. You frequently talk about Q. the importance of job creation and maintaining a growing economy. Why is that so important?

It is important our citizens have A. jobs. It is also important that those jobs are the kind of jobs that pay

well so we can boost the level of average household income. When people

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team were designed to improve the value of Chamber membership and the results were impressive. Varney and his staff now refer to Chamber members as “investors,” reinforcing the proposition that business owners get their money’s worth from investing in the Chamber. In addition to serving with state, regional and national Chamber organizations, he’s served on the boards of Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority, Visit Tucson, the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance and Linkages.

The Chamber’s committee structure has largely been abandoned in favor of establishing volunteer task forces and projects that rely on investor volunteers. Could you describe this change and why it came about?

When people volunteer their A. time to help with important causes and projects, we don’t want to

commit them to attending meeting after meeting where nothing happens and nothing gets done. We wanted to get away from that. We have shifted instead to creating taskforces for special projects where important problems or issues are addressed and specific goals can be identified to make things better. When those goals are met or the group reaches the end of the line, the task force will be disbanded and new priorities identified. With the exception of three groups that still have regular monthly meetings, we really don’t have standing committees anymore. The Military Affairs Committee has many programs it runs annually on an ongoing basis, so it continues to operate as it always has. The Ambassadors remain focused on ensuring a best-in-class investor experience so that all Chamber investors realize the value of their investment, promote collaboration for business growth and success and develop meaningful professional relationships. Our Emerging Leaders Council – which is a group of continued on page 94 >>>


When Michael Varney arrived in Tucson to take over the reins of the Tucson Metro Chamber in 2011, he inherited an organization that was reeling from the Great Recession and struggling with declining membership and revenue. Varney wasted no time in implementing pro-business initiatives to super-serve small business and advocate policies aimed at creating jobs, spurring economic growth and improving workforce development and education. New Chamber programs implemented by Varney and his

Michael Varney

President & CEO Tucson Metro Chamber

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Robert D. Ramirez By David Pittman


How long has Vantage West been an investor in the Tucson Metro Chamber and why are you so personally involved in the Chamber? Vantage West has been an invesA. tor for more than 46 years, and I am personally involved with the Cham-

ber because I believe in our core mission of being a strong advocate for our local businesses, helping them grow to create a healthy community with wellpaying jobs for our residents.


As Chamber chair, what have you tried to accomplish and what would you point to as successes during your tenure? My immediate focus was to reA. engage our board of directors by reworking our board meeting agendas,

schedules, time and financial commitment criteria. I have been involved in reaching out to our city and county gov-

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Ramirez has earned a bevy of awards and designations for his good works – most recently as GTL Man of the Year (see p. 176). He is revered by his employees – as well as top-ranking officials in local business, charity and political circles – as an inspirational, compassionate and impactful community leader. His vision for bright future is based on a collection of assets unique to Tucson that are the foundation for solid growth (see Biz Tucson Fall 2016). “Bob is a terrific guy. I don’t know if there are words to describe how great a guy he is,” said Michael Varney, president & CEO of the Tucson Metro Chamber. “He is engaged and energetic and he wants to build a better Tucson.”

ernment officials to foster a positive and collaborative working relationship and at the same time focus on being a strong advocate for our business community. I have been actively engaged in the new American Airlines nonstop flight to New York City as well as working with other key organizations in promoting Tucson as a great place to work as well as raise families.


How would you describe your working relationship with Michael Varney, president and CEO of the Chamber? My working relationship with A. Mike is great. We communicate sometimes on a daily basis. Mike is one

of the hardest working CEOs I have ever met and he is constantly working and thinking of the next best thing to introduce to our board members. He wants to ensure that Tucson continues to be a great place to work and live. He is passionate and committed to making a real difference in our Tucson community. Because of Mike, the Tucson Chamber is in great financial health.

Q. The Chamber is

celebrating its 120th anniversary, which is an amazing milestone. What is the greatest impact the Chamber has made in this community over the years? One of my favorite authors is Dr. A. Jim Collins, who wrote the book “Good to Great.” In this book he talks

about what makes a great company – and it starts with great employees. I think the success behind the 120-year anniversary of our chamber has a lot to do with having great employees, along with a committed board of directors focused on our core mission of promoting a climate in which businesses can grow, create jobs and promote a strong local economy. We have seen how our Tucson community has grown over the last 120 years and I am confident in saying that our Chamber has been an active participant in this growth and success.

continued on page 94 >>>


Robert D. Ramirez has lived the American dream. A native of Nogales, Ariz., he rose from humble beginnings to become president and CEO of Vantage West Credit Union, the largest credit union in Southern Arizona with assets of more than $1.5 billion. Examples of Vantage West efforts to benefit Southern Arizona go on and on, as do Ramirez’s volunteer efforts on behalf of civic and charitable nonprofit boards, which include the Pima Community College Foundation, El Rio Community Health Center, DM50, San Miguel High School, Sun Corridor Inc. and Southern Arizona Leadership Council, to name a few. He is also the 2016-17 chairman of the Tucson Metro Chamber Board of Directors.

Robert D. Ramirez Chairman of the Board Tucson Metro Chamber

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BizLEADERSHIP MICHAEL VARNEY continued from page 90 outstanding young professionals under 40 years of age that has great leadership and fresh, meaningful programming – also continues to meet regularly. Everything else has been morphed into a taskforce.

Q. Robert Ramirez has

been Chamber board chair since April 2016, a time of great success for the Chamber. How would you characterize his tenure as chairman to date?

Of all the chairs I’ve had the A. pleasure of working for, and that includes my time in Nevada, Bob is one

of the most organized. He keeps copious notes. He makes proactive phone calls to me for readiness purposes. He makes sure board meetings have all the right qualities to them and we are in a total state of preparation. In addition to being involved in the many accomplish-

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ments that occurred during his tenure, Bob has been involved in governance changes to make our board more inclusive and our board meetings more engaging. Bob is a visionary and he loves Tucson. He is committed to doing all he can to lift the quality of life for everyone in the community.

Q. You’ve said our economy is on a roll. Why?

Many business executives have A. told me that they have not felt this kind of momentum and econom-

ic adrenalin in our area in quite some time. There also is much more cooperation and willingness to create jobs – both among local government leaders and the community as a whole – than at any time during my tenure in Tucson. I truly hope this optimistic, pro-business outlook can be sustained.


ROBERT D. RAMIREZ continued from page 92


There has been a great deal of positive economic news in Tucson in recent months. Is it fair to say Tucson is finally rebounding from the Great Recession? What is your outlook for the Tucson economy? A recent report from BloomA. berg ranked Tucson third for job growth among the top cities in the United States and based on all of the positive news about Tucson, I can say with confidence that we are finally rebounding from the Great Recession. The future looks very bright for us with recent arrivals like Caterpillar and HomeGoods, and the Raytheon and Comcast expansions. We do need to keep working on our infrastructure within our city and county to ensure that we continue our positive momentum. Biz

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Emerging Leaders Council Will Shape Southern Arizona’s Future By Romi Carrell Wittman Leadership is not a skill you’re born with – it’s learned and honed through years of practice. And while many local professional organizations offer networking and professionaldevelopment opportunities, only one focuses specifically on cultivating the next generation of business leaders through hands-on mentorship. The Emerging Leaders Council, a group of 30 dynamic local professionals all under the age of 40, has two primary objectives – to cultivate tomorrow’s leaders while also shaping the civic and economic future of Southern Arizona. Matthew Rosen, a financial advisor for Burk, Hall and Co., is the current ELC chairman. He says the ELC provides a unique opportunity for young professionals to learn directly from business leaders. In fact, it’s one of the only profession96 BizTucson


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al development organizations in Tucson to feature a formal mentorship program that pairs seasoned executives with upand-comers. “The education comes through relationships our members build with our mentor executives, as well as elected officials and other invited speakers,” Rosen said. “We have the opportunity to learn what’s happening now and what’s coming.” The ELC was created by the Chamber in 2014 with leadership from Ben Korn, owner of Safeguard, and Melissa Dulaney-Moule, a nonprofit marketing and communications professional. The ELC meets monthly. The group is supported by the Tucson Metro Chamber, and ELC members often provide input to the Chamber’s board of directors on matters of the community and the economy.

Front row from left – Jonathan Beaty, Yasmine Straka, Edgar Martinez, Jennifer Wong, Erin Paradis, Aaron Skoczen Middle row from left – Matt Ewing, Gabriela Cervantes, Juan Francisco Padres, Ben Korn, Taylor Davidson, Lindsay Welch, Andrea Barre Back row from left – Robert Fischer, Robert Medler, Todd Helmick, Evan Feldhausen, Eric Smith, Scott Arkon Not pictured – Eliezer Asunsolo, Tom Bersbach, Jesus Bonillas, Jonathon Crider, Ryan Frohberg, Tim Kinney, Amber Mazzei, Ariana Patton, Derrick Polder, Nick Puente, Matthew Rosen, Mike Saffer

Today’s senior leaders have an obligation to pass the torch to younger leaders who will care for their community and make it a better place to live. Michael Varney President & CEO Tucson Metro Chamber –

Michael Varney, president and CEO of the Chamber, said the ELC gives its members a means to accelerate both their professional and personal growth. He adds that it’s incumbent on our community’s current leaders to groom the next generation. “Today’s senior leaders have an obligation to pass the torch to younger leaders who will care for their community and make it a better place to live,” Varney said. “Senior leadership at the Chamber benefits greatly from the perspectives ELC members bring to decision making because they often see the community and its future differently.” Each year, as current members “age out” of the group, the ELC looks for new people to join its ranks. The application process opens after the first of the year and closes at the end of February. The membership committee then evaluates all submissions. “One of the biggest issues of any group is that it can become a ‘good-old-boys club,’” Rosen said. To avoid that and to maintain a diverse group composition, the ELC application process is anonymous – meaning the membership committee sees only the submission content, not names. Looking ahead, Rosen says ELC members will continue to be actively involved in the community. “The ELC’s goal is to keep growing Tucson as well as we can.” Biz For more information about the Emerging Leaders Council or to apply, visit

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Back row from left – Fernando Barraza, Chad Driedger, John Stuckey, Joel Johnson, Rick Hernandez, Kimberly Romo, Diana Richardson, Sarah Akers, Stacy Quiri, Lindsay Welch, R.D. Castillo, Jamison Brown, James Graves, Landon Walls Front row from left – Julio Espinoza, Linda Montes-Cota, Stephanie Calderone, Christine Huley, Robbie Petrillo, Evan Sullivan, Sarah Lennartz, Andrea Gerlak, Kimberley Hoidal, Liz Baker, Hanna Miller, Rose Capono, Carrie Gurenlian, Coco Horner, Jacqueline Martinez, Sarah Ruiz, Gabriela Cervantes, Alma Peralta Not pictured – Kevin Bedient, Tannya Gaxiola, Amy Walker, Alicia White

Greater Tucson Leadership Shaping Civic Visionaries By Romi Carrell Wittman For people looking to learn about Southern Arizona – not just the stuff you read in the newspaper or see on social media, but the crucial issues that lie at the heart of our community – Greater Tucson Leadership is an essential education program. Since 1980, GTL has been shaping civic visionaries with its yearlong civic and leadershipfocused curriculum. Students in this year’s program will notice one big change – a new executive director at the helm, Kasey Hill. Longtime GTL executive director Suzanne McFarlin announced last spring that she was stepping down to focus full time on her leadership coaching consulting business. McFarlin had taken on the role in 2011, when the organization was going through a transition, 98 BizTucson


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eventually to become part of the Tucson Metro Chamber. Under her direction, she helped to reinvent the annual Man, Woman and Founder of the Year awards gala as a GTL event and get the organization on solid financial ground. “It was time to pass the baton,” McFarlin said of her decision to step down. She remains actively involved with GTL and has been contracted to provide leadership coaching and curriculum to students on issue days over the next year. Given the growth and financial success of the program under McFarlin’s leadership, the GTL board decided to change the executive director position from part-time to full-time. Kasey Hill was selected from dozens of applicants and began her duties in July.

She’s thrilled to be heading up GTL. “It’s such an exciting organization and I love the position,” she said. “I’m enjoying the chance to really get to know the community.” Hill will learn about this community in depth as she goes through the program as part of the 39-member 2017 class. The cohort, which is one of GTL’s largest-ever classes, includes a diverse group of professionals from both the public and private sectors. Over the next year, members will take part in monthly “Issue Days,” each of which will focus on a different element or important issue in the community. Past issue days have covered public education, the border and criminal justice.


Hill Takes Charge

At Greater Tucson Leadership By Romi Carrell Wittman Despite moving here in what is arguably the worst time of year – when summer temps rise to levels that seem incompatible with life – Kasey Hill loves Tucson. She also loves her new role as executive director of Greater Tucson Leadership. Hill relocated to Tucson from Kentucky with her husband, Alan, who is attending the James E. Rogers College of Law. She was drawn to GTL because it fit perfectly with her background, which includes communications, event planning and fundraising. “GTL is such a unique program,” Hill said. “I knew I could build on the great foundation that Suzanne put in place.” Suzanne McFarlin, who had served as GTL’s executive director since 2011, announced last spring that she would be stepping down. A Kentucky native, Hill was the communications director of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership. Prior to that, she had worked as a journalist for several area newspapers. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University and is a graduate of Leadership Boyle County, an area leadership program similar to GTL. Hill is looking forward to the year ahead, which includes taking part in the 2017 GTL class as a student as well as planning the Man, Woman and Founder of the Year awards gala, which takes place Feb. 11 at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. All in all, Hill couldn’t be happier with her move and her new job. “I’m still getting to know the community, but I’ve already learned so much. It just feels like home. This is where we’re supposed to be.”


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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

TUCSON METRO CHAMBER EVENT CALENDAR Issues Over Easy Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort 5501 N. Hacienda Del Sol Road Jan. 27 and Apr. 28 from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Issues Over Easy is a quarterly breakfast to connect investors with the Chamber’s Government Affairs program and keep them up to speed on public policy issues and current events affecting their business and community. Register at: 2017 State of the City JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa 3800 W. Starr Pass Blvd. March 16 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The Tucson Metro Chamber hosts the annual State of the City luncheon where Mayor Jonathan Rothschild addresses more than 1,000 people detailing the goals, policies and objectives for Tucson in the coming year. The Chamber Business Expo is held in conjunction with this event. This large expo provides exhibitors the opportunity to showcase their products and services to the community. Register at:

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild

Copper Cactus Awards Casino Del Sol Resort, Spa and Conference Center 5655 W. Valencia Road Sept. 8 from 5 to 9 p.m. The Tucson Metro Chamber Copper Cactus Awards presented by Wells Fargo celebrate this region’s best small businesses - collectively the largest employer in our community. Every year more than 50 small businesses and business leaders are recognized for their accomplishments in award categories including work environment, growth, workforce development, community stewardship, innovation and leadership. Learn more at: Interface Tucson Metro Chamber 465 W. St. Mary’s Road 10:30 to 11:30 am.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry

City of Tucson

Pima County

Jan. 26, 2017

Mar. 23, 2017

May 25, 2017

July 27, 2017

Sept. 28, 2017

Nov. 30, 2017

Interface is a program that provides Tucson Metro Chamber investors opportunities to communicate with high-level public officials such as Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry about public policy and doing business in Southern Arizona. The host speaker opens with a 15-minute presentation, then takes questions and comments from those attending for a lively exchange of ideas and information. Registration is free. Register using the events calendar at:

“The Tucson Metro Chamber’s events provide a fantastic opportunity to learn about businesses in our community and network with them.” 100 BizTucson

– Dr. Amy Beiter, Carondelet St. Mary’s <<<

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Chairman of the Board Robert D. Ramirez President and CEO Vantage West Credit Union Ramirez is responsible for operations of a $1.6 billion credit union with more than 141,000 members with 17 locations in four counties – Pima, Pinal, Cochise and Maricopa. In addition to serving as the Tucson Metro Chamber board chair this year, he is member of the Sun Corridor Inc. Chairman’s Circle, vice chair of the Pima Community College Foundation board, past chair of CUES and a member of the boards of El Rio Health Center and San Miguel High School.



Vice Chair Larry Lucero Senior Director of Government Relations and Economic Development UNS Energy Corporation and subsidiary Tucson Electric Power Lucero assists in advancing the interests of the utility and its customers. He also works with a variety of community organizations. Among those are Sun Corridor Inc., Chicanos Por La Causa, Southern Arizona Advisory Council, and Tucson Youth Development/ACE Charter High School.

Secretary Sherry Janssen Downer Partner and Owner Law Office of Sherry J. Downer

Ghee Alexander General Manager Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort

Downer is an attorney who helps her clients navigate complex labor and employment issues and business problems. She is secretary of the Chamber and serves on the Pima County Judicial Nominating Commission and the SHRM-GT Legislative Committee. She holds leadership positions within the parent organization of her daughter’s school. Downer has been honored as a Women of Influence, Up and Comer and by 40 Under 40. Her peers recognized her as a Southwest Super Lawyers “Rising Star,” as one of the Best Lawyers in America and AV-Preeminent, the highest Martindale-Hubbell rating available.

Alexander is responsible for all aspects of the resort operation – including planning, positioning, financial performance, resource deployment and guest satisfaction. In addition to serving on the Chamber board, he is an executive board member of the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Arizona Lodging and Resort Association. In 2014 he was named General Manager of the Year by the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association.

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Immediate Past Chairman Thomas P. McGovern Principal Emeritus Psomas

Treasurer David Lopez-Monroy Shareholder BeachFleischman

McGovern represents Psomas, a regional engineering firm, in various outward-facing roles in the Southern Arizona business and civic community. He serves on the executive committee of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council board and chairs the economic vitality advisory committee of the Pima Association of Government. He also is an Arizona Forward member of the Southern Arizona Regional Council.

As a partner and head of the firm’s international tax practice, LopezMonroy provides tax advisory and compliance services to businesses and individuals involved in crossborder business activities. He’s a new Chamber board member and is a board member of the Nonprofit Loan Fund. He is active with the Business Executives Leadership League and serves as a finance council member of St. Cyril Parish.

William R. Assenmacher CEO CAID Industries

Dr. Amy Beiter CEO Carondelet St. Mary’s Hospital

CAID Industries is Southern Arizona’s largest industrial metal fabricator serving local and international customers. Headquartered in Tucson, CAID also has locations in Logan, Utah, and Calama, Chile, and will celebrate 70 years in business in 2017. He serves as chair of the Chamber’s Air Service and Project Prosperity taskforces. Assenmacher is founder and president of the Southern Arizona Business Coalition and chairman of Commerce Bank of Arizona, the only locally owned community bank. He serves on the boards of Tucson Airport Authority and AMIGOS. He is a UA Tech Parks Global Advantage Partner.

Beiter has served St. Mary’s and the community for more than 20 years. Named CEO in 2012, she oversaw the hospital’s major renovation. Beiter is board-certified in internal medicine, a member of the Society of Hospital Medicine and the American College of Physician Executives. She was selected as one of the “100 Physician Leaders of Hospitals and Health Systems” in the U.S. by Becker’s Hospital Review, and one of Arizona’s most influential women in business by Arizona Business. In addition to serving on the Chamber board, Beiter chairs the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

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Tannya R. Gaxiola Assistant VP for Community Relations University of Arizona



Stephanie Healy Director of Public Affairs Cox Communications

Gaxiola is responsible for statewide, city and county government relations at the University of Arizona, where she also leads neighborhood relations and nonprofit relations. In addition to the Chamber board, she also serves on the board of directors of Community Provider for Enrichment Services, the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona and Downtown Tucson Partnership. Gaxiola has been recognized as a Tucson Woman of Influence and with a 40 Under 40 award.

Healy oversees government affairs, public relations, community development and media relations in Southern Arizona for Cox Communications. She is a Flinn Brown fellow and has received a number of leadership awards in the community. Her civic participation and board memberships include Arizona Forward, City of Tucson’s Economic and Workforce Development Commission, the City’s Charter Commission, DM50, El Rio Health Center Foundation, Southern Arizona Defense Alliance, University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Silver & Turquoise Board of Hostesses.



Mark C. Irvin Managing Member Mark Irvin Commercial Real Estate Services Irvin has long been engaged in commercial real estate with a focus in office, medical and investment properties. He is currently vice chair/secretary of the Rio Nuevo Board and a member of the Rotary Club of Tucson and the Tucson Breakfast Club. He’s also an honorary commander of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and emeritus board member of Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson.

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Ben Korn Owner/Distributor Safeguard Korn and his team work tirelessly to help business and Tucson grow through branding, marketing and community involvement. His business has grown 40 percent in the four years he has owned the company with the trust and loyalty of like-minded local businesses also committed to growth. He is founder and immediate past chair of the Chamber’s Emerging Leaders Council and the immediate past president of Greater Tucson Leadership. He’s a member of the Centurions and the Conquistadores and received the 2014 Copper Cactus Small Business Leader of the Year Award.

Robert E. Lenhard President Hallmark Business Consultants

Jill Malick Business Banking Manager Wells Fargo

Tim Medcoff Co-Managing Member Farhang & Medcoff

Mitch Pisik President and CEO TM International

Lenhard is an alumnus of four universities and served in the U.S. Army before starting his Wells Fargo banking career. In 1982 he became a business broker. In 1988 he founded Hallmark Business Consultants, successfully transferring ownership of more than 500 businesses. He’s a charter member of the Arizona Business Brokers Association and the International Business Brokers Association. In 2003 he was named Arizona Broker of the Year. He’s served on the Chamber board for five years.

Malick oversees a team of commercial bankers who provide financial services to business customers in Tucson and Nogales. She is co-chair of the bank’s Southern Arizona Community Advisory Board. In 2016, Malick graduated with honors from the Pacific Coast Banking School at the University of Washington. In addition to serving on the Chamber board, she is on the board of the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona. Malick is also a member of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council.

Medcoff co-manages his growing law firm and is co-chair of both the labor and employment and commercial litigation groups. He leverages his comprehensive trial and litigation experience to advise employers with investigations, counseling and the defense of labor and employment claims, as well as defend manufacturers in complex product liability claims. He is peer-recognized as one of the best attorneys in America. In addition to the Chamber board, he serves on the boards of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona and Therapeutic Riding of Tucson.

Pisik runs one of the largest manufacturing companies headquartered in Tucson. He’s also an executive coach and business consultant. As a Chamber board member, he actively advocates for the Chamber and the Southern Arizona business community. He also is on the boards of the Jewish Community Center, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona and Vantage West Credit Union. Pisik received the 2016 Leader of the Year Award from SHRM-GT and was a 2015 and 2016 finalist for the Copper Cactus Small Business Leader of the Year award.

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Barbi Reuter President/Principal Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR Reuter oversees C&W | PICOR, a Tucson-based employee-owned commercial real estate firm that actively advises small and large businesses and investors in Southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. The firm received the Best Place to Work Copper Cactus Award in 2016. She joined the Chamber board in 2016 and serves on the Project Prosperity Task Force. She is on the boards of YMCA Metro and Tucson Girls Chorus. She’s active in Arizona Town Hall and Women Presidents Organization. She was selected for Real Estate Forum’s Women of Influence 2015.



Walter Richter Public Affairs Administrator Southwest Gas Corporation Richter oversees government relations for Southwest Gas throughout Southern Arizona. He serves on the Chamber’s Candidate Evaluation Committee. He also serves on the board of directors of Sun Corridor Inc.



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Steve Rosenberg Owner and Publisher BizTucson Magazine

J.B. Shockey COO Crest Insurance Group

Rosenberg came to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona and stayed to launch a career in publishing that spans three decades. In 2009 he founded BizTucson, the region’s quarterly business magazine. BizTucson recently launched BizNEWS, an online resource for business news updates. In addition to the Chamber, he serves on the boards of DM50, Raytheon Spirit of Education Awards, the Steven M. Gootter Foundation and Visit Tucson. Rosenberg is the founding chairman and a board member of Father’s Day Council Tucson.

Shockey has more than 35 years of property/casualty insurance experience and is heavily involved in strategic planning to continue the strong growth of Crest Insurance. A graduate of the University of Arizona, he also attended graduate school at Illinois State University. He has achieved the designations of Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter and Certified Insurance Counselor. He’s been involved with the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona for the past two years and previously served on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Ohio.

Lea N. Standridge Production Operations Raytheon Missile Systems

Howard Stewart President and CEO AGM Container Controls

Cristie Street Managing Partner Nextrio

Matt Wandoloski VP, Corporate Strategy & Analytics Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

Standridge oversees a team at Raytheon that is responsible for strategic planning in its final integration factories, to include supporting current production requirements, new product integration, capital improvements, technology upgrades and workforce planning. She is the board liaison to the Chamber’s Emerging Leaders Council. In addition to the Tucson Metro Chamber, she serves on the board of directors at Casa de los Niños and Tucson Jewish Community Center.

Stewart manages AGM Container Controls, which manufactures products for container, missile, electro-optical, automobile, packaging and public facility markets. He was recognized as Tucson’s Small Business Leader of the Year in 2002 and his company received a U.S. Chamber of Commerce designation as America’s Small Business of the Year in 2009. Stewart is serving his second year as chair for United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona’s Tocqueville Society and is the 2016-2017 chair of the United Way board of directors. He also serves on the Greater Tucson Leadership board.

Leading this locally based IT consulting firm and its team of technology professionals keeps Street on her toes as they help businesses improve by leveraging smart IT. Nextrio supports the Chamber by sponsoring its annual Copper Cactus Awards, which salutes companies that innovate through technology. Street and her team are active with numerous nonprofit organizations such as Ronald McDonald House, Social Venture Partners, Mobile Meals, Arizona Public Media, Greater Tucson Leadership and Literacy Connects.

Wandoloski is responsible for guiding the company’s strategy and working with the internal informatics team to utilize data as a strategic asset. His experience in the healthcare industry spans 35 years. He serves on three boards – the Tucson Metro Chamber, Sun Corridor Inc. and the Insurance Industry Charitable Association. He co-chairs the Southern Arizona Leadership Council’s healthcare committee and is a member of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council’s healthcare leadership council. He’s also involved with Children and Youth Advisory, a subgroup of Valley of the Sun United Way.

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High-Level Chamber Investors Keystone Investors

Chairman Investors

BASIS Charter Schools

Common Group

Bombardier Aerospace

AAA Landscape

BBVA Compass

Commotion Studios

Casino del Sol Resort

Abbott Animation


Caterpillar Surface Mining and Technology Division


BFL Construction

CopperPoint Mutual Insurance Company

Desert Diamond Casino Sahuarita

AGM Container Controls


Alliance Bank of Arizona

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

Desert Diamond Casino Hotel, Tucson


Diamond Ventures

American Fire Equipment Sales & Service Corp.

Holualoa Companies

American Family Insurance

Amity Foundation

Norville Investments

Arizona Capitol Times

Port of Tucson Raytheon Missile Systems

Arizona Daily Star

Tucson Electric Power

Arizona Lotus Corp

University of Arizona Business Affairs and Tech Parks Arizona


Arizona State University

Caliber Group

Downtown Merchants Association

Carondelet St. Maryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Hospital Casa de la Luz Hospice Cenpatico CenturyLink Chase Cigna Citi


Bank of America

Climatec BTG

Wells Fargo

Banner-University Medical Center

CODAC Health Recovery & Wellness

Winter 2017

Crest Insurance Group Cushman Wakefield|PICOR



Cox Communications

CAID Industries

Atmosphere Commercial Interiors

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Clements Agency

DPR Construction El Rio Community Health Center Elitise Empire Southwest Encantada Luxury Apartment Homes Fangamer Film Creations Finley Distributing Co. G2Mobile

BizLEADERSHIP Gibson’s Office Solutions

Lovitt & Touché

Granite Construction Company

Maximum Impact Physical Therapy Services

Hamstra Heating & Cooling

MC Companies

Siemens Industry



Sierra Tucson

HealthSouth Rehabilitation Institute of Tucson



Northwest Medical Center

Sinfonia Healthcare Corp

Old Pueblo Community Services

SMG – Tucson Convention Center

Oro Valley Hospital

Smith Advisory Partners


Paragon Space Development Corporation

SOLON Corporation

Hughes Federal Credit Union

Pima Community College

Institute for Better Education

Pima Federal Credit Union

International Wildlife Museum

Pima Heart Physicians


Pima Medical Institute

Jack Furriers Tire & Auto Care


Jim Click Automotive Team

Quarles & Brady

JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa

Royal Automotive Group

Hensley Beverage Company Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Resort HSL Properties

Law Office of Sherry Janssen Downer Long Realty Company

Santé of Tucson Scripps Broadcasting (KGUN and cwTucson58)

Securaplane a Meggitt Company Serrato Corporation

Sonora Behavioral Health – Acadia Healthcare Sonora Quest Laboratories of Tucson

Texas Instruments TM International Torreon Golf Club Tucson Federal Credit Union Tucson Medical Center Tucson Orthopaedic Institute Tucson Roadrunners Hockey Club Tucson Unified School District U-Haul of Southern Arizona Union Pacific Railroad Univision Communications Vantage West Credit Union Visit Tucson

Southwest Airlines


Southwest Gas Corp.

Watermark Retirement Communities

Strongpoint Marketing Suddath Relocation Systems Sun Mechanical Contracting Sundt Construction

Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa World View Enterprises

Swaim Associates LTD Architects AIA

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Getting Things Done Volunteer service powers the Tucson Metro Chamber’s initiatives. President and CEO Michael Varney said, “Volunteer service is greatly appreciated and necessary for the Chamber to make the greatest impact on our community.” When it comes to volunteer service, the Chamber has two goals: • Be as effective in getting things done as possible. • Maximize the value of the time Chamber investors give to Chamber programs.

That’s why the Chamber has discontinued many of its standing committees in favor of project task forces, Varney said. “Task forces are assembled from a pool of interested Chamber investors to tackle specific projects. Once a project has been successfully completed, the task force stands down. Historically, committees and task forces have worked on projects in the following categories: • Economic development • Military affairs • Education and workforce • Small business • Government affairs

Now Chamber investors interested in helping the Chamber make a positive difference in our region are encouraged to submit their names and designate any specific area of interest they may have. Since task force projects are always starting and ending, the available opportunities for volunteer service are constantly changing. Volunteers will be notified when a new task force project is being planned so they can be included on the new task force if they so desire. Biz Investors are encouraged to submit their name, contact information and area of interest to 112 BizTucson


Winter 2017

Tucson Metro Chamber’s High-Impact Accomplishments The Tucson Metro Chamber provides area business owners and executives with a unique mix of products, services and advocacy to help them grow their businesses and build a better community. The Chamber’s many accomplishments are highlighted throughout this special section including: • Raised $3 million through the Air Service Task Force to secure and establish nonstop American Airlines flights to and from New York City (p. 73) • Initiated Project Prosperity to help city government become more businessfriendly and create more urban development opportunities (p. 76) • Established the Coalition Against Retail Theft (CART) to create solutions for the growing problem of organized retail crime (p. 78) • Developed a new Intern to Career program for high school students (p. 84) • Partnered with the Earn to Learn workforce development program (p. 86) • Paired the 30 members of the Emerging Leaders Council with senior executive mentors to accelerate professional development of Tucson’s young business leaders (p. 96) • Honored 54 local small businesses and charitable nonprofits at the annual Copper Cactus Awards for their excellence and achievements (p. 117) Chamber board, staff and investors work together to fulfill the Chamber’s mission of leading and advocating for a successful community. Their mantra is “When business is good, life is good.” Here are additional recent Chamber accomplishments: • Led the halt of the City of Tucson’s proposed Mandatory Paid Time Off proposal, saving every business in Tucson 3.3 percent on their payroll expenses, regardless of employee structure or industry. • Fought to keep the A-10 flying at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and preserve the estimated $1.77 billion economic impact of Davis-Monthan and the 162nd Air National Guard. • Led delegation of business leaders to Washington, D.C. and met with 14 elected and appointed officials to advocate for matters important to the growth and prosperity of Southern Arizona’s economy. • Tracked 273 different bills at the state legislature and published summary of state and local elected official’s voting records. State officials voted with the Chamber 65 percent of the time.

• Met more than 100 times with City Council, County Board of Supervisors, mayors of Tucson, Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita, state legislators and Gov. Ducey’s office to promote job creation and economic expansion. • Hosted eight Interface meetings to create dialog between local business executives, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. • Led advocacy efforts to place $160 million in road repair funds to improve road conditions on 2015 Bond Package. • Supported the launch of the Cradle to Career program, in collaboration with United Way of Southern Arizona, to improve K-12 education outcomes and the quality of the local workforce. • Received and responded to more than 100 requests for problem-solving help through the “We Can Help” program on the Chamber website home page to help business owners and executives solve problems. • Increased online exposure for more than 700 investors through marketing resources on the Chamber website and online business directory. • Hosted more than 50 ribbon-cutting ceremonies celebrating investors’ milestones, anniversaries and grand openings. • Hosted 38 opportunities for local business executives to make connections. • Taught more than 30 local companies how to do business with the federal government. • Saved Chamber investors more than $120,000 on office supplies and equipment with the Chamber’s exclusive discount program. • Awarded $92,868 in dividends to Chamber investors using the Chamber’s CopperPoint Mutual workers compensation insurance program. To learn more about the benefits of becoming a Chamber investor, call (520) 792-1212 or visit the website at

HIRE SMART. TUCSON’S CHOICE FOR QUALIFIED, PROFESSIONAL STAFFING. Locally owned, but backed by one of the nations top 10 staffing firms, Remedy Intelligent Staffing of Tucson offers proven and unparalleled resources for placement services. We unite employers with qualified associates — allowing both to prosper and grow. Let us find qualified employees for all your staffing needs.

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Front Row, left to right: Shirley Wilka, Valerie Vargas, Sarah Akers, Edgar Martinez, Jackie Chambers, Margarita Arellanes Middle Row, left to right: David Long, Lori Banzhaf, James Kehl, Laura Nagore, Toree Calloway, Tammy Jensen, Grace Gegenheimer, Jill A’Hearn Long Back Row, left to right: Jason Cook, Carol Gatewood, Carissa Fairbanks, Michael Varney, Rosa Herrera, Patricia Rotondi Not Pictured: Robert Medler, Susan Manfredi


Business Development

Michael Varney President & CEO

Finance & Operations

Investor Services

Business Development & Advertising Director

Accounting Coordinator

Investor Services & Affinity Director

Edgar Martinez

Operations Assistant

Tammy Jensen

Government Affairs

Sarah Akers

Jill A’Hearn Long

Laura Nagore CFOO

Lori Banzhaf

Business Development Executive

Executive VP

Shirley Wilka


Executive Assistant

Carissa Fairbanks

Rosa Herrera

Communications Director

Executive VP Administrator

David Long

Creative Manager

Toree Calloway

Communications Specialist

James Kehl

Margarita Arellanes

Robert Medler

Susan Manfredi

Carol Gatewood Events Manager

Jason Cook

Events Coordinator

Investor Operations Manager

VP of Government Affairs

Investor Services Manager

Grace Gegenheimer

Valerie Vargas

Government Affairs Coordinator

Special Events

Investor Services Coordinator

Patricia Rotondi

Government Affairs Coordinator

Contact us: Call (520) 792-1212 – E-mail Stop by: 465 W. St. Mary’s Road, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday Learn more at: 114 BizTucson


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116 BizTucson


Winter 2017