Tag Archives: December 2009


Oh-So-Good Organic: Calistro Offers Healthy Food That Packs A Tasty Punch

Although we all know organic food is good for us, sometimes it’s hard to accept this healthy alternative to our bad-for-you favorites. Well, Calistro has broken the cycle by offering healthy, organic and, best of all, great-tasting meals.

All the products in the restaurant’s fresh Mediterranean-inspired fare are sourced through local and regional organic and sustainable farms in Arizona and the Western United States. In addition, Calistro is taking its dedication to sustainability a step further by being a member of the Green Restaurant Association and doing its part in promoting green business practices to help the environment.

The restaurant’s decor is both modern and warm. An oversize wine rack sits at the center of the dining room floor, adding stylish touches to the inviting and elegant layout. The heart of the open kitchen is the wood-burning oven, and together these elements set the stage for a laid-back environment that’s perfect for a relaxed meal.

My dining companions and I began the evening with my personal favorite — hummus. Comprised of a delicate balance of lemon, cumin, tahini, tomato and sumac the hummus was served with warm, freshly baked flatbread. The dish had just the right consistency, taste and texture that I would expect from a great hummus, with the added bonus of being organic.

We rounded out our choice of appetizers with crab cakes and lamb meatballs. All the dishes we chose were tasty, but the fresh crab meat, made with panko, seasonal tomato salad and avocado mousse took the cake, so to speak, as everyone’s favorite.

Next, we sampled the salads. The calistro caprese salad, made with organic heirloom tomatoes (from Arizona farms), mozzarella (made in house), pickled shallots and topped off with an herb pesto vinaigrette made an impression on the table. But it was the Caesar salad, a mixture of romaine (organic, of course), tapenade croutons, fresh lemon and a light Caesar dressing that really had us singing its praises. The lettuce was crisp and fresh and the soy-based dressing had just enough kick.

Though we’d already had quite a few items from the menu, we were ready for the entrées. The organic meal was satisfying to our taste buds and the freshness of the products was savored in every bite. Each entrée had something to offer and gave us a glimpse into the appetizing possibilities of organic cooking.

The chicken was very well received, with sweet and crispy prosciutto enveloping the all-natural chicken breast. The chicken’s delicious balance of flavors was topped with caramelized fruit, pommes puree and Madeira jus. But it was the Doc Crosby short ribs that took the prize as the table favorite. The impossibly tender, red-wine braised ribs, complemented by pommes puree, seasonal organic vegetables and horseradish breadcrumbs, simply melted in your mouth.

Always a sucker for dessert, we rounded out the meal with dairy-free rice pudding, butterscotch crème brulee and, my personal favorite, the chocolate soufflé cake. Each dessert was heavenly and since it was organic, sampled all three guilt-free.

The cuisine at Calistro is a testament to what all food should be — fresh, healthy and tasty. The ingredients truly do “speak for themselves” and serve as the basis for Chef Devin Walsh’s belief that what tastes good can also be good for you.

If You Go:
18221 N Pima Road, Scottsdale
(480) 502-0325

Lending Thaw

Small Businesses Are Still Waiting For Bank Lending To Thaw

We are still feeling the effects of the recession that started in fall 2007. When small business owners read financial literature, listen to pundits on television or radio, or visit with their local bankers, they still encounter conflicting information regarding the near- and long-term prospects of both the Arizona and United States economies.

Small business lending
The most common form of bank loan for small businesses is a so-called working capital loan, collateralized by accounts receivables. One issue that’s uppermost in the minds of small business owners is whether banks are still making these working capital loans. The answer is yes, but specifically to new customers. Remember, banks do not make money unless they lend money. However, in times of economic uncertainty, banks want to be prudent and avoid any potential future losses, specifically after 2007 and 2008. Banks cannot afford to lose the principal of a loan.

For example, if a banker is asked to write a $200,000 loan at a 7 percent interest rate with a three-year term, then the banker will receive approximately $22,000 in interest payments (profit) and the return of principal. If the loan goes bad, the banker not only loses the $22,000 of potential profit, but more significantly, also the $200,000 in principal. Bankers will tell you they have to be right 999 times out of 1,000 in their underwriting efforts to stay in business.

Insurance companies, mortgage companies and banks all have underwriters to evaluate risk. In most cases, the banks also employ economists to evaluate the local and national economies and set standards for the acceptance of loan proposals. In other words, it may not be your branch manager telling the borrower “no.” The loan officer’s hands may be tied by the corporate economist who does not think the recession is over, believes things will remain difficult and sees that the probability for future bankruptcies still exists — therefore, no lending activity.

The major fly in the ointment is, pure and simple, jobs. Jobs, employment and unemployment numbers tell the story. In October 2008, one year into the recession, unemployment in Arizona was at 6.2 percent. By October 2009, unemployment in Arizona was up to 9.1 percent. Two years ago, October 2007, unemployment in Arizona was just 3.9 percent.

So, if the underwriter here at your local bank, acting on guidance or instructions from the bank headquarters, says “no” to a loan application, that decision may be based on the feeling that the local economy is not improving, that there may be future layoffs, etc. Therefore, the probability that your loan may not be repaid is high, so no loan.

Local and regional banks
So, do small businesses have a better chance of obtaining a loan or a line of credit from local or regional banks than they do from the national behemoths? Small, local banks do have more freedom in underwriting and risk analysis than the larger national banks. This is true. Smaller banks also will syndicate loans with larger banks, with the local bank being the lead lender. However, while the federal government guarantees Small Business Administration loans, the loan itself still must go through the risk analysis process in order to be approved. The risk analysis still is based on changing national and local economic indicators. These indicators have been improving for six months, but very slowly and at small increments.

That said, what are the arguments for the borrowers? The federal funds rate set by the Federal Reserve was recently at .25 percent, practically an all-time low. The source of capital to banks, the Federal Reserve and corresponding Federal Reserve banks, is essentially free to the banks. Currently, the banks are sitting on $823 billion of reserve capital available for lending. This is compared to $2.4 billion a year ago. As a point of reference, the March federal stimulus bill was $790 billion. The banks have more capital than the total dollar amount of the stimulus bill.

Banks are sitting on that $823 billion because they say charge-offs — bad loans and debts — are at a point not seen since the Great Depression. The banks cite $116 billion in charge-offs year-to-date, or a 2.9 percent charge-off rate that increased to 3.4 percent in the third quarter of 2009. Banks cannot endure charge-offs. Charge-offs have put more than 100 banks out of business this year. Therefore, banks are sitting on their reserve capital in anticipation of more costly charge-offs. However, bottom line, the banks do have the capital to lend.

Banks do not make any money sitting on $800 billion. To make money, they must lend money. Eventually, and sooner rather than later, the banks have to start lending again. But the $64 or $64 billion questions are: Is this turnaround self-sustaining? Will it continue in 2010? Will the turnaround in the economy create a sufficient number of jobs to sustain the economic growth in 2010?

Until banks loosen their grip, small businesses do have options in obtaining money to keep their businesses not just going, but also growing.

Small business can look to leasing alternatives and trade credit from suppliers to replace the financing they would normally receive from banks. Flooring (inventory) financing, commercial credit from companies such CIT, factoring of invoices, trade, or vendor credit from suppliers all can be sources of alternative financing for small businesses.

Businesses also have reduced the levels of required financing by laying off employees, reducing salaries, cutting fixed costs, reducing profit margins — anything and everything possible to stay in business until the economic cycle turns positive.

Let’s hope the federal government’s stimulus bill and the excess in bank capital will prove sufficient to generate economic growth going forward, and open up the traditional institutional financing necessary for small business development and growth. It is time that small business owners catch a break.

George Olander, Ph.D., is a finance lecturer at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University

Water Consumption

Valley Forward’s Water Efficiency Leaders Program Showcases Water Management Efforts

In this unique desert environment, water is our lifeline to sustainability and growth. The Valley’s secure water future is the result of more than 100 years of visionary planning. It’s clear, however, that while our region leads the Southwest in managing water supplies, we need to do a better job of communicating our efforts.

Valley Forward’s Water Efficiency Leaders program is designed to showcase how business and industry are demonstrating innovation in managing water resources.

Holsum Bakery in Tolleson was named the environmental public interest organization’s inaugural Water Efficiency Leader, and earned the title for integrating more sustainable processes into its entire operation.

In addition to bestowing top honors on Holsum Bakery, Valley Forward has recognized Intel Corporation and CityCenter of CityNorth for exceeding water efficiency standards.

“These companies are integrating sustainability into their corporate culture and have included water conservation and efficiency in their overall operations,” says Gregg Capps, chair of Valley Forward’s water committee, which initiated the program. “By spotlighting their efforts, we’re encouraging other businesses to review their processes to improve environmental quality, while at the same time positively impacting their bottom line.”

Holsum’s team has converted its water-intensive sanitation practices to processes using much less water. Irrigation of desert landscaping has been optimized, reducing water usage by 57 percent in the summer months and saving an estimated 155,000 gallons of water annually. Waterless urinals are now in place, saving 40,000 gallons annually, and basket washer controls have been modified to ensure minimal water usage.

Other water efficient practices include:

  • Setting goals each year for the bakery to reduce water usage per pound of production and in absolute gallons.
  • Installing secondary water meters to monitor usage at key process points, such as ingredient water, cooling towers and swamp coolers.
  • Increasing the use of brooms and brushes in the place of water hoses to clean equipment and work areas.

Next year, Holsum plans to install a system to capture runoff water from cooling towers and swamp coolers to replace incoming water used for landscape irrigation.

These measures are making a difference. Through July of this year, Holsum’s improvement in usage rate has saved the equivalent of 613,997 gallons of water over 2008, despite an increase in bread production of 4.1 percent.

Intel’s Ocotillo campus has developed innovative water conservation approaches that offset up to 75 percent of fresh water usage in the manufacturing process. Its key water management strategies include aquifer recharge, reuse of wastewater and internal water recycling.

CityCenter is the 76 acre, mixed-use portion of CityNorth development of Desert Ridge. Its state-of-the-art water capture and management system is designed and constructed to reclaim approximately four-million gallons of water per year.

Diane Brossart is president of Valley Forward. For more information on Valley Forward’s Water Efficiency Leaders visit www.valleyforward.org

Teen Sustainability 2010

The Future Of Sustainability Is In The Hands Of Today’s Teens

I’ve lived half my life and never heard the word cotillion. So when I went to my first cotillion event this fall, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about what to expect. And I was blown away by the experience.

The Phoenix Cotillion was formed more than 50 years ago to give young men and women the opportunity to learn philanthropy, to be exposed to the fundamentals of etiquette and to become better acquainted with their peers by attending annual social events. This focus remains today, but membership is open only to young women of high school age throughout the Valley, and nearly 500 of them are currently members.

Another mission of The Phoenix Cotillion is to support a charitable organization at each event. Valley Forward Association, the 40-year-old, business-based environmental public interest group that I’ve managed for nearly two decades, was the charity of choice for the recent Mother-Daughter Fashion Show.

So, I found myself on the rooftop of the Wyndham Phoenix Hotel one Sunday night amid hundreds of gorgeous girls and their moms, all dressed to the nines. They lined up to give me cash and checks to support Valley Forward’s mission of environmental stewardship. They also clearly demonstrated the theme of their event, “Teens Looking Good and Going Green.” A few young men were invited to escort the models during the fashion show and stood out among the mostly female crowd.

In celebrating Valley Forward’s milestone anniversary this year, our leadership is looking ahead at what the next 40 years might look like as we continue to advocate for more livable and sustainable communities.

It occurred to me as I looked at these bright young faces with eyes full of promise — each of them brimming with poise and confidence — that they hold the future in their delicate and capable hands. And for that I’m grateful and somewhat relieved, because these incredible young people already are doing so much to give back to the communities in which they live. They belong to environmental clubs in their schools. They volunteer to help clean up neighborhoods, plant trees and support green projects around the Valley and state.

Valley Forward’s historic agenda has embraced such issues as land use and open-space planning, desert preservation, transportation and air quality, water management, and most recently, energy.

While these issues remain prevalent, our burgeoning Valley cities struggle with ways to grow smarter and in harmony with the pristine, natural desert environment that is unique to Arizona.

As the green movement now sweeping the nation, and indeed the world, touches all business and industry sectors, the quest for a more sustainable future appears within reach. Maybe one day, it won’t be a movement — it will be the lifestyle of choice.

Today’s youth are certainly making it that way. And the next 40 years really belongs to them.

Diane Brossart is president of Valley Forward Association, which brings business and civic leaders together to convene thoughtful public dialogue on regional issues, and to improve the livability and sustainability of Valley communities, www.valleyforward.org

Author Says Parents Should Unplug Their Kids From Electronics And Plug Them Into Nature

Getting kids back in touch with nature is critical to raising healthy children, according to author and journalist Richard Louv. His most recent book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” focuses on the relationship between children and nature. Louv links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s electronically hooked generation to rises in childhood obesity, attention disorders and depression.

Louv will be the keynote speaker at Valley Forward’s 40th annual luncheon on Dec. 12, at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Louv is also chairman of the Children & Nature Network, an organization fostering an international movement to connect children with nature. He says direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.

Louv says it’s ironic that the largest increase in child obesity occurred in the past 20 years as organized sports for children expanded.

“It’s not necessarily more activity going to more soccer practices,” he says. “As kids, we got moving as soon as we got home from school. We ran outside. Some started baseball games, others ran into the woods and worked on a tree house or dug a hole for a fort. That activity is different than a couple of soccer practices a week, followed by soft drinks and snacks from parents.”

Part of the problem is a paucity of parks, play areas and even roof gardens in city and suburban neighborhoods.

“All research points in the same direction, that children with attention deficit disorder do much better with a little bit of contact with nature,” Louv says.

But Louv is careful “to not demonize electronics,” joking that he conducted this interview while talking on his iPhone. While it’s true that youngsters are plugged into some kind of device an average of 44 hours a week — a factor in childhood maladies — it would be a mistake to focus too much on electronics and perhaps miss a deeper discussion. He mentions urban design.

“We tell kids to walk, but where are they going to walk?” Louv says. “Communities give us manicured lawns, and then have covenant restrictions that prevent kids from playing. Another issue is the over-structuring of childhood. Parents feel they have to fill every spare minute of their kids’ lives to get them into Harvard. You want your kids to get into Harvard? Tell them to go outside. Kids learn better when they’re outside.”

Going for walks, however, presents another problem.

“Parents are scared to death to let their kids go for a walk,” Louv says. “It’s the stranger-danger thing.”

Louv says child abductions by strangers are rare and the rate has been dropping for the past 20 years. He recommends nature clubs, where several families go on a hike together.

“It’s a practical way to deal with fear,” he says.

Other suggestions for healing the broken bond between children and nature include:

  • Maintain a birdbath.
  • Replace part of your lawn with native plants.
  • Collect lightning bugs at dusk and release them at dawn.
  • Make a leaf collection.
  • Keep a terrarium or aquarium.
  • Encourage kids to go camping in the backyard.
  • Give kids a daily “green hour” for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world.
  • Take a hike or organize a neighborhood stroller group that meets for weekly nature walks.
  • Encourage kids to build a tree house, fort or hut.
  • Plant a garden.


If You Go
Valley Forward’s 40th Annual Luncheon
11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Dec. 12
Phoenix Convention Center
Information: (602) 240-2408 or info@valleyforward.org

From Eyesore To Eye-Pleasing, Rio Salado Has Changed Dramatically Over The Years

Once an ugly swath of usually dry land that often served as a dumping ground, Rio Salado today offers the best of both worlds — economic development opportunities and a riparian haven for environmentalists.

Options for education and entertainment round out the dream planners had 40 years ago for the Salt River as it winds through Tempe and Phoenix. Tempe Town Lake, a two-mile stretch of sky-blue water that anchors the eastern section of Rio Salado, marks its 10th anniversary on Dec. 12. Meanwhile, in Phoenix the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, an 8,000-square-foot education facility, opened in October.

Ask Steve Nielsen, who was Tempe’s Rio Salado project manager for more than 13 years, if it has reached its potential, and he replies without hesitation: “Absolutely.”

But he concedes: “With current economic conditions, development around the lake hasn’t progressed as quickly as we had envisioned. At the same time, Rio Salado was the least valuable property in all of Tempe, and now it is the most valuable.”

Nielsen, currently assistant vice president of university real estate development at Arizona State University, says the primary objectives of Rio Salado were flood control, economic sustainability for Tempe and environmental enhancement.

“From that perspective, we achieved every one of those,” he says.

What’s more, Tempe established wildlife habitat areas upstream and downstream from the lake. In Phoenix, at 3131 S. Central Ave. on the south bank of the Salt River, sits the National Audubon Society’s first education center in Arizona. Sam Campana, vice president and executive director of Audubon Arizona, calls the learning facility a centerpiece for Phoenix’s Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project.

“Birds are the main attraction, but children also learn science, geology and history here,” Campana says.

The five-mile stretch of Rio Salado in Phoenix also features more than 20 miles of hiking and biking trails. Yet, with all that Rio Salado offers, and with 35 schools within five miles of the center, there is a sense that this inner-city paradise is underutilized.

Rio Salado Beyond the Banks is an advisory committee to the city of Phoenix that has a vision of maximizing the long-term educational, recreational and economic benefits of the river to the community. But George Young, an active member of the committee, says, “It’s a very slow work in progress, frustrating at times. The city has budget problems, and that’s kind of thrown a wrench into a lot of our ambitions, especially as far as the promotion of Rio Salado goes.”

Chris Parks, Rio Salado Habitat supervisor for the city of Phoenix, says plans call for restoring the river bottom from 26th Street to 19th Avenue, with trails, equestrian paths and restaurants along the way. Eventually, the city hopes to establish a sense of connectivity with Tempe Town Lake for the public, as well as animals and birds.

Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman says development around Tempe Town Lake stalled around 1999 and 2000, but picked up in 2004 after services provided by the city’s development department were streamlined to help developers and local residents avoid costly delays. Today, virtually all development around the lake occurred since 2004, and that includes 18 months of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Tempe Town Lake, along with projects on Mill Avenue and Apache Boulevard, offers developers various paths to success, Hallman says. Tempe, he adds, is well positioned for economic recovery.

“The lake is part of that picture,” he says.

SunCor Development Company, which is developing the Hayden Ferry Lakeside project at Tempe Town Lake, occupies 40,000 square feet in one of the towers. Thus far, SunCor has erected six structures with more than 1 million square feet — two office towers, a loft office building, two condo high rises with a total of 150 units, and a garage. The overall urban infill project encompasses 43 acres from bridge to bridge on Mill Avenue to Rural Road. Nine more towers, more commercial than residential, are planned and will add 4 million square feet of space to the project. Steve Betts, president and CEO of SunCor, says it will take seven to 10 years to complete the project.

“We always thought Hayden Ferry Lakeside was a multicycle project, with ebbs and flows through several up and down cycles,” Betts says.

He expects the project to be one of the first to come back when the economy improves.

“It is literally the geographic center of the Valley surrounded by three freeways, it’s on the light rail, it’s five minutes from the airport,” Betts says, “and you have the only urban lake at your doorstep.”

Light Bulb - Power Center

Local Groups Are Working To Protect The Link Between Water And Energy

It’s a given that oil and water don’t mix, but Arizona’s two key resources — water and energy — are inextricably linked.

Experts from the public and private sectors are exploring the water-energy nexus, how the two resources are connected and what needs to be done so Arizona continues to have a sufficient supply of both.

To highlight the importance of water sustainability, Gov. Jan Brewer formed a blue-ribbon panel in August to focus on increased conservation and recycling. She directed Herb Guenther, head of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Ben Grumbles to work with Arizona Corporation Commission Chairwoman Kris Mayes on a plan. Among the issues being considered is the need to recognize the nexus of water and energy. Grumbles says the missing ingredient in water conservation is energy.

“A deeper understanding of the water-energy nexus is the key to saving more water, energy and money,” he says. “Energy efficiency not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions and ratepayer costs, it also reduces the demand for water. By cutting water consumption and waste upstream, we save energy and money downstream, avoiding big costs for pumping, treating and distributing the community’s lifeblood.”

Michelle De Blasi, a partner with Quarles & Brady and chairperson of the Valley Forward energy committee, cites a connection between energy and water, noting that all forms of solar technology use water to a varying degree. Some rely on super-heated steam and cooling towers, while others need an adequate supply of water to keep solar panels clean.

“A lot of people don’t realize that,” she says. She calls the solar-versus-water conundrum “the green paradox.”

A recent trend, De Blasi says, is the conversion of farms to solar properties. Agricultural property is water intensive, so shifting to solar, which uses a lot less water, is generally well received by the public.

“Farming properties offer tracts of flat land, which are ideal for large solar panels, and they have great water rights,” De Blasi says. “And if they’re near transmission lines, that’s even better. You’re getting a net benefit. They’re offsetting that water use and replacing it with energy-producing carbon neutral technology, in most cases.”

According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, irrigated agriculture uses about 73 percent of Arizona’s available water supply, down from a high of 90 percent some years ago. The reduction is the result of urbanization of agricultural lands and investment by the irrigated agriculture industry in conservation measures.

Steve Olson, executive director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, a nonprofit corporation established by municipalities in Maricopa County for the development of urban water resources policy, emphasizes the need for conservation as the demands for energy and water continue to grow.

“We recognize that the era of cheap water is over,” he says. “We need to look at more expensive water supplies further from demand, we have to fully utilize effluent, and we have to store water when it’s available.”

Another issue that brings energy and water together, he says, is climate change.

“If we go to a hotter climate, we can expect more variable water supplies,” Olson says. “There is a direct relationship between drought and energy consumption.”

Salt River Project is the epitome of a water-energy nexus organization, providing both resources to Arizona residents and businesses. Karen Collins, SRP water sustainability analyst and incoming chair of the Valley Forward water committee, is involved in a study to determine how much of the state’s energy usage is related to treat and supply water. A California analysis put the figure for that state at 19 percent.

SRP wants the public to know how much energy is linked to water and how the right choice of plumbing fixtures and appliances saves both water and energy.

“People have to understand that these two resources are linked so closely, as we move forward and have increased needs for both,” Collins says. “Anything we do on the water-saving side is going to help conserve energy.”

Grumbles of ADEQ says Arizonans and the agencies that serve them must connect the dots between water conservation and re-use with environmental and economic sustainability.

“Now, more than ever,” he says, “we must work together to connect the drops and the watts so the water-energy nexus gets the attention it deserves and the water-sustainability movement gets the boost it needs.”

Lawrence Olde

Lawrence Odle, Air Quality Director For Maricopa County

Lawrence Odle
Air Quality Director, Maricopa County

Lawrence Odle’s initial field of study — wildlife toxicology specializing in rattlesnakes — would have kept him busy in Arizona. Yet, that’s not the career he chose.

Odle, the air quality director for Maricopa County, says he was a “starving senior” at the University of California at Riverside when he was hired on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to set up air monitoring stations throughout California.

“That’s how I got into the field, and I just never got out,” Odle says. “I went into the enforcement arena in air quality and applied what I had learned in my environmental studies.”

During the past 30-plus years, he has been active in environmental regulation, including air monitoring, permitting, research, planning, compliance, legislative, legal and administrative in California, Oregon and Hawaii. He also has a law degree, and is a certified mediator and former registered asbestos consultant.

In one year with the California Air Resources Board, Odle says he learned more about environmental quality than he could have imagined.

“It was a highly educational time of my life,” he says. “I was exposed to a lot of administrative issues, as well as field work. It was the most concentrated experience one can get. It was an education you can’t buy.”

Eventually, Odle became interested in public policy issues and served two terms as president of the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association.

Odle, who joined Valley Forward in 2003 and now sits on its board of directors, began keeping an eye on Maricopa County air quality in October 2008.

“Mostly my heart is in the public policy development area,” he says. “I enjoy identifying what is in the best public interest in regulating environmental air quality. Sometimes there are spirited discussions. There are so many fables and facts that are mixed around air quality issues.

“I admit I’m somebody who worried for years about what kind of world we would be leaving our children,” Odle says. “I went to a Valley Forward awards program and that’s when I saw a sense of responsibility and accomplishment from the business community stepping forward and creating green programs.”


The New Year Brings New Federal Security And Privacy Rules To The Health Care Industry

The economic stimulus bill passed this year included a number of important modifications to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), which was enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, modified HIPAA’s Privacy Rule and Security Rule. One significant modification is a completely new requirement that individuals, and in some cases the media and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), must be notified when an individual’s unsecured protected health information is breached.

Protected Health Information, or PHI, is individually identifiable health information in any form that is created or received by a “covered entity” such as a health plan, a health care clearinghouse or a health care provider who engages in certain electronic transactions. PHI relates to the past, present or future physical or mental health or condition of an individual, the provision of health care to an individual, or payment for that care.

The new breach notification requirements apply only to “unsecured” PHI. HITECH provides that PHI is secure and not subject to the breach notification rules if the data is encrypted according to specific standards of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) or destroyed and unable to be read or reconstructed.

Before HITECH, HIPAA did not require a covered entity to notify an individual about a breach of PHI, although some covered entities did so voluntarily. HITECH removes any discretion a covered entity once had with respect to notification about a breach of unsecured PHI. The HITECH breach notification requirements became effective Sept. 23, but enforcement is delayed until Feb. 22, 2010, to enable compliance.

When a breach occurs
HITECH requires that when a breach of unsecured PHI is discovered, the covered entity must notify every individual whose unsecured PHI has been, or is reasonably believed to have been affected. A breach is the acquisition, access, use or disclosure of PHI in a manner that violates HIPAA and that compromises the security or privacy of the PHI.

A breach will occur if four requirements are met:

  • The information is used or disclosed in a manner not authorized under HIPAA.
  • The information is unsecure.
  • The use or disclosure poses a significant risk of financial, reputational or other harm to the individual.
  • The use or disclosure does not meet the requirements of a specific exception.

Risk assessment
If an unauthorized use or disclosure of unsecured PHI occurs, a covered entity (or business associate) must engage in a risk assessment to determine if notification of the breach is required.

The risk assessment will include reviewing the facts surrounding the incident and the nature of the data involved. The covered entity (or business associate) will analyze whether the data was accessible and usable and the likelihood that the breach will actually harm the individual. As part of the assessment, the ability to mitigate harm also might be considered. The HIPAA compliance effort of a covered entity will now include the adoption of policies and procedures for conducting and documenting a risk assessment upon uses or disclosures that compromise the security or privacy of PHI.

There are three specific exceptions to the HITECH breach notification requirements:

  • Unintentional access by a covered entity or business associate’s work force that is in good faith, within the employee’s general employment functions and does not result in further use or disclosure.
  • Inadvertent disclosure from one covered entity or business associate employee to another similarly situated employee.
  • Situations in which the recipient is not able to retain the information.

Individual notice
When a reportable breach of unsecured PHI occurs, the individual whose PHI is affected must be notified within 60 days after the information is, or is reasonably believed to have been, breached. A breach is considered discovered on the first day it is known to a member of a covered entity’s work force (other than the one committing the breach) or should have been known if the covered entity exercised reasonable due diligence. A covered entity’s HIPAA compliance effort will now have to include policies and procedures for detecting and identifying breaches.

Written notice must be given to the individual at the last known address describing what occurred, including the date of the breach and date of discovery. The types of PHI involved must be identified, and steps the individual should take to protect himself from harm must be included. The notice must provide contact information and describe what the covered entity is doing to investigate the breach, mitigate harm and prevent future breaches.

Large breach-media notice/HHS notice
If a breach of PHI involves 500 or more residents of a state, the covered entity must notify prominent media outlets in that state. If the breach involves 500 or more people (regardless of the state), HHS must be notified. HHS will maintain a Web site listing details of large breaches.

Small breach-HHS notice
For breaches affecting fewer than 500 individuals, a covered entity must maintain a log documenting the breach. The breach must be sent to HHS within 60 days of the end of each calendar year.

HITECH requires covered entities and business associates to take careful look at unauthorized uses and disclosures of PHI. Implementing policies and procedures now, before a breach occurs, is essential for addressing future problems.

Now’s The Time For Business To Streamline And Maximize Cash

Now’s The Time For Business To Streamline And Maximize Cash

How do strategic growth-oriented organizations find and exploit the opportunities inherent in any downturn? Recently, Ernst & Young surveyed 3,100 entrepreneurs around the world to discover the actions entrepreneur-led companies are taking to remain on course during the current economic times. Contrary to what you may think, the survey found that today’s economic environment has opened up space in local and global markets.

Strong business leaders are adapting to the difficulties in sourcing finance and maintaining liquidity, and understanding the pressures on their people, customers and suppliers. Change for everyone seems inevitable, and already some businesses are emerging as leaders in accelerating that change. What do market leaders need to do to be successful?

Despite the changes in the economic environment, net cash flow determines management’s focus. The dominant trend in the past six months has been an acceleration of management’s efforts to improve business performance. They are right to do so regardless of economic scenarios:

  • If the recession continues — or even worsens — then cash and access to credit will continue to be constrained and conditions will remain extremely difficult. The focus on relative performance will intensify.
  • If the rebound is already in sight — if there really are signs of “green shoots” — management needs to be prepared to act quickly. Typically, a rebound arrives with speed, giving management little time to respond.

Three elements are critical to an organization’s ability to react to future opportunities: an efficient operating model that maximizes your company’s strategic advantages, cost reductions that do not damage the organization’s strategy or customer’s experience, and a focus on cash forecasting.

A robust cash-forecasting process can create a “cash culture.” Improving cash awareness through internal procedures and policies drives an increase in accountability and responsibility. In addition, successful companies acknowledge financial concerns before they become a burden and make swift decisions when they need to be made.

Expand your customer base
A majority of entrepreneurs surveyed — 67 percent — are pursuing new market opportunities. But growth is only possible when companies have the required resources, and for now, this means cash. A strong liquidity position provides the basis for a wider array of financial choices to have available when business conditions improve, whether that means broadening a customer base, attracting and retaining people, acquiring strategic businesses or assets, or driving operational performance.

At the same time, entrepreneurs understand that some customers will probably fall away during tough times, and they reinforce procedures to manage these reductions or failures. When expanding your customer base, keep these three things in mind:

  • Understand whether your products or services are necessities or luxuries. Position yourself to help your clients through leaner times.
  • Focus on neglected or overlooked markets while building customer loyalty.
  • Manage your customers’ perceptions of your business.

Review tax position to uncover cash
Tax is between the third and the fifth largest expense for most companies, but only 23 percent of entrepreneurs surveyed review their tax strategies to reduce expenses and uncover cash. Government deficits and revenue needs are affecting global tax policy around the world. The recent fiscal stimulus package includes significant tax measures — in fact, tax measures comprise a larger share of the overall packages compared to spending measures, including:

  • Accelerated depreciation programs.
  • Carryforward and carryback provisions for net operating losses.
  • Adjustments to corporate income tax rates.
  • Enhancements to research and development tax credits.
  • Indirect tax changes.

While some opportunities are likely to arise from this, there are also many potential threats and a general tightening of enforcement and compliance efforts by tax authorities.

Focus on core skills
In being forced to reflect on the health of their businesses, entrepreneurs may initiate a transformation of their business model so it becomes significantly better adapted to tomorrow’s environment. They do this by identifying their core competencies and focusing on what they do best. Ancillary functions not aligned with key strategic goals can be considered as potential outsourcing targets, while divestment may be appropriate for service lines that are not aligned with the core business.

The survey of entrepreneurs suggests that, generally, there has been a pulling back of plans to outsource or to use shared service centers. Internal audit, tax and legal services and knowledge management are key exceptions where lack of in-house skills may force the decision. Companies may be reluctant to transfer responsibilities to a third party in today’s environment, preferring to retain control in-house. However, outsourcing may well provide the increased flexibility and cost reductions that business leaders are looking for. A credible case can be made for outsourcing non-core roles in order to safeguard the core, laying the foundations for a durable, flexible business model that will position an organization more strongly in a post-crisis environment of increased competition and tighter cost control.

Reshape your business
To broaden their customer base or enter new markets, many entrepreneurs see a marked increase in potential mergers and acquisitions at reduced prices. Their recipe: cautious raising of capital mixed with a renewed focus on having the right balance sheet and business model to capture acquisition opportunities. Their advice: Divest unprofitable units while seeking and investing in opportunities from the crisis.

These are times when new market leaders rise to the top. The economy is not a zero-sum game where one side must always lose to let the other win. Only if the majority of businesses improve will the economy turn around.

The views of the entrepreneurs surveyed reaffirm these messages and make one major addition — the need to act more quickly. Regardless of whether recovery is just around the corner or the clutches of recession risk are getting tighter, there is no time to delay improving your business. Accelerating the change is the only option.

man standing in front of a shelf with a basketball on it

CEO Series: Brian Mueller

Brian Mueller
Chief Executive Officer and Director, Grand Canyon University

Assess the current state of private universities.
I think if you look at the top tier, the Ivy League schools, and those just below them, those people have such strong brands and such huge endowments that they are OK, and they can make it through an economic downturn without a whole lot of difficulty. … If you look at the next tier below that, I think they’re fine because their brands are good, their levels of awareness are good and the endowments allow them to keep the business of private education going. Where there is really a problem is the smaller, private universities that have great histories, that have great academic programs, that provide a great service to students, but they do not have large endowments. The economy is really hurting those kinds of institutions, which is why we’re in a good place now. We have sources of revenue other than those traditional students that come to our campus. Those sources of revenue make it possible for us to keep tuition very affordable for traditional students.

What are some of the most recent challenges that GCU has faced in the past few years, including last year’s initial public offering?
Five years ago, Grand Canyon was near bankruptcy. It was within days of going bankrupt. It was one of those private universities with a full liberal arts program that had been in existence, at that point, for 55 years, and had done a wonderful job of producing teachers and nurses, especially, but it didn’t have a large endowment. Coming in, trying to build an online program using the Grand Canyon brand for working adults was a really smart move made by the initial owners, Brent and Chris Richardson. It was a smart move, but it’s not easy to do. It’s a lot more difficult to do than people think.

They did absolutely struggle for the first three years or so, but they got the enrollment up to 15,000, it became profitable, which allowed us the opportunity to go public. That’s when they called me. They said, ‘Since you have some public company experience, would you come over and be the CEO?’

When I came over and took a look at what existed here, I thought it was a rare and unique opportunity because what you have here is Arizona’s only traditional, private university in a destination city, in a destination state, with a wonderful campus, a good brand, a long history. To build an online program on top of that is just something that doesn’t exist out there today. There is no well-branded private university that also has an extension of that mission to working adults all over the country and all over the world in an online format. There isn’t one of those, so I thought this was a wonderful opportunity, and as it turns out, I’ve been here for a year and the opportunity is even better than what I first thought.

What do you believe GCU’s role is in this current economy?
I think we have a number of very, very important roles. One, we offer working adults in the state of Arizona and all over the country a chance to do an academic program, completing a bachelor’s degree, completing a master’s degree or a doctoral degree, in an online format while they work. As we look at ourselves from that vantage point, positioned against the other players in the space, we are probably the low-cost provider … A second role that we play is that we are able to make, because of the profitability of the online students who are at the very low end from a tuition standpoint, we’re able to make the traditional college experience for traditional students in a private university very, very affordable. We just announced that we are freezing our tuition levels through the next two years, and our tuition is already way under what most private universities are. We’re lowering our room-and-board by 20 percent and we are eliminating almost all fees. We are making it possible for middle-class American families or even lower-class middle-American families to come to a private university and experience that private university setting for four years to complete their degrees and for a rate that is very close to what they would spend at a state university.

It’s a significant contribution that private universities make, because the students that they educate aren’t at all a burden to the taxpayer. There is no taxpayer subsidy that goes into supporting our students. That helps when there is a declining tax base, a declining revenue base, which is very, very important and necessary to support students who attend a state university or community college. So that’s a significant contribution to the economy. Another contribution is the fact that we are one of the fastest-growing employers in Arizona today. We’re in the West Valley, we’ve got 1,300 employees and almost 2,000 faculty members, many of them adjunct or part-time faculty members, but we are growing the employment base in Arizona. We’re one of the few companies that are in that fortunate position of being able to add hundreds of jobs on an annual basis.

We’re also going on a major building campaign here. We’re building a new dormitory that will be ready in September 2010 that will have 600 beds. We’re building a 55-thousand-square-foot events center, which will be ready next September; we’re building a new classroom facility that should be ready in September or October of next year; and we’re building an events center that will seat 5,000 people for our men’s and women’s basketball programs and for concerts. That building campaign is going to put a lot of people to work, as well.

What are skills a C-level executive needs in the private university business?
I think all of the C-level skill requirements that would be in any other industry are really important. You have to be able to think strategically about the business and set the vision for the company and make sure that it is communicated and understood and everyone knows how they are plugged into that.

Secondly, you’ve got to break down silos and you have to make sure people work together, are all on the same page and are all pulling in the same direction. There’s so much power in that and it’s not an easy thing to do. … A publicly traded company is a tricky thing, so you’ve got to run the company, but you also have to make sure you’re keeping an eye out on the target, which is to make sure that your investors get a reasonable return. So you also have to balance running the company with making sure that you are spending time with the investors, making sure that they understand your strategy, that they are comfortable with the moves you’re making, how you’re investing capital so that they feel confident that the return they are expecting they are going to get.

… With all that said, I think the people who run these kinds of companies the best are those that have a strong amount of experience in higher education. They have to be educators and people who understand education and how education works and what they think the future of education is going to be. At the end of the day, the value we are creating is around the value that is created for the students who come, learn and graduate.

    Vital Stats

  • Named CEO of Grand Canyon University in 2008
  • From 1987 to 2008 was employed by Apollo Group
  • From 1983 to 1987 was a professor at Concordia University
  • Received his Master of Arts in education degree and Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Concordia University
  • www.gcu.edu
Nonprofits struggling to provide services for those in need

The Charitable Challenge

The construction industry has faced more difficulties than any other in this recession. The industry lost 45,800 jobs year-over-year in September, the most of any sector in Arizona. Despite that grim number, many construction companies still are trying to give back to the community in any way they can. Hunt Construction is one of them.

When the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the poor, needed new vehicles to help with day-to-day operations, Hunt didn’t hesitate. The company essentially donated vehicles to the nonprofit by selling it two trucks for a mere $2.

“The construction industry, like so many industries in Arizona today, is facing a number of challenges. Having said that, I am just amazed at how generous they have been to us,” says Steve Zabilski, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. “The vehicles are pickup trucks that are in great shape and we use them almost daily in our various operations”

Hunt wasn’t the only one to step up to the philanthropy plate and help the charity during these difficult economic times. Another contractor, Gilbane Building Company, made St. Vincent de Paul a beneficiary of its golf tournament this past year, resulting in a $10,000 gift.

This generosity is just one example of companies’ ongoing commitment to philanthropic efforts despite a recession that has left the world reeling from its impact.

Recession reductions
The Arizona Alliance of Nonprofits conducted a survey of member nonprofit organizations in February 2009 about the effects of the economy from the beginning of 2008. The survey also included projections for 2009. The results found that “one-half of nonprofits reported that their revenues declined in 2008, and two-thirds said they expect revenues to be down further in 2009.” This equates to about 75 percent of nonprofits working with reduced budgets this year.

“The largest decrease in donations was from foundations, which decreased an average of 26 percent. That was followed by corporate donations, which declined an average 24 percent,” says Patrick McWhortor, president of the Arizona Alliance of Nonprofits. Individual contributions decreased approximately 14 percent.

Elaine Fogel, communications chair of the Arizona chapter of fundraising professionals, echoes these sentiments.

“I think that based on both anecdotal (evidence) and statistics, we are definitely seeing a downturn in charitable giving across the board. Locally, regionally, nationally, absolutely,” Fogel says.

According to the survey, on average, revenues decreased 19 percent in 2008, and nonprofits expect that number to decrease another 18 percent this year.

Organizations such as the Sojourner Center that receive funding from the government also have seen revenues shrink.

“Our losses really came from receiving a severe cut in our government contracts,” says Connie Phillips, executive director of the Sojourner Center, which helps families in crisis. “I anticipate in the state of Arizona we will continue to see funding from the government decrease. … If we lose even more of our government funding and have to pick even more from the philanthropic community, how do we retool?”

The Piper Notebook, a magazine published three times a year by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust states: “If life as a nonprofit has always been difficult in Arizona, the economic recession has further strained capacity. Nonprofits face lower revenues as government shrinks, fund endowments decline and individual contributions dip.”

Increased needs
With fewer resources but an amplified need for services, nonprofits are forced to make do with less. The recession has caused an increase in demand for a variety of services, with vital basic needs such as food and shelter high on the list.

“More than 80 percent of organizations saw demand for services grow in 2008 and 2009,” McWhortor says. “Of course, this issue is most concentrated with nonprofits who serve our most vulnerable populations — workers who have lost their jobs, homeowners facing foreclosure, homeless families and youth, people who are hungry. These issues will become more urgent in the coming months as further reductions in state funding for programs undercut the ability of nonprofits to serve the elderly, disabled and economically stressed populations.”

Merl Waschler, president and CEO of Valley of the Sun United Way (VSUW), says thousands of individuals and families are turning to VSUW and the nonprofit network for assistance. The organization’s partner agencies also are citing an increased demand in several areas, particularly food and shelter.
The nonprofits face a wrenching conundrum: Demand is higher than ever due to the poor economy, but since the economy is bad, philanthropic organizations can’t get additional funding to meet their goals and provide the community with the services it requires.

Philanthropic struggles
Just as different industries were affected by the recession in various ways, so too were philanthropic organizations. While basic-needs organizations struggle to keep up, arts organizations face their own set of challenges during this exceptionally tough year.

“We were hit as aggressively as anyone. A lot of what you see at the foundation level and/or the corporate level, some of the emergency social service needs are kind of the priority, and rightfully so,” says Seth Sulka, director of development at the Valley Youth Theatre.

Sulka says the Valley Youth Theatre saw significant drops in both ticket sales and contributions and stresses that it’s important to remember about all types of nonprofits.

“We can’t forget about the arts and expect every organization to have the resiliency to weather such a storm,” she says.

As a private nonprofit contracted by the city of Scottsdale to administer city arts and cultural projects, the Scottsdale Cultural Council also was hit by the realities of the recession. The council encompasses the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and the Scottsdale Public Art Program. It saw an approximate 22 percent year-over-year decrease of contributed revenue (from individuals, corporations and foundations).

“Like almost every arts organization, we experienced a loss of contributed and earned revenue as a result of the recession, which also happened to coincide with the renovation of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Because our main theater was closed for more than a year, we had already planned to operate on a reduced budget,” says William H. Banchs, president and CEO of the Scottsdale Cultural Council.

The center continues to move forward and is implementing necessary changes to weather the economic storm.

“Throughout the season, we tightened our belts and focused on our mission and programming,” he says. “We made very personal, one-on-one efforts to engage our donors, as well.”

Photos from left to right:
Intel employees serve as e-Mentors to students at Scales Technology Academy in Tempe. They help youngsters build computer and communication skills. Photo Intel Corp.

NASCAR legend Richard Petty auctioned off one of his cars for charity at last year’s Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction in Scottsdale. Photo: Barrett-Jackson Auction Company.

Valley Forward 2010

Valley Forward: Tracy Williams

Tracy Williams
Area Manager
Altrade Supplies

Is there a better way to become interested and involved in environmentally friendly issues than with the Girl Scouts?

That’s what opened Tracy Williams’ eyes to recycling and the need to protect our environment. It started when she was a Girl Scout and continues today with six of her daughters, who also are scouts.

Williams is area manager for Altrade Supplies, a Milpitas, Calif.-based distributor of a variety of biodegradable products. Its motto is, “Leading the way to a Green Earth.”

“I’ve been a Girl Scout all of my life,” Williams says. “And six of my eight daughters are scouts. One of the things we do is recycle. We’re serious about Girl Scouting and recycling.”

She’s also serious about the products Altrade Supplies sells, such as biodegradable food service products, including cutlery and eating utensils; biodegradable cleaning agents; industrial safety supplies, including personal equipment to protect an individual in case of a fall, spill-control equipment and traffic safety equipment.

“Finding out about products made out of sustainable materials has really been interesting, such as the biodegradable food service products that I sell,” Williams says. “I was intrigued by that; that’s what really interested me in what sustainability was all about.”

About a year ago, George Brooks, an environmental scientist and the company’s sustainability director, introduced her to Valley Forward.

“We call him our green guru,” she says. “I was all excited to learn about this big green movement that was going on and what my place was in it. Valley Forward is an environmental organization that has been around for about 40 years, has a voice in the community, great knowledge, and has a handle on the sustainability movement.”

She joined to learn more about green efforts.

“Valley Forward is a great program and a great group of people,” Williams says. “People mingle with each other like family. It has enabled me to get out into the world and talk about my products.”

Williams became active in several Valley Forward committees, hoping to match her skills with what Valley Forward offers. She joined the membership committee because she enjoys meeting people, and she served on another panel involved in arranging events and luncheons.

Environmentally friendly products boost Arizona’s quality of life, Williams says, “by lessening our carbon footprint overall.” Her goal for Arizona is the three “R’s”: “Recycle, reuse and reduce.”

Barbara Lockwood, APS

Valley Forward: Barbara Lockwood

Barbara Lockwood
Director of Renewable Energy
Arizona Public Service

Barbara Lockwood is a chemical engineer who doesn’t consider herself an environmentalist at heart, yet there she is — director of renewable energy for Arizona Public Service.

“It’s not something that’s innate in me,” Lockwood says about the environment. “I got into it from a business perspective. What makes sense to me is that we as a global economy are all tied together on one planet. What truly makes the world go around is our businesses and our connections. Accordingly, to sustain that and be viable long term we must do everything we can to protect and sustain the Earth. I truly believe our businesses run our society.”

At APS since 1999, Lockwood is responsible for renewable energy programs, including generation planning, customer programs and policy. Lockwood began her career in the chemical industry at E.I. DuPont de Nemours in various engineering and management roles on the East Coast. Later she moved into consulting and managed diverse projects for national clients throughout the country.

Lockwood, who joined Valley Forward in 1970 and now is a member of the executive committee, holds a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from Clemson University and a master of science in environmental engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“I’m a chemical engineer and I stepped into the environment right out of college,” Lockwood says. “It was a hazardous waste treatment operation.”

Although much has changed since Lockwood launched her professional journey, “renewable energy was a natural progression of my career.”

All sources of renewable energy, including solar, wind and biomass, should remain part of Arizona’s energy portfolio, she says. Lockwood mentions a biomass operation near Snowflake that generates electricity primarily by burning woody waste material from nearby national forests.

Lockwood calls Arizona “the best solar resource in the world,” and expects greater use of that renewable energy in the years ahead.

“We’re definitely working on that,” she says. “Solar is the resource of choice in the sunny Southwest.”

The main benefit of renewable energy is what you don’t see.

“It reduces polluting emissions because it is a clean source of fuel, and it offers a stable price,” Lockwood says. “What’s more, it can create jobs in Arizona.”

Lockwood touts APS’ Green Choice Programs as a way to improve the environment. Green Choice involves such things as converting to compact fluorescent light bulbs, renewable energy resources such as solar and wind, and high-efficiency air conditioning.

She also touts APS.

“The company is committed to renewable energy, and I came here because of that reputation,” Lockwood says.


Valley Forward: Lynn Paige

Lynn Paige

When Lynn Paige, CEO of PerfectPower in Phoenix, first joined the company six years ago she lacked a background in solar energy. But it didn’t take her long to see the light.

She was brought in to grow the company, which designs and installs solar energy systems, focusing primarily on Arizona.

“I quickly fell in love with the solar industry,” Paige says. “It’s been a six-year crash course.”

Paige, who has been a member of Valley Forward since 2005, brought an accounting degree, an MBA and some 30 years of business experience to PerfectPower. She established solid management systems, hired a professional sales team, facilitated an alliance with a professional training group and instituted strict guidelines for working with commercial and residential clients.

Although Arizona is the sunshine capital of the country, it’s also one of the nation’s heat capitals, which presents a bit of challenge for solar, as well as other energy industries.

“Heat de-rates a solar system, which means it produces less electricity than the same system would in, for example, Kansas City,” Paige says. “Our big goal at PerfectPower is to figure out a way to design a system around that heat factor that will produce more kilowatt hours than it would otherwise. We’ll be using the sun to do that.”

Yet another challenge is convincing consumers that solar energy is cost effective.

“People do not believe that solar is less expensive than producing electricity through nuclear or coal plants,” Paige says. “It pays for itself in a short time with federal and utility incentives and tax credits. There’s really no excuse today for anyone not to be using solar.”

For a commercial customer, solar would pay for itself in 18 months. For residential, depending on the size and type of system, the break-even point is three to seven years, Paige says.

“If you’re not using solar, at the end of seven years you’re still paying the utility company,” she says. “With solar, at the end of seven years you could have all of your energy for free. It’s a no-brainer. I’ve had solar at my home for three years and I have no energy bills. I can’t tell you how liberating that is. It’s kind of heady to be your own little power plant. It’s really a neat thing.”

What’s more, solar improves Arizona’s quality of life.

“It’s cleaner and it produces a steady line of electricity — no sporadic spikes,” Paige says.

Valley Forward: Colin Tetreault

Colin Tetreault
Master of Arts Student
Arizona State University, School of Sustainability

As a student at the Arizona State University School of Sustainability, Colin Tetreault is exploring ways for the business community to play a greater role in enhancing the global environment.

It’s a natural blend of interests for Tetreault, who is pursuing a master’s degree in sustainability and has a bachelor of science degree in marketing from the ASU W.P. Carey School of Business, as well as a minor in sociology. He has a diverse business background and skill set tempered in marketing, business development and philanthropy. His goal is to integrate his business acumen and cutting-edge knowledge of sustainability.

When ASU President Michael Crow said, “Sustainability is a way to grow and prosper while reducing the stress on the planet,” and asserted that sustainability would be a hallmark at ASU, Tetreault says, “I knew this was absolutely something that I not only wanted to pursue, but I felt compelled.”

Tetreault’s background led him to the field of sustainability.

“I grew up hiking and climbing and having an appreciation of the outdoors,” he says, “but my parents are both business individuals. My mother was a professor of marketing and my father was a business executive. I loved being outside, but I also loved what business can do. Business can accelerate change and can act as an advocate for it.”

Some individuals may view business as being unfriendly to the environment, and with some justification, Tetreault says.
“Admittedly, in certain instances they may be right, but now business has done more than ever for the environment and can act as an advocate for the world,” he says. “It marries two areas that I love — a synthesis of business and the entire global perspective of sustainability, which is not just hugging trees and savings animals.”

Sustainability will provide a “meaningful, productive and just way of life,” Tetreault says, adding that it is vital to save the trees and have clean air so humans can live on this planet.

“Sustainability is paramount to that, to help achieve economic viability and a robust society,” he says. “Everything is connected. Our actions have a direct impact on us now and in the future and on everything around us. I feel this is my calling.”

Tetreault, who joined Valley Forward this year, hails the organization for its role in preserving the environment and for being “not only an aggregator of information, but also an advocate for positive change.”

“Valley Forward embodies those type of ideals,” he says.