The "Class of 2014" advocates visit DMB Associates' masterplanned community Eastmark.

It takes two

Valley principals host young professionals in inaugural advocates program

A look around the room at a Valley Partnership Friday Morning Breakfast (FMB) reveals a who’s who of Arizona’s commercial real estate industry. You’ll see seasoned professionals sitting next to up-and-comers, and though these are an effective networking tool, Valley Partnership took the concept to the next level.

It created the Valley Partnership Advocates Program for young professionals. The program is a nine-month-long course for a “class” of 20 people under the age of 35 to meet with a new industry leader every month.

The inaugural program began last August and has included sessions hosted by prominent figures from DMB Associates, Inc., Vestar, Arizona State Land Department, Ryan Companies, Sunbelt Holdings, Evergreen Development, ASU and Macerich/WDP Partners. Many of the sessions were hosted by board members, including one held during a board meeting. “I did not understand the power of Valley Partnership and the people behind it until I attended that board meeting,” says advocate Nicole Mass, 35, Kitchell’s director of marketing.

The feeling is mutual. Bruce Pomeroy, founding principal at Evergreen Devco, has worked in the industry for 40 years. During that time, he has trained many young hires and has taught classes for the International Council of Shopping Centers. Pomeroy says of the session he hosted at Centerpointe in Goodyear that “the ‘students’ were very engaged and asked good questions.”

“I believe the most important issue was that the advocates wanted to spend more time with the developers during each monthly event,” says Vice President and General Counsel to Maven Universal Brett Hopper, who helped design the program. “We want to provide the advocates a greater opportunity to interact with senior executives and create long-lasting relationships.”

Stephanie Stephens, 27, marketing and project coordinator at Buesing, says the mentors emphasized the importance of getting involved in the real estate community. That typically starts with something as simple as the monthly Valley Partnership breakfasts, where Stephens heard about the program. Easton Mullen, 37, started his general contracting company Mullen Construction and Development in 2006 and has since built capital with the goal of becoming a developer. The advocates program, he says, created a foundation of contacts to use while his company evolves. “You can’t call these people up on the phone,” he says, “but if you’re part of the program, you can.”

The mentors encouraged community involvement and engagement within Valley Partnership’s committees and leadership roles. CBRE Sales Assistant Chris Marchildon, 28, was approached by board members at the suggestion of CBRE Executive Vice President Barry Gabel, about joining Valley Partnership’s Advocates Program.

sidebar“One of the first things I was told in this business was to ‘be a sponge,’” he says. “The second was to develop as many good relationships as you can along the way. Through the program, I was certainly provided the opportunity to learn success stories from the ground up as well as the chance to ‘soak up’ as much information as I could.”

Recent Denver transplant Kelly Kaminskas, 34, senior vice president at FirstBank, used the advocates program as an introduction to the industry. “It would have taken me years to piece together the information I received by being part of this group,” she says.

Tuition is $150. Applications are available on Valley Partnership’s website through July.