Tag Archives: April 2010

Drug Talk

12 Steps to 2012: Having The "Drug Talk" With Your Kids

If you’re like most people these days, you are thinking to yourself, “How in the world did it get to be January of 2012?” While time seems to pass quickly, the New Year also brings a renewed hope for what is to come over the next 12 months. Some people will want to lose weight, pick up a new hobby or maybe kick a bad habit. However, perhaps one of the best resolutions we can make this year is to connect with our children in ways that build trust and confidence, including having the “drug talk.”

Ask yourself these questions: “Do I know what my child does when I’m not around?” and “Do my kids feel comfortable talking to me about peer pressure and drug and alcohol use?”

Make a resolution this year to follow these simple 12 steps in 2012 to build a better relationship with your child and create a stronger more resilient teen.

1.    Teach your children to trust you by seeing you as a role model.
2.    Be patient, not just tolerant. Apologize when you make a mistake or do something you regret.
3.    Ask teens what they need from you – and do whatever you can to meet those needs.
4.    Listen to your teens, a lot. Avoid interrupting.
5.    Teach your children about ethics, values and principles they can apply in choices and decision-making.
6.    Help them discover the feeling of gratitude, not just to say thank you.
7.    Keep the promises you make. If you do not keep your word, acknowledge that. Help your teen understand the circumstances or choices that precipitated the change in your plans.
8.    Answer your teen’s questions and be consistent. When you notice behavioral changes in them, make yourself available and encourage them to talk about what is going on in their life.
9.    Be understanding when they have a difficult time and let them know you will love them no matter what.
10.    Be diligent. Have ongoing conversations with your kids about the risks of drugs and alcohol.
11.    Act out scenes with your child where people offer him/her drugs.  Kids who don’t know what to say or how to get away are more likely to give in to peer pressure. Let her know that she can use you as an excuse and say: “No, my mom [or dad, aunt, etc.] would kill me if I smoked a cigarette.”
12.    Have fun with your child! Take them on a date to one of their favorite restaurants or to a movie. They’ll enjoy having that one on one time with mom or dad and it will make them feel special.

Every parent-child team has a different strategy to approaching the “drug talk,” but the important thing is that yours emphasizes honesty and the trust between you.  Preventing drug and alcohol abuse – or helping a loved one seek help for an addiction – can be facilitated by a simple, honest conversation.  It is truly the way to a fresh start to the New Year.

For more tips on talking with your kids and having the “drug talk,” or to print out the Parent Promise, visit drugfreeaz.org.

Man rock climbing with another man on belay and a woman standing nearby

Courting The Locals Could Be The Key To Keeping Arizona’s Struggling Tourism Industry Viable

For years, state tourism and hospitality enjoyed a healthy dose of success. As the population boomed, so did travel, with out-of-state visitors increasing steadily from 2002 through 2007. But the recession, coupled with a decline in corporate meetings, made 2009 a very difficult year for the tourism and hospitality industry.

Arizona resorts and hotels that promoted staycations as a way to ride out the slow summer months, are now counting on them year-round to remain viable until the economy improves significantly.

“It’s not either/or; what we’re trying to communicate is that a staycation IS a vacation.”
– Debbie Johnson, Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association

“We are seeing more local and regional business to the resort throughout the entire year than ever before,” says Michael Stephens, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale. “If ever there was a time to take advantage of some really great offers in-season, this is the year.”

To stimulate in-state travel and help ease the pain of a sharp decline in occupancy, local tourism representatives are turning to residents and spreading the message about the allure of staycations.

“Staycations have been and will continue to be one of the vacation elements that many of our state residents enjoy,” says Rachel Sacco, president and CEO of the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s such a rewarding experience. Throw something in the car and go, but you feel like you’re a million miles away.”

Industry insiders hope that by providing extra incentives and cost-saving measures to local travelers, tourism will get the boost it needs to get through the economic downturn.

“If embraced and harnessed correctly, tourism is the state’s strongest weapon against further economic woes,” says Debbie Johnson, president and CEO of the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association. “If you’re tired of the economic slump and wish you could do something about it — take a trip, go out to a restaurant, and change the way we think about companies holding meetings. It’s the best way to personally affect the economy and get us moving back in the right direction.”

And the local market is one that can be deeply mined. According to the Arizona Office of Tourism’s (AZOT) year-end summary, the second largest tourist segment was comprised of state residents, with 9.8 million overnight visitors. Although domestic non-residents still made up the largest share of overnight visitors, Arizonans logged an impressive 33 percent of the state’s domestic overnight visitors in 2008.

Industry professionals are sending the message to locals that a staycation is a cost-effective alternative to out-of-state travel — no matter the season.

“Why spend tons of time and money on flights or inflated gas prices when we have such an incredibly diverse state with attractions and amenities that other people travel the globe to experience,” Johnson asks. “It’s not either/or; what we’re trying to communicate is that a staycation IS a vacation.”

Economic Impact

In AZOT’s year-end summary it was reported that direct travel spending in Arizona in 2008 was $18.5 billion. Travel spending also generated 166,900 direct jobs paying $5 billion in earnings. The report also stated that Arizona visitors staying overnight in paid lodging accounted for 41.2 percent of all visitor spending in 2008.

“Choosing a staycation keeps hard-earned money in our state, which generates tax revenues that trickle through the entire Arizona economy,” says Jennifer Wesselhoff, president and CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce.

From the Greater Phoenix area to Tucson and Flagstaff, in-state travel is important to every county, although some rely on it more than others. According to AZOT, travel spending is more critical to the economies of Arizona’s rural counties.

To help Arizona communities and tribal entities with their tourism development and marketing efforts, AZOT is coordinating an educational outreach program called Arizona Tourism University. The university conducts free workshops on tourism topics and offers advice on marketing plans, style guidelines and more.

Last year, AZOT also partnered with the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association to launch a Web site, www.valueaz.com, dedicated to helping individuals find the best travel deals available.

“We’re trying to help our members get the word out about their great deals, and educate residents that they can and should feel good about spending their money on in-state travel,” says Johnson, who is also president and CEO of the Valley Hotel and Resort Association in addition to serving as the executive director of the Arizona Tourism Alliance.

Deals for Locals

Along with the limping economy, a sharp drop in corporate meetings since 2008 has forced resorts to diversify their brands and market staycations. To that end, hospitality establishments across the Valley and state are pushing incentives aimed at the local community.

“We have chosen to be creative in positioning ourselves with a variety of different package options,” says Michael Hoffman, managing director of the Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa.

The Boulders has created a series of adult-centered activities, including rock climbing, hiking and spa treatments, to lure Arizona’s adult community.

Even resorts that are synonymous with exclusive luxury are now a more affordable option for locals.

“The staycation enhances our business,” says David Richard, area director of sales and marketing for Starwood Hotels, a hotel and leisure company that owns the Phoenician. “(Staycations) are more important than ever in building occupancy. They serve as a catalyst for increasing business across the entire resort.”

Richard also notes that staycations allow the local community to experience the Phoenician at a much more attractive price point.

And the Valley staple is not the only high-end resort to recognize the importance of attracting residents during these dismal economic times. The Arizona Biltmore — a presence in the Valley since 1929 — also has set its sights on increasing its staycation market.

“We actually started marketing toward the Arizona market even before the downturn,” says Andrew Stegen, general manager of the Arizona Biltmore.

In addition to traditional advertising, the Biltmore has successfully utilized social media and Internet specials as a way of alerting locals about deals and promotions.

“It creates an opportunity for a lot of people to visit our resorts who in other circumstances see it as inaccessible because of price,” Stegen says.

Beginning on May 22, summer rates for the luxurious resort start at $99 a night. In addition to these reduced rates, the Biltmore offers numerous cost-saving options, including all-inclusive golf packages, spa specials and restaurant deals. Stegen is certain that with more exposure, staycations will change the way residents view travel.

“It’s helped us introduce a great luxury product to people who have not thought of us as a vacation destination before,” he asserts.

The Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa also has developed many promotional efforts focusing on staycations. Special deals are e-mailed exclusively to individuals who follow the resort online.

“The value is so great right now,” says Michael Surguine, general manager of the Sanctuary. “(With a staycation) you wind up getting a lot more vacation hours for your buck.”

Another resort offering incentives to residents is the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch. Last year, the resort launched its Shades of Summer program, which offered deals to families, including free meals, Camp Hyatt activities for kids and giveaways. The resort is planning to have similar incentives this summer.

“Our success was really built on adding value,” aknowledges Michael Stephens of the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale. “I will say that the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale has never been this affordable all year round than this year.”

Arizona Amenities

Thanks to the deals now being offered at local hotels and resorts, Arizonans can take advantage of the state’s abundant natural endowments. According to AZOT, exploring the state’s wonders is one of the top activities for resident travelers. Overnight residents were more likely to take part in hiking or backpacking — 15.1 percent versus 11.4 percent for overnight, non-resident tourists. Residents also led the pack in camping and fishing activities.

“Our diversity offers everything from the desert, lush forests, riparian terrain and mountains, to lakes and streams, and some of the most beautiful backdrops in the Southwest,” says Wessellhoff of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce.

Wessellhoff adds that while staycations help Arizonans save money, they also allow residents to experience things they typically take for granted or simply never had time to fully appreciate before.

Heather Ainardi, director of the Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau agrees: “In economic downturns, people often look for more ‘real’ and natural experiences, and Arizona is very well positioned to offer travelers an authentic experience.”

The Future of Staycations

While the economy begins its slow trek back, staycations remain a viable option for local individuals and families looking for a special travel experience at affordable prices.

More importantly, it is this type of local travel that can stimulate the hospitality industry and help it survive the recessionary downturn. From Phoenix residents escaping the summer heat of the Valley for a cooler retreat in Flagstaff or Sedona to Tucsonans heading to the Valley’s golf resorts and restaurants — every destination has something to offer local travelers.

“Regardless of the economic climate, or perhaps because of it, people will want to get away from it all and enjoy some leisure time,” says Richard of Starwood Hotels.

man eating ice cream

First Job: Dan Beem, President of Cold Stone Creamery and Kahala International

Dan Beem
President, Cold Stone Creamery/Kahala International

Describe your very first job and what lessons you learned from it.
My first job was as a bartender at TGI Fridays when I went away to college. It was such a great experience and taught me how to multitask and handle stressful situations calmly. It also helped me develop an intuition on reading people, which is still invaluable today.

Describe your first job in your industry and what you learned from it.
My first management job was running the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Las Vegas. The place was crazy, where a slow day was $28,000 in sales and a busy day was $125,000. It gave me a great foundation for time management, profit and loss, and public relations skills. The team we worked with there was one of the best.

What were your salaries at both of these jobs?

As a bartender I made $2.13 an hour plus tips, and as a manager for Planet Hollywood I made $32,000 per year.

Who is your biggest mentor and what role did they play?

My biggest mentor has been my father. He is an incredible human being who has the strongest work ethic out of anyone I have ever met. He is one of those people that is knowledgeable on so many different things and just loves to teach. I remember in junior high thinking how I did not want to be like him when I grew up, and then waking up one day in my early 20s striving to be more like him everyday. I am so blessed to have him in my life.

What advice would you give to a person just entering your industry?
My advice would be two-fold: First, as you get comfortable start meeting with people in other departments on a regular basis. This will allow you to be able to better understand the different disciplines involved in your business and enable you to talk knowledgeably on a number of different things, which will get noticed. Secondly, I would make sure you volunteer to take on any project you can. You will learn more from leading a project than any other way and will truly become the subject matter expert. This usually transitions to people coming to you for answers and opens up additional opportunities along the way.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing instead?

If I wasn’t doing this now I think I would own a little beach bar in Mexico. Warm weather and beautiful sunsets always sound good.


foreground desert tray with coffee press and cup out of focus in background

Regions Bistro & Bar Highlights Recipes From Around The Country

With a brand new location in Scottsdale, Regions Bistro & Bar is serving American comfort food in style. In fact, it’s serving the type of homestyle cooking that would make Mom proud. Every month, one page in the menu changes to represent food from a different region (get it?) of the United States — from New England to the Pacific Northwest and everything in between.

Part of the menu remains constant, but this twist on cuisine and cocktails keeps things interesting and customers coming back each month. In case you don’t see your favorite region’s culinary dishes, the restaurant takes suggestions for future menus.

The ever-changing menu isn’t the only thing that hooks patrons. I was intrigued by the modern, sophisticated atmosphere from the moment I walked inside. Regions truly has something for everyone. The lounge, complete with a bar and televisions, is a great place for socializing and enjoying the happy hour specials. Meanwhile, intimate dinner seating, along with private dining areas, provide a cozier experience. The restaurant’s impressive happy hour specials with half-price drinks and small plates every day from 3-7 p.m., make it even more appealing.

The cocktails provide tasty enjoyment and amusement with creative names such as the Tree Hugger, the Flirtini and the Face Lift.

After checking out the lounge, our party moved into the dining area and began to examine the menu. It does indeed feature traditional American comfort food, but we could tell it was going to be a step up from what we were used to. For appetizers, we decided to sample steamed Oregon mussels from the regular menu and fried green tomatoes and okra from the monthly regional menu, which featured Mississippi soul food. The mussels, which were steamed in pinot gris, garlic, shallots, butter and cream, were impressive even to those of us who had never tried them before.

Next, of course, were the salads. While the traditional Caesar salad and American chop salad were exquisite, the table favorite was the wilted baby spinach salad, complete with toasted almonds, couscous, feta cheese and, the star of the salad, bacon vinaigrette dressing. It was a unique flavor that gave a tangy punch to the taste buds.

Finally, it was time for the main course. The overwhelming favorite was, not surprisingly, the epitome of comfort food: mac and cheese. But this was no Easy Mac. The pasta was mixed in a creamy sauce and topped with lump crab and more cheese, creating the most grown-up, sophisticated mac and cheese any of us had ever tasted. If crab isn’t your thing, it can also be prepared with shrimp or chicken, and no matter what, it’s sure to be a winner.
A close second for our table was the grilled wild Alaskan king salmon with corn relish and lemon butter sauce. It was perfectly grilled, tender and full of delicious flavor.

Although it was difficult to imagine being able to eat anything else, we knew we couldn’t leave without sampling dessert. After much discussion, we decided on three desserts: fresh fruit creme brulee, New World trifle and the regional dessert of the month, Mississippi mud pie. All three were absolute perfection and we left the restaurant feeling satisfied.

So the next time you’re craving some good old-fashioned comfort food, consider feasting on American comfort food with a twist. No matter how many times you visit Regions Bistro & Bar, there will always be something new to try!

If You Go:
Regions Bistro & Bar
9343 E. Shea Blvd., Suite 100, Scottsdale

Illustration of a box with a leaf coming out of it

Greening The Supply Chain: ASU’s Sustainability Consortium Is Working To Create More Sustainable Products

Almost every company is feeling pressure to report on its sustainability, i.e. the environmental and social impacts due to its operations. As stakeholders look at whether these obligations are being upheld, the emphasis has been on a company-level assessment of performance. Internally, companies audit their environmental management systems according to standards such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14000, a standard for environmental management systems that is applicable to any business worldwide. Externally, corporate watchdog and consumer advocacy groups focus on the behavior of the overall company. Even progressive programs such as the Carbon Disclosure Project emphasize measuring company performance.

While these efforts are a necessary starting point, we will fail to reach our global sustainability goals if we only measure sustainability of a company rather than the sustainability of the products it makes. The Sustainability Consortium, led by Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas, is developing the science and infrastructure needed to support more widespread and standardized reporting of product sustainability, so as to drive a new generation of products and supply chains.

There are several problems with only measuring sustainability of companies and not their products. First, consumers don’t buy companies; they buy products. Products will become greener if demand from retailers and consumers for green products increases, and communicating the sustainability of a product is the most direct way to shift consumer behavior.

Second, an emphasis on the product manufacturer alone tends to obscure the important role that the supply chain and the consumer play in the product’s overall footprint. By focusing on product sustainability, it is possible to take the product’s entire life cycle into consideration, which helps focus innovation efforts. Third, developing tools to measure a product’s sustainability while it is still being designed will help companies make more sustainable design choices up front, before the product is ever produced.

The Sustainability Consortium received initial seed funding from Walmart in July 2009, and has since added more than 40 other manufacturers, suppliers, government agencies and non-governmental agencies (NGOs). The initial emphasis of the Consortium is how product sustainability can be measured and reported to retailers such as Walmart and Best Buy. These same data and systems may be used by other groups outside of the Consortium to derive consumer-facing sustainability information, such as is communicated with many eco-labels today. Because sustainability science is relatively new, much research is needed to determine what data are critical to report regarding product sustainability, and how they might be efficiently reported from business-to-business and business-to-retailer.

The Sustainability Consortium’s current work consists of both sector working groups and Consortium-wide research initiatives. Within the sectors, teams representing multiple stakeholders are developing sustainable measurement and reporting standards for a select number of product categories in order to design a standardized way for such efforts to be scaled to all consumer goods products. Projects have begun in electronics, home and personal care, and food and beverage sectors. For example, in electronics the Consortium is working with Best Buy, Dell, the Environmental Protection Agency, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Toshiba and Walmart to develop measurement standards for computer laptops, desktops and monitors. The team is examining existing standards such as EPEAT and ENERGY STAR, and also looking at recent research concerning a computer’s environmental footprint. The electronics sector team expects to have initial recommendations by this summer.

The Sustainability Consortium also is pursuing a variety of research projects that support work in all of the sectors, such as assessment and scoring, reporting and auditing, and consumer science. For example, researchers in the Consortium are developing a “social hot spot” database that will allow companies to be aware of certain regions of the world where suppliers have historically had a poor track record with things such as worker health and safety, and worker rights. Another research project is examining how industrial buyers use product sustainability information in purchasing decisions.

This work is benefiting the state of Arizona in several ways. First, the Sustainability Consortium has brought in several million dollars in revenue, which in turn has produced a number of new research jobs within the Consortium and has opened up research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students. Second, our high public visibility has brought media attention to ASU and furthered the university’s leadership position in sustainability.  Third, both our students and university operations are benefiting. The Sustainability Consortium sponsored the local competition for the Walmart Better Living 2010 Business Plan Competition, and is happy to be sending a team to the semifinals that is looking at growing agave here in Arizona and processing it into ethanol. We also recently worked with ASU’s purchasing department to develop a “carbon calculator” for ASU’s purchases of goods and services. The calculator will help ASU prioritize for which product categories it should develop more stringent purchasing guidelines.

The Sustainability Consortium will continue to look for ways to “think globally and act locally,” working with a diverse set of stakeholders to provide value and synergy to global sustainability initiatives and developing opportunities for ASU faculty, students and staff to help make consumer products more sustainable.

cubes floating in air creating a map of the world

Global Negotiations: New Executive Certificate Program Coming Online

With globalization accelerating at an exponential rate, acquiring the knowledge and capability to achieve sustainable business success is paramount. It is important for executives to develop their understanding of cross-cultural negotiation tactics, and discover their power position and power approach for successful business.

“Global negotiation courses and cross-cultural communication are the two main focuses for business executives in 2010,” says Erin Wilson, associate director of executive education at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale.

In response to this growing demand, the school created a new online program, the Executive Certificate in Global Negotiations.

“Negotiation is an art,” the school states on its Web site. “All negotiations are delicate operations, and crafting agreements is a challenge no matter who the players are. Stakes are higher and negotiations trickier, however, when the parties involved come from different cultures and customs, it may result in a negotiation session hijacked by misunderstandings or unexpected culture clashes.”

Wilson says the executive certificate is an online program involving three, eight-week courses that may be taken anywhere in the world. Those who participate in the course will be able to interact with other executives via online discussions.

“The courses are designed so that they may be globally offered with no in-person interaction,” she explains.

The executive certificate program was first introduced in February, with additional program dates opening April 5 and June 7
The certificate program is designed for any professional — at various levels of responsibility — who works in a cross-cultural environment, or for those who want to gain more knowledge about working in this type of environment, Wilson says.

Taken together, these courses provide the participant with a comprehensive education in core global negotiation concepts and cross-cultural relations. While each component course may be taken separately for an individual certificate of completion, they must be taken as a three-course track to earn the Executive Certificate in Global Negotiations.

“The three courses that make up the Global Negotiations certificate have different focuses, but together make a comprehensive package,” Wilson explains.

Certificate participants will learn:
Negotiation approaches for global management.
Strategies appropriate for a wide range of negotiation situations.
Techniques for recognizing and leveraging trust in a multicultural context.
Strategies for identifying cultural preferences and gaps in a multicultural negotiation.
Key methods of preparing and planning for negotiation success.
Strategies for working through an impasse or breakdown.
Techniques for identifying and using “hardball” negotiation strategies.

The courses are broken down into:
Cross-Cultural Communications — Participants will learn to identify cultural communication nuances and strategies for achieving an even cross-cultural playing field. Students will gain insight into overcoming cultural communication obstacles through case vignettes, video role-playing and instructional checkpoints.
Course objectives:

  • Examine the definition of culture, cultural expectations and how these impact business relationships.
  • Review a “framework” for analyzing differences and similarities across multiple cultures based on 10 cultural dimensions.
  • Explore the impact of cultural differences on managerial communications and meeting etiquette.

Essentials of Global Negotiation — Students will examine the theory and practice of negotiation among individuals, organizations and groups in the context of globalization and multicultural social interactions. They will discover techniques for reacting to and addressing cultural differences in communication/negotiation style, while learning to adjust their own style to be most effective in the negotiation setting.
Course objectives:

  • Gain an understanding of the nature of global negotiations.
  • Define a basic framework for preparing to negotiate in a global/cross-cultural situation.
  • Learn why strictly following key strategy steps for problem solving is critical in a cross-cultural context.
  • Recognize the role of psychological, cognitive and social dimensions of negotiation.

Managing Conflict with a Global Mindset — Participants will examine the behaviors and conflict management negotiation styles of individuals, organizations and groups in the context of competitive, impasse, breakdown and difficult situations. They will learn to manage communication and conflict by understanding the cultural wants, needs and expectations of others — and adjusting their style and techniques to most effectively confront and overcome conflict.
Course objectives:

  • Explain how the attributes of a “global mindset” affect global negotiation and conflict management.
  • Learn the tools necessary for evaluating and managing conflict and divergent needs in negotiation.
  • Become more sensitive to key psychological factors, emotional issues and behaviors that can be destructive to problem-solving negotiation.
  • Enhance your awareness of the costs, privacy, flexibility and efficiency of alternative dispute resolution and problem-solving mechanisms and techniques.
  • Increase your knowledge of “breakthrough” strategies.

Program participants work independently, Wilson says, but there are three forums that will require class discussion.

“The facilitator will post a topic, which will then require input from the class or the online discussion board where participants are required to interact and respond to one another,” she says. “As this is the first time that Thunderbird will be running the class in this particular format on our own, we are not entirely sure what the class makeup will be. My estimation is that the majority of participants will be currently located within the U.S., though many will be executives that work abroad on a regular basis.”

For more information on the Thunderbird School of Global Management’s Executive Certificate in Global Negotiations, visit www.thunderbird.edu. Allie Bell contributed to this report.

View of a California beach

Summertime Cool: For Temporary Relief From The Arizona Heat, Check Out These Neighboring Attractions

Summertime is fast approaching, and that means it’s time to plan a summer escape. Luckily, you don’t have to go far: the Southwest is full of fun, exciting destinations no matter what your vacation style. From the beaches of Southern California to the mountains of Colorado, there’s something for everyone right here in our own backyard.

Southern California
San Diego: As if San Diego’s 70 miles of coastline and reliably sunny weather weren’t enough, the city is also home to many museums, a world-renowned zoo, theme parks, famous golf courses and a lively theater scene, as well as great food, shopping and nightlife in the historic downtown quarter.

Los Angeles: The question in Los Angeles is never what to do, but where to begin. Your choices include amusement parks, architectural landmarks, art museums and galleries, beaches, parks, hiking and shopping — just to name a few. A region of great diversity, you’ll discover a world of culinary adventures. After the sun goes down, you’ll find there’s an abundance of nightlife options, including live music and comedy provided by performers both legendary and yet-to-be-discovered.

Santa Monica: Drop a line at Santa Monica Pier. Sure you’ll find rides and restaurants, but the pier is a great place for fishing, with bait and tackle available. Experience it and you’ll understand why it continues to be a location favored by still photographers and film crews who use the pier extensively as a backdrop for magazine layouts, movies, television shows, commercials and videos.

Northern California
San Francisco: San Francisco is considered one of the greatest cities in the world for many things, including five-star dining and a happening theater scene. Beyond the 50-square-mile city in the surrounding Bay Area, there’s much more to explore — including Silicon Valley’s innovations, Marin’s Headlands, the Napa Valley’s vineyards and Berkeley’s free spirit.

San Jose: You don’t really know San Jose until you explore some of its unforgettable attractions; from its earliest adobes to a mysterious mansion, and innovative museums. Nearby small towns make for rewarding day trips from Campbell and Mountain View to Los Gatos and Saratoga. San Jose is a gateway to some of the most amazing sights in California, from wine country to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Spend a day or a week and begin to unlock the area’s secrets.
CALIFORNIA SOURCE: The California Travel & Tourism Commission, www.visitcalifornia.com

Las Vegas: This is a city that needs no introduction. With its top-of-the-line resorts, shopping, dining, exciting entertainment and nightlife, Las Vegas has earned its place as one of the world’s premier tourist destinations. Nevada’s largest city has long outgrown its adult playground moniker, and is no longer just a gambling mecca.
SOURCE: Nevada Commission on Tourism, www.visitlasvegas.com

Salt Lake City: Utah’s capital and gateway to the state’s renowned ski resorts, scenic national parks and recreational areas. Salt Lake is a well-known ski destination, having hosted the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Skiers continue to flock here to enjoy world-class facilities and the “greatest snow on earth.” The historic Mormon Temple Square is a popular tourist attraction, and the city also offers lively entertainment and nightlife.
SOURCE: Utah Travel Industry Website, www.visitsaltlake.com

Provo: Just an hour south of Salt Lake City on Interstate 15, there is a section of the state called Utah Valley. The area is home to Provo, Utah’s second largest city. To the west of Provo lies Utah Lake, and to the east of the city stands a towering range of mountains called the Wasatch Front.
SOURCE: Utah Travel Industry Website, www.utah.com

Denver: Urban sophistication meets outdoor adventure in the Mile High City. With 300 days of sunshine, a walkable downtown, thriving art and cultural scenes — with the Rockies as a backdrop — Denver offers affordable exploration of the world’s most spectacular playground.
SOURCE: Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.denver.org

New Mexico
Albuquerque: The true Southwest lives in New Mexico. Immerse yourself in rich culture and heritage, rooted in centuries of history. Soak in blue skies and sun that shines 310 days a year — perfect for outdoor activities. Breathe in the high desert air scented with sage and piñon, and you’ll understand why the area is a destination like no other.
SOURCE: Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.itsatrip.org

Leigh Anne Zinsmeister contributed to this report.

retail space avaialble sign in a window of a building

Arizona’s Local And Regional Banks Are Facing More Distressed RE Loans

The recent New West Era of Arizona’s fast-growth economy from 2004 through 2007 is now expansion-cycle history. Having faced the Great Recession and what Alan Greenspan called a “once-in-a-century credit tsunami,” we now plan to resume positive economic growth in 2010.

Since late 2008, Arizona has lost more than 200,000 jobs. Commercial real estate (CRE) loan delinquencies are programmed to accelerate, with some distressed loan exposures exceeding 200 percent of total equity for smaller financial institutions. Given the scale of pending defaults, key decision-maker questions revolve around ideas such as “Who is too big to fail?” and “Who will benefit and who will pay in loan restructuring?”

Since rents and property values rapidly declined last year, banks’ loan delinquencies have been widely reported. Borrower defaults are increasing due to the inability to make timely debt service payments on existing notes. Rent concessions abound, and some recent short-term leases have been negotiated as break-even deals that just cover operating expenses, a preferred choice over the cost of holding vacant space. Many existing tenants are attempting to renegotiate contract rents as record high vacancy rates are underreported, especially in cases where leases are intact but the tenant is in default. The credit freeze has taken a toll on loan refinancing, especially when funding loans of more than $1 million with lower loan-to-value constraints. Costar Analytics recently reported commercial property price declines from 15 percent to 35 percent since 2007 peaks.

Negative commercial space absorption has given back the early gains of a few years ago, as new construction deliveries wind down and building permit activity is off dramatically in Arizona. Commercial space demand is driven by jobs, and employment is expected to be weak through the middle of this year. Positive business growth and a boost in hiring are essential for large-scale investment in the built environment. Considering employment as a lagging economic indicator and consumer spending as a prime driver in economic activity, commercial real estate vacancy rates are problematic.

Since March 2009, Bloomberg reported a five-fold increase in Phoenix-area loan delinquencies backed by office, industrial, retail and apartments. Recently, Deutsche Bank projected price declines from 35 percent to 45 percent as necessary to maintain return-on-investment requirements in a declining rent environment. Over the next 24-plus months, delinquency rates are expected to exceed the results posted in the savings-and-loan bailout days of the early 1990s.

Non-performance is two-fold: initially as term default risk where debt repayment cannot be met, and later as maturity default risk where the loan cannot be repaid or refinanced due to value declines and higher borrower down-payment requirements. Perhaps two-thirds of loans do not qualify to refinance at maturity, mostly recent (2004-2007) originations.

The fall 2009 Greater Phoenix Real Estate Consensus Forecast, a quarterly consensus on general economic indicators and key construction measures from economists, real estate analysts and executives, shows only “marginally better” commercial real estate market results expected through 2011. With office vacancy so high, it is likely there will be no new office building construction for the next five years. Retail sales are tied to rooftops. While housing markets are expected to improve through 2011, improvement in single-family residential activity is expected to be slow by historic standards. Industrial demand will be end-user driven and also likely to be slower than historical trends.

Economist Elliott D. Pollack, CEO of Elliott D. Pollack and Company in Scottsdale and co-editor of the Greater Phoenix Blue Chip Economic Forecast, states, “Now is the time for banks to raise capital in order for them to workout their loans.”

He says many banks believe the best way to handle the loan workout is to deal with the current borrowers. The difference between now and the 1989-1992 real estate crisis is bank regulators are not currently forcing banks to immediately liquidate loans. Given the events of late 2008, regulators are reluctant to force financial institution closures and seem to be more willing to let institutions work out their problem loans. The idea is to rebuild confidence in America’s financial system.

In positive terms, the Mortgage Bankers Association forecast calls for Real Gross Domestic Product growth in 2010, the first GDP gain in two years. Clearly, widespread hope exists for a rebound in local commercial real estate prices. In the near term, investors are closely monitoring federal government bank policies that privatize profits, nationalize losses and buffer the banks against failure.

Fundamentally, real estate market performance will follow the time pattern when Arizona’s primary economic activity rebounds with measurable employment gains. Without recognizable fundamentals focused at the property level, end-user demand is missing, and commercial real estate performance is likely to remain speculative through 2011 and beyond.

Illustration of people walking around talking on cell phones

Demand Is Challenging The Wireless Communications Market

The growth of the wireless communications industry over the last decade has been explosive. In 2009 alone, approximately 1 billion mobile phones were sold worldwide — more than 13 million of which were iPhones. Last year, Research in Motion (RIM), the name behind the wildly popular BlackBerry smartphone, reported that in just 10 years it has sold more than 50 million phones to some 21 million customers worldwide.

Many of us now enjoy the advanced wireless services that such devices have introduced to the marketplace; everything from Web browsing to live video streaming is now at our fingertips. As the numbers suggest, the proliferation of smartphone applications and the overwhelming demand for increasingly efficient and convenient wireless communications has created business opportunities far and wide for phone manufacturers and wireless network operators.

Still, the rush to advancing the wireless market hasn’t come without setbacks. Most notably is a U.S. communications network that was originally built, designed and managed for technology far different — and consuming — than today’s smartphones require.

Spectrum, the invisible frequencies on which wireless communications operate, is much like real estate; there is only so much and there are certain areas where value is much more acute and in-demand. As consumers and businesses continue their love affair with smartphones, and the increasing market for all things wireless continues, there comes a tipping-point where more demand exists than supply allows. Simply, our wireless spectrums are insufficient for all of the demand. Even large telecom companies — Sprint, Verizon and AT&T — which once boasted an ample supply of airwaves, are now struggling to find enough spectrum to keep up with consumer demand.

Today’s mass-market mobile devices consume thousands of megabytes each month. At a recent national gathering of wireless communications professionals, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski warned that the growing need for spectrum is one of the FCC’s top concerns.

“What happens when every mobile user has an iPhone, a Palm Pre, a BlackBerry Tour, or whatever the next device is?” he asked. “What happens when we quadruple the number of subscribers with mobile broadband on their laptops or netbooks? The short answer: We will need a lot more spectrum.”

The FCC has gone on record indicating that the “biggest threat” to the future of mobile communications in the U.S. is the looming spectrum crisis. This crisis boils down to consumers using far more bandwidth than originally planned. In fact, experts note that as the U.S. finally moves toward adopting a 4G network, spectrum availability will be of utmost importance. Fixing the spectrum gap is clearly a top priority for the FCC.

It is at this intersection that some have identified great opportunity. Undoubtedly, the wireless revolution will continue into the next decade, and the process of staking ground on the spectrum is going to be more and more vital to the industry’s success.

For example, early this year, the FCC will be awarding a considerable number of high-value spectrum licenses to be vacated by Sprint. This spectrum is presently comprised of both contiguous and noncontiguous channels, and usable for a wide range of services including cellular voice, broadband and multimedia uses. According to the FCC, these licenses will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The first applicants for these licenses will be positioned to sell or lease their channels to a major wireless operating company or contribute them to a joint venture or partnership.

There are few entities suited to developing clear and reliable spectrum solutions — either for private investors or large wireless companies — yet the crisis is significant and merits much attention. What I imagine we will see in the very near future is a nation full of users hooked on their “CrackBerrys” and in love with their iPhones who will soon experience the price impact of too little supply and not enough demand. And those who own the airwaves will be king.

steve randazzo projected on a home theater screen

Steve Randazzo, Owner Of Randazzo’s Home Systems, Is A Self-Described ‘Gadget Guy’

Steve Randazzo
Randazzo’s Home Systems
Title: Owner
Est: 2005
| www.randazzoshomesystems.com

“I love music and sound systems, I love movies, TV and presenting those formats for overall enjoyment.” – Steve Randazzo, Randazzo’s Home Systems

Steve Randazzo describes himself as a “gadget guy.” His love of music, movies and television has been the foundation of his business, Randazzo’s Home Systems, since its inception.

As the owner and sole employee, Randazzo provides both residential and commercial clients with technology “from a simple TV and surround sound receiver setup to full-blown, large-screen home theaters to complete home automation,” he says. He provides all of the design, customer service and installation himself, and uses qualified sub-contractors when necessary.

Randazzo began the company in 2005 after careers in mechanical design, manufacture engineering and product marketing. After working for a company that went out of business, “the opportunity just presented itself to take all of the experience and the best things from those companies and create my own,” he states.

Randazzo considers the biggest challenge of running his own business to be “finding time to do what you love,” while still managing the business aspects of leading the company. Selling, managing, marketing and accounting are critical to the success of an enterprise — he realizes that balancing all this is a common hurdle with any small business.

The highlight of his hard work is seeing customers’ satisfaction at the end of a project, and their referrals to friends and family. Many customers even call him back to expand on the original project.

“Truly the greatest accomplishment is the ongoing business that comes from referrals and the satisfaction of the existing clients who want to expand on what we’ve done already,” he notes.

Randazzo hopes these referrals, and continued excellent service to existing clients, will help expand the business in the future — especially after the recession.

“We certainly didn’t break any records in 2009, but we maintained positive relationships with existing clients and we sought out new marketing and business opportunities through referral services,” he acknowledges.

Randazzo relies on honesty, reliability and efficiency to make those relationships work. He also believes that his location has been advantageous in keeping the company afloat.

“Arizona is great,” he asserts. “Year round sunshine and outdoor activity makes a TV on the patio a staple for an avid sports fan.”

But mostly, he adds, the company is successful because he enjoys it, and suggests other budding entrepreneurs do what they love.

“Find something you are passionate about,” he suggests. “Provide those services to people and back it up with continual customer service.”

ron butler in a white shirt with a red tie

CEO Series: Ron Butler

Ron Butler
Arizona Managing Partner
Ernst & Young

What were some of the challenges the professional services industry encountered during the recession and what are the challenges during this recovery period?
Some of the early challenges we had, just like all companies, were reacting to change. And it wasn’t change that was gradual, it was change that so abrupt that you had to take a step back, evaluate the business that you had in front of you, figure out how you were going to respond to market conditions. For us, it was how do we respond to our clients’ needs. Our clients were faced with various forms of adversity, whether it was financing or working capital, cost cutting of their own. How did they contain those costs, what did they do?

For us, we had to find ways to go to market, talk to them about their issues, but be nimble enough and ahead of the curve because they wanted us to be there. It was an opportunity for us to find new and innovative ways to address these opportunities in adversity without any playbook, without a precedent set before. It wasn’t something we could look back five or 10 years ago and say, this is what we do in times like this. For us it was act quickly, respond to our clients’ needs and do it with quality.

What trends do you see in the professional services industry as a result of our changed economy?
As far as trends, having the ability to look to new opportunities within our clients. They have IT costs, optimization, capital management, supply chain (those) are things they are going to focus on. Those are the trends that we are going to have to focus on. It’s not just audit and tax, but it’s also other opportunities that they are going to need today. Audits and tax are required, but the things they need to address in their business aren’t those areas. It’s the things that affect their daily operations. So that’s where we need to focus our attention.

Assess the current differences between the U.S. and global markets in terms of strategic growth.

I think there are more similarities between the U.S. and global today. We in the United States have been serving a marketplace that had been growing tremendously, always looking for opportunities to expand globally. Well, when you take a look at it from the outside in, those opportunities are continuing to grow. How do we in the United States garner some of that share? How do we expand and innovate ourselves so we can take advantage of the billions of people who reside outside of this country. When you think about the companies that have an inflection point that goes from a smaller, mid-market company to a large Fortune 1,000 company, it’s the ability to make that transition from that size company to a global player. And you have to think globally. Ernst and Young is globally diversified. We have the ability to be nimble to each of those geographies around the world and bring service offerings to our clients. Our companies and our clients desire that. They want that. So when you talk about those differences, I see more similarities because you have those global companies that want to come to the United States. They are looking for opportunities outside of their market area because they believe growth is in those geographies. The world is a much smaller place to do business than it once was. It’s one where you ultimately have to spend your time thinking about the global play sheet, not just the domestic one.

How would you assess the climate for such transactions as M&As, project finance, private capital and restructuring?
I took this role over in June of ’08. So, September of ’08 the world changed. All of those activities … came to a screeching halt. Nothing was happening and nothing happened for a period of nine months. People sat back, were paralyzed by the change. Where was the new normal going to land before they moved anything forward? As I look out from this point forward, talking to our clients and companies here in our city, things are happening, things are progressing. Financing is starting to free up. Working capital on their balance sheet is more attractive than ever to utilize to go out and innovate and grow. So we’re starting to see more activity currently in our own local economy. Globally you’re starting to see the IPO markets loosening up. The returns aren’t what they hoped they would be, but people are going to the markets and the markets are opening up to allow them some capital to do things and to grow and to innovate.

I think the earlier stage companies that are venture capital backed will continue to see a little bit slower growth because there are so many other opportunities in the marketplace that are of great value, that money is going to go in that direction first. Private equity is the same. You’ll see longer-term plays, private equity looking for operations that are cash flow positive.

What can companies do in order to position themselves during this recovery in terms of finance, customer service and supply chain management?
Companies need to stay aggressive. They need to continue to look to the marketplace for opportunity. Where to put that money is going to be a long decision process requiring all of senior management to spend time thinking about those opportunities. Stay connected to your customers; stay connected to your clients. Depending on what industry you’re in, it’s going to require more face time, it’s going to require time on planes and in meetings and in cars, making sure you are addressing the needs of your clients and your customers. At the same time, mind the balance sheet. Make sure you continue to be disciplined. Many companies spent the last 18 months acquiring new discipline; what that new normal is, whether it’s cost containment measures, acquisition of products and supplies. Stay disciplined with those things. Times will improve. Things will start to grow again, and as long as you can continue to maintain that same discipline and get back to bare bones business and the blocking and tackling of fundamentals, when times (improve) you’ll be able to take advantage of those.

What skills do C-level executives need in order to succeed in the professional services industry during these tough times?
Patience, No. 1. Have the patience to respond to change. Too many times we react too quickly. There’s a difference between reacting and responding. If you react quickly, you’re going to swing the pendulum — you may swing it past the point of no return. The professional service industry as a whole needs to take a step back, respond to change. It doesn’t mean you’re not quick with it. But you respond with a well-thought out approach and strategy. If you can have that patience to do that, you’ll come through a downturn like this one stronger, better and more qualified and capable to succeed in the next one. This was unprecedented.

    Vital Stats

  • Joined Ernst & Young in Tucson in 1995
  • Moved to the Phoenix office in 2000
  • Appointed Arizona managing partner in June 2008
  • Received bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Arizona
  • Member of the Arizona Society of Certified Public Accountants, the American Institute of Public Accountants, Greater Phoenix Leadership and Financial Executives International.
  • Board member with ChildHelp International and Make-a-Wish Foundation
  • www.ey.com