Tag Archives: economy

An End in Sight

Hit Harder Than The Rest Of The Nation, The Valley’s Economy Is Starting To Show Faint Signs Of Recovery

Don’t dust off that party hat just yet, but there are early signs that the worst recession in the Valley’s history is easing its stranglehold on the economy. To be sure, as fall approaches and the recession’s two-year mark looms in December, Phoenix residents and businesses still struggle with plenty of economic problems. But economists and business leaders see hopeful signs.

Conventional wisdom says the housing market will pull the Valley out of the recession, after having led it down that path in the first place. Lee McPheters, economics professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, sees that milestone unfolding right now. The Greater Phoenix Blue Chip Real Estate Consensus Panel estimates 8,260 single-family housing permits will be issued this year, McPheters says. That’s down dramatically from the 57,360 issued in 2004, but McPheters says the forecast also calls for 12,600 permits in 2010, establishing 2009 as the bottom for that economic indicator.

New-home sales may have hit their low point the first half of this year and sales of existing homes, or re-sales, are bouncing back, according to McPheters.

“We are on track here to have easily over 75,000 re-sales for 2009, and it could be closer to 100,000 because there’s lots of inventory out there,” McPheters says. “At least half of that is bank-owned foreclosures but, nonetheless, re-sales are quite robust.”

There were 110,000 re-sales in 2005 during the Valley’s housing boom.

“New permits and sales of new homes seem to have bottomed out and re-sales have been going up,” McPheters says. “Those seem to be pretty strong trends, but still at a low level.”

What McPheters is saying is that good news in the housing sector alone does not constitute an overall recovery.
“There is nothing in the makeup of the Phoenix economy at all that would provide the stimulus for any independent recovery,” McPheters says.

Metropolitan Phoenix is still plagued by continuing job losses, declining personal income, decimated retail sales, declining home prices, home foreclosures, weak commercial real estate construction and more. The shrinking labor force likely won’t bottom out until the second half of next year after recording a historic three-year stretch of job losses — 2008, 2009 and 2010.

“By the time all the job losses have been recorded, Phoenix will have several hundred thousand fewer workers, and it probably will be 2011 before there is any kind of vigorous recovery in retail sales,” McPheters says.

In the meantime, 96 percent of the economists in the national Blue Chip Economic Indicators newsletter expect the national recession will end in the fourth quarter of this year. McPheters sees the national downturn drawing to a close with a modest turnaround and he thinks Phoenix will follow suit.

“Nationally, at the end of 2009, we will stop talking contraction and start talking about indicators that are more positive,” McPheters says. “Then there will be a period of slow growth. Phoenix probably will follow that, but remember that we have been harder hit than the rest of the country.”

Still, there is more to the Valley’s economy than statistics. Local business leaders are encouraged by what they see.

“From my perspective, we have seen a dramatic increase in headquarters activity,” says Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

Businesses primarily from the Northwest and California and, to some extent, Boston and New York, are either researching the Valley or making definitive plans to move their headquarters here, he says. Broome expects 10 to 15 headquarters to relocate to Arizona over the next 18 months and Phoenix will land some of them.

Broome also sees “new, sophisticated capital” moving into the Phoenix market. Investors are deploying the money now and plans are being written up for commercial real estate and science and technology projects, he says. Existing companies poised for growth are attracting capital infusions, Broome adds.

“This is not the cheap Las Vegas capital coming into the Valley where they buy it, zone it and flip it,” Broome says. “Now we’re seeing private equity firms that have 50 to 100 years of reputation in the U.S. and the world that didn’t get burned in this downturn. They are coming out of the Northeast markets, which we have not seen before.”

Bruce Coomer, executive director of the Arizona Association for Economic Development, is amazed at how busy city and county economic development departments are in the Valley and around the state.

“I don’t think there are any in Metro Phoenix cities that are not extremely busy,” Coomer says. “They are telling me that they are having trouble keeping up with the work.”

Although cities are likely conducting outreach programs, Coomer believes staffers are scrambling mainly because companies are approaching them.

Economic developers, Coomer says, “have got some big deals in the wings. That tells me companies, site selectors and developers know that sooner or later the recovery is going to come and they all want to position themselves. They want all their ducks in a row and all their due diligence done so they can pull the trigger and be on the front lines in a short period of time.”

Richard Hubbard, president and CEO of Valley Partnership, sees two encouraging signs within the business community.

“Commercial development companies have come face to face with the difficult decisions they have to make, be that layoffs, stopping projects or filing for bankruptcy,” Hubbard says. “A lot of those decisions are being made.”

Hubbard also is pleased with decisions made by sources of capital.

“Lending companies — whether that’s banks, private institutions or individuals — who have taken back property through foreclosure are starting to bring that property to market at reasonable prices,” Hubbard says. “They’re cutting their losses and deciding they can’t hold onto the property anymore. That will allow these companies to move forward.”

Hubbard says he also is encouraged that the housing market is well into the process of working its way out of the recession.

“The home-building industry has been suffering for a long time and they made their tough decisions a year ago,” Hubbard says. “Now it’s time for the commercial industry to follow suit.”

The Arizona economy and Tucson, Southern Arizona’s economic engine, continue to suffer from the same maladies as Greater Phoenix, says Marshall Vest, an economist at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. Vest sees no hopeful signs of a statewide recovery for the time being. The only positive for Tucson is that its housing boom was not as strong as Phoenix, and its economy was not dragged down as far as the Valley’s, he says.

Vest sees the national recession receding in the third quarter.

“Arizona and Tucson will lag behind the nation by at least a quarter or two,” Vest says. “So Arizona should bottom out by the end of the year or the first quarter of next year and start its recovery at that time.”

The first sign of a statewide recovery will be a peak in the number of initial unemployment insurance claims, followed by stabilization of the labor market and then an uptick in retail sales, Vest says.

Flagstaff dominates the Northern Arizona economy. Marc Chopin, dean of the W.A.

Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University, says the city has been logging double-digit declines for sales tax revenues and bed, board and beverage tax receipts. Building permits for single-family homes and additions and alterations to existing homes also have been declining, he says.

“I don’t expect things will turn around for some time,” Chopin says. “Construction, I expect, won’t recover for some time. About a quarter of the homes in Flagstaff are second homes. Until there’s a recovery under way in Phoenix, from which many of our second-home owners come, the second-home market in Flagstaff is unlikely to recover.”

www.aaed.com
www.cba.nau.edu
www.ebr.eller.arizona.edu
www.gpec.org
www.valleypartnership.org
wpcarey.asu.edu

hospital bed and xray

For Medical Building Owners, Are Lease Workouts Worth The Work?

The market is stormier these days. Many of the lease rates presented by medical building owners today would previously have been considered anomalies, but they’re now more of a trend. Nonetheless, some medical buildings have stayed afloat maintaining their asking rates successfully. So is it worth it to seek to propose or consider a modification to an existing lease within a medical building? The answer at first is simple — it depends.

As with any investment, having and understanding one’s basis of using applicable data to support a position is imperative. Because of the looming distress in the financial markets, many notes are being sold that are secured by well-performing investment properties. However, even if a subject property owner is making timely payments on its mortgage, that doesn’t mean the note-seller is weathering the economic storm as soundly. In some cases, a note discounted by a troubled lender may translate into double-digit returns for the new note-owner. Logically in such cases, lease modification requests should be approved by the owner of the building, because of the superior return on the original note to the new note owner. Nonetheless, any loan modification allowing for additional flexibility is ultimately between the owner and current note holder, and not the tenant.

The aforementioned factors are part of today’s property investment philosophy, and consequently the nature of tomorrow’s tenancy. Even so, there are medical buildings out there today that may be considered “gems,” just as there were similar “gems” in previous recessions. This begs the question for owners and tenants alike — “Is my medical building a gem in this recession?” This answer will often dictate the likelihood of one’s success in the renegotiation or a workout of a lease.

Basis Breakdown
How does one know if their building is a gem? First off, it is important to have a basis for understanding the market and how the medical building fits within that market. What classification is the building? On what standard is this classification based — BOMA (Building Owners and Management Association) or just a general opinion of the owner? Secondly, it is important to compare similarly classified buildings, their locations and amenities. For instance, in comparing two similar buildings, one may offer superior signage, visibility and may have a higher rental rate, even though they both may be Class B properties. Overall, it is important to understand that building classification does play an important role, yet it doesn’t always dictate the rental rate.

Additionally, it is difficult for a tenant to support an argument for a lower rate if only general evidence is supplied to the owner, such as hearing something about the economy on the news, or using a building rate from a completely different class of building, or even a building from a completely different submarket. Sometimes poor business/practice performance may be the only supporting evidence in justifying the request for lease modification. However, it is important for tenants to understand their liabilities relating to guarantees, current business income, personal income, etc. That being said, the owner will be likely to seek evidence of such hardship before even considering a workout.

As a building owner, it is important to understand the nature of the tenant’s request. Probing questions may be asked and supporting evidence sought.If the building is a “gem,” maybe it is better off to let the tenant default under the agreement in order to replace the current tenant with a new tenant that presents less risk. However, if the building is not a “gem” per se, it may be better to take a closer look at what the tenant is proposing and attempt to understand the basis for his or her request.

Even though the economy is in flux, it is always important to seek an edge. It is important to seek and analyze trends in the economy and how they relate to your lease(s). Being a good steward to your investment and/or business is always important, regardless of the market conditions. Recessions come and go, but the persevering have a much better chance of reaching their goals.

Credit Union CEOs

Profiles Of ACULA Members And Credit Union CEOs

Pat Bodnar

Senior Vice President
Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates

Pat Bodnar has never worked at a credit union. Yet, as senior vice president of the Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates, she certainly works for them.

In the 24 years that Bodnar has been at the league, her colleagues say she has reached out to the business community more than anyone else on the staff.

Bodnar started out as an administrative assistant before moving on to director of administration and finance. She then became vice president of governmental affairs, and in 2004 was promoted to her current position of senior vice president.

“I didn’t know anything about credit unions when I started,” Bodnar says. “It’s been great fun to have a job that you love.”

Prior to joining the league, Bodnar handled constituent services for then-Gov. Bruce Babbitt. When Babbitt left office, the credit union opportunity came up.

“I fell in love with credit unions and their philosophy,” she says.

No doubt her tenure in the Babbitt Administration boosted her interest in political activity.

“I’ve always been interested in politics and politicians,” Bodnar says.

She was instrumental in developing a governmental affairs department at the league, and continues to oversee legal and legislative affairs and regulatory issues that affect state and federal credit unions. Bodnar is also responsible for public awareness campaigns, communications, community involvement, international partnerships and member service issues.

She credits her development of a government affairs program with helping to advance her credit union career.
“We’re turning credit union members into political activists,” Bodnar says. “Things like getting out the vote turn them on.”

When credit unions wanted to expand by making loans available to the business community, Bodnar was instrumental in forming a business lending council. The group assists business members in obtaining Small Business Administration loans and shares best practices among credit unions interested in making business loans.

“Small businesses need more options, not fewer,” she says. “Small business is the engine that drives economic growth.”

For her efforts, Bodnar was named SBA Advocate of the Year in 2007. She also serves as treasurer of Arizona Saves, an organization that strives to help Arizonans become financially self-sufficient through debt reduction and asset building. Bodnar also is a founding member of ArizonaFirst, a coalition of financial institutions dedicated to a public/private partnership aimed at preparing for any disaster or crisis in Arizona.

Robert D. Ramirez

President and CEO
Vantage West Credit Union

Not many people get promoted after 30 minutes on the job, but that’s exactly what happened to Robert D. Ramirez, president and CEO of Vantage West Credit Union in Tucson.

Born in Nogales, Ramirez received a degree in accounting from the University of Arizona in 1976. He worked for Sundt Corporation and Capin Mercantile Corporation before joining the Davis Monthan Federal Credit Union (which later became Vantage West) as assistant controller in 1985.

“I always tell my employees, watch for the keys that drop at your desk,” Ramirez says. “On my first day, my supervisor, the chief financial officer, resigned. I became acting CFO a half hour after I started.”

Six months later, examiners gave the credit union what Ramirez calls “a pretty bad rating.”

“I promised my boss, the president, that if he would give me three months I would get us back to a No. 1 rating,” Ramirez says. “If I did, he said he would double my salary and make me chief financial officer.”

Ramirez and his boss both made good on their promises. Ramirez moved up the ranks to executive vice president in 1996, and has served as president and CEO of Vantage West since April 2000. In addition, he holds the title of vice chair of the Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates board of directors.

When Ramirez came onboard, the credit union had $99 million in assets with 36,000 members. It has grown to more than $1 billion in assets with 105,000 members.

“We’re consistent in providing overall value for the member,” he says. “Our goal is to be consistent, to meet their needs whenever we can.”

That became a little more challenging since the national economy took a nosedive. In the past year, Vantage West modified more than 3,000 loans totaling in excess of $55 million.

Mary Marshall

Retired CEO
Alhambra Credit Union

Early on, Mary Marshall experienced the value of credit unions. While living in the state of Washington, a local credit union provided needed assistance to her family.

“That’s when I knew I wanted to work there,” Marshall says. “I convinced them they needed to hire me.”

She started as a loan officer, and after five years enrolled in the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Management School in Madison, Wis. Attending the CUNA Management School, Marshall says, “opened my eyes to the possibility of running my own credit union.”

When her family relocated to Arizona in 1984, Marshall figured it was time to pursue her career goal.

“I felt that I was schooled in credit unions and was prepared to see what I could do with another small credit union,” she says.

At the time she joined the Alhambra Credit Union, currently located at 35th and Northern avenues, it was what she referred to as “a sleepy little shop” that was serving the Alhambra School District, and was housed in the district.

“It wasn’t growing,” Marshall recalls.

It had 700 members and assets of less than $2 million. Twenty-two years later, when Marshall retired in December 2007 as Alhambra’s CEO, the credit union had 3,700 members and close to $20 million in assets.

So it’s not surprising that Marshall was the 2009 recipient of the Arizona Credit Union League and Affiliates Very Outstanding Credit Union Person award. For more than 35 years, the league has given the award to a special individual, recognizing that person’s level of service to the credit union community.

credit unions reaching out to small business

Arizona’s Credit Unions Are Reaching Out To Small Businesses

Relative newcomers to the field of making business loans, credit unions nonetheless have become key players in today’s tight-money economy. Barely 10 years ago, credit unions concentrated mainly on savings and checking accounts, and made personal, auto and home loans. But the Credit Union National Association says credit unions nationally originated $6.5 billion in business loans in the first six months of 2008, up 36 percent from the $4.8 billion in the corresponding period of 2007.

Credit union business loans in Arizona average about $240,000. Because the loans are relatively small, credit unions focus on small businesses.

For the past six years, Arizona credit unions have been working closely with the Small Business Administration and have emerged as strong SBA lenders. But because of the expertise involved in making such loans, only the larger credit unions are active in that segment of lending.

Steve Dunham, president and CEO of Canyon State Credit Union and board chairman of the Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates, suggests that credit unions with assets of at least $400 million generally have the ability and staff support, so they are most likely to make business loans.

Then there is the issue of the federal cap, which the credit union industry has been trying to get Congress to increase or eliminate. Under the cap, credit unions may make business loans totaling no more than 12.25 percent of their assets.
The business lending cap comes into play at Arizona State Credit Union, one of the state’s largest.

“We’re getting very close to the cap, so we are being selective about what we do,” says Paul Stull, senior vice president of marketing at Arizona State Credit Union. “We keep bumping into it, and we have to find a way to make room. It’s quite a challenge to manage that.”

Despite the regulatory limits placed on credit unions, opportunities for businesses to borrow are available. Businesses face a combination of challenges, such as finding a money source and finding the right rate, Stull says.

“For many of the people we deal with, the rate is important, but many times they don’t have too many alternatives to look at for financing,” Stull says. “That usually means their needs are somewhat smaller than the targeted range of other providers. It takes just as much work to originate a small loan as it does a large one. Some would prefer to do only larger loans. A small business person might fall outside of that window. When they do, it’s tough for them to get the attention they want and deserve. Certainly small enterprises are not coming up on the radar of some of the larger lenders. That doesn’t mean rate isn’t important. It still is. But clearly you need to talk to somebody before you can get a rate.”

In all phases of lending, credit unions traditionally follow very conservative underwriting principles and only make loans to members. It’s not uncommon for an individual member to approach a credit union with a business loan request.

“The strong suit for credit unions is what it has always been — credit unions take the time to know their members,” Stull says. “That certainly puts us in a better position to meet the needs of a business. Many of our business customers have a personal relationship with us. They like the way we treat them personally, and they realize they can do their business banking with us as well. And that leads to a deeper relationship. The wider use of our business services is a more recent phenomenon. It’s a natural progression, and is indicative of the way we like to know our customers.”

Most experts see the economy beginning a slow turnaround toward the end of this year or early 2010. Consumers for the most part are still on the sidelines. Credit unions and the business community are keeping an eye on the nation’s savings rate.

For the past 20 to 30 years, Americans saved 7 percent of the income. But in recent years, before the recession hit, people were spending and borrowing more and saving considerably less. The U.S. Department of Commerce notes that the U.S. savings rate has been on the rise after almost five years in which consumers barely saved a penny.

Stull calls the rise in savings a good sign-bad sign situation.

“It’s good because people are being more cautious, developing more security,” he says. “The money they save goes to financial institutions and becomes available for lending. But, it’s a bad sign because people are not buying cars, motor homes, washers and dryers, and they’re not dining out as much as they used to. So it’s really kind of a double-edged sword.”

Changing Course

Law Firms Are Altering Their Strategies To Cope With The Recession

The downturn in the economy that is affecting all businesses has not spared law firms. Like all other businesses, law firms have been forced to cope with fewer and thriftier clients. Specifically, law firms have had to deal with sharp reductions in transactional and real estate work, large increases in litigation and bankruptcy matters, and clients who are often unable to pay for legal services. Providing legal services to clients that may declare bankruptcy in the near future has become commonplace.

Law firms have responded to these trying times with various strategies. Many law firms have primarily focused on reducing costs through hiring and compensation freezes, recruiting cutbacks, and event cancellations. Other firms have started to transition transactional attorneys to bankruptcy or litigation work.

Not all strategies, however, are created equal. The reduction of costs is always a worthwhile aim, but when conducted without strategic vision, it can leave a firm with frustrated employees and choke off any avenue for organic growth. The transfer of attorneys to other divisions certainly creates revenue for the firm by keeping otherwise inactive attorneys productive, but the work product can suffer. For example, transactional attorneys will not necessarily provide the highest level of service to a client with litigation or bankruptcy needs.

Firms that take a different approach may be best suited to not only survive the current economic difficulties, but to emerge on the other side as stronger firms. This approach is simple: Focus on the client. While all law firms profess to keep the client’s interest at heart, in these times, paying more than lip service to that ideal is the key to success. Now more than ever, many clients are not able to afford full service legal representation. Obviously, providing the highest quality legal service to the client is always the first priority, but providing value should be a close second. Focusing on the client and its specific needs allows attorneys to add value by identifying and zeroing in on the particular requirements of that client. Once the particular needs are identified, it is simple to eliminate any superfluous services that do not add value, and to concentrate only on the services that really move the client closer to its ultimate goal. This focus keeps the representation more efficient, less costly, and will ensure that the client is satisfied with all of the legal services provided.

One major example of how an increased focus on the client is more important than ever is the looming prospect of bankruptcy. Recognizing that a bankruptcy could be on the horizon for a client is very important to shaping any legal strategy. Most importantly, a bankruptcy provides unique legal challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed in a timely manner. Identifying the possibility for a bankruptcy, and when it might occur, allows the lawyer to properly gauge which long-term strategies will be ineffective, and how to use the limited time and resources as efficiently as possible. Moreover, a possible bankruptcy underlines the client’s absolute necessity for value from legal services. Particular attention from the attorney at the outset of a representation can identify a possible bankruptcy, shape the representation, and let the law firm know which services will be most valuable to the client under the circumstances.

With the need to adjust to the current economic difficulties paramount for all law firms, smaller firms may be the best equipped. Like the tugboat and the ocean liner, smaller firms are more nimble and able to focus resources to needed areas more quickly than larger firms. Most importantly, small firms often provide a higher level of personal attention and a greater focus on the client’s needs. Focusing on the client is the best way to ensure success for both the law firm and the client.

Charles J. Morrow also contributed to this article.  He is an associate at Galbut & Galbut. He can be reached at cmorrow@galbutlaw.com.

Sustainable America

How Does America Feel About Sustainability?

In a previous blog post I wrote about the amount of money being set aside for sustainability in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act — $467 million to be exact.

With so much money being spent, are you wondering what the American people really think about sustainability-related matters? Me too. As luck would have it, a research team from the Yale Project on Climate Change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication conducted a nationally representative survey of 2,164 Americans to get some insight. Titled “Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans’ climate change beliefs, attitudes, policy preferences and actions” the survey included various matters relating to “issue priorities for the new administration and Congress, support and opposition regarding climate change and energy policies, levels of political and consumer activism, and beliefs about the reality and risks of global warming.” The survey was conducted in September and October of 2008.

Obviously, the biggest issue on the minds of most Americans right now is the economy. Hence, some of the survey results were to be expected (76 percent of Americans rated the economy as a “very high” priority). Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that global warming was a “high” or “very high” national priority for a majority of Americans. Also, 72 percent said the issue of global warming is important to them personally.

When asked who should act to address global warming, 76 percent of respondents said corporations and businesses should do more, or much more. Another 67 percent said Congress should do more to address global warming. Yet, 72 percent believe that citizens themselves are responsible.

Who’s right?

I don’t think there’s a right answer to this one; collaboration is the only path to a truly more sustainable way of life. Still, these findings are definitely a positive sign in my opinion.

Some other notable positives the study found:

• 92 percent of Americans surveyed supported more funding for research on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.
• 85 percent supported tax rebates for people buying energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels.
• 79 percent supported a 45 mpg fuel efficiency standard for cars, trucks and SUVs.

Here’s the kicker: 79 percent of respondents supported this 45 mpg fuel efficiency standard EVEN if this meant a new car could cost up to $1,000 more. Now that’s dedication!

Unfortunately, though going green can sometimes be a bit more expensive upfront, hopefully with time these costs will be lowered and these kind of vehicles (and other green initiatives) will become the norm.

Overall, what I gathered from this study is that Americans do indeed care about the environment. Although our country is in a precarious time, sustainability hasn’t been entirely forgotten.

man with red tie standing in front of Dean's office

CEO Series: Robert E. Mittlestaedt Jr.

Robert E. Mittelstaedt Jr.
Dean, W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University

How is W.P. Carey’s curriculum changing due to the economic crisis?
The curriculum in any business school has to involve some fundamental, timeless subjects that never change. So accounting and some aspects of finance and people management and other things will go on forever, but in every case we have to find a way to adapt to the changes in the external environment, whether it’s societal or specific kinds of business issues. I think that most business schools now are re-thinking seriously their curriculums in light of what has happened in the last couple of years, in particular issues in the areas of risk management, ethics in decision making and globalization … It doesn’t mean that the entire curriculum will change, but we have to find a way to weave those things more into almost everything we teach.

Could business schools have done more to create an ethical climate among corporate executives that could have averted this crisis? Does that argument have any merit?
My experience over many years now tells me that parents have to do more to teach ethical values to their children, and society has to take responsibility for holding people accountable for ethical behavior. Sadly, I have found that in most people, when they cross ethical lines, you find out it’s not the first time and they started doing it early in their life. By the time we get them as undergraduate business students, that’s about the end of the time when you can influence it.

We push hard on ethics from day one, and the students who come into our program hear about ethics on day one from me, and throughout the time that they’re here and they are required to take ethics courses. … This is something that’s a broad societal problem that we have to deal with, and we’re are doing as much as we can in business schools and will continue to put even more emphasis on it, but it’s not something that can be solved just in a business school or just in a university alone.

What are some of the future trends you see for business schools?
I expect to see all business schools more concerned with some of the things that we have been thinking about here at ASU. For instance, whether you believe in global warming or not, it is indisputable that we have to worry about sustainability, simply because of the number of people on the planet. … There are all sorts of things that become different issues where we have society and business interacting, whether we like it or not, in a much more integrated fashion than we have had in the past. … Issues of instant communications, doing business differently than our predecessors did, are very real and have to be part of a curriculum. … All those things find their way into a curriculum, both in terms of changing the way we teach, the kinds of things we teach, the impact they have on individuals.

How would you assess the relationship between W.P. Carey and the Valley business community?
I believe that our relationship with the business community at the W.P. Carey School is quite strong. We have many business leaders that are on our advisory councils, advisory boards to departments, to the whole school; we have many businesses that support us by sending students here to work on their MBAs or even their undergraduate degrees. And we have many business leaders who are not graduates of our school but who believe we have to have a strong business school to help Phoenix grow, and so they support us.

Describe the education industry in Arizona in terms of employment.
Education is a big sector of our society and I don’t believe there are very many people today that would deny that education needs to be there. …  (T)here’s more to learn today and a child today needs to learn more and get to a higher level of knowledge just to be competitive in the work force than they did a generation or two generations or three generations ago. You have to have an education sector that is strong and employs a fair number of people if you’re going to be competitive.The fact that we have gone through a financial crisis and budget cutbacks and furloughs and layoffs means that it’s not different than any other business, and it is in fact a business. It may be state supported, partially in the case of our university, but it is nonetheless a business that is subject to the same kinds of economic whipsaws as other sectors. The difference here is that our students don’t just go away because the economy got worse. In a retail establishment the customers may not show up and you may not have to have as many (establishments) open. We still have 52,000 students showing up on this campus in the fall …

    Vital Stats




  • Dean at W.P. Carey since 2004.
  • Between 1973 and 2004, he served in numerous leadership positions at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Author of “Will Your Next Mistake Be Fatal? Avoiding the Mistake Chain That Can Destroy Your Organization.”
  • Earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Tulane University.
  • Served five years as a U.S. Naval officer.
  • Received an MBA from the Wharton School.
  • wpcarey.asu.edu
The Business Community Is Ringing A Cautionary Bell On Further Cuts To The State’s Education System

The Business Community Is Ringing A Cautionary Bell On Further Cuts To The State’s Education System

Good schools are good for business. It’s that simple. Contrary to popular belief, incentives and tax breaks aren’t necessarily the only things businesses take into account when considering a move to Arizona or an expansion of a local operation. Sure, they want to make money, but the quality of the education system, from K-12 through colleges and universities, also is a key element in the decision-making process.

In early July, $3.2 billion in budget funding for the K-12 public education system was restored after initially being cut by Gov. Jan Brewer in a line-item veto. The education budget was also increased by $500 million, which now qualifies the state for $2.3 billion in federal stimulus money. Despite dodging that bullet, schools remain under the threat of future budget cuts, and that has caught the attention of business leaders. But paying attention isn’t enough. They need to be more involved in the process, insiders say, establishing and maintaining working relationships with state legislators who control the purse strings.

The business community has a stake in education on two fronts, says Chuck Essigs of the Arizona Association of School Business Officials (AASBO), which provides professional development opportunities for individuals working in all jobs in the education field.

“One,” he says, “is the ability of the education system, both elementary and secondary and the universities, to prepare an adequate work force, and to make sure schools are adequately funded so they can carry forth their mission of having an educated population. So when the business community hires people, they’re hiring people who have the skills and training to be productive workers.”

The second aspect involves Arizona businesses that are recruiting workers from out-of-state or businesses that are considering an expansion to Arizona from elsewhere.

“If those workers have school-age children, they want to know what the school system is like,” says Essigs, AASBO’s director of government affairs. “If they feel that their kids are not going to get a quality education, it might make them hesitant to leave where they are. They might think twice about taking a promotion and putting their kids at a disadvantage in a school that’s not up to the standards they want.”

Robert E. Mittelstaedt Jr., dean of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, says most businesses are far more concerned about the general education environment.

“I remember a bank official in Philadelphia 25 years ago saying he couldn’t find a receptionist who could read and write,” Mittelstaedt says. “You still hear that. Companies expect to have an education system that graduates students who are qualified to enter the work force in some minimally accepted level.”

If the public schools fall short, perhaps because of inadequate funding, the option of sending children to private schools becomes a cost factor for employees.

Javier Rey, vice president-operations for State Farm Insurance’s Tempe operations center, says it’s critical that Arizona’s youth are better prepared for higher education, so they can contribute to the nation’s and state’s civic, economic and social advancement.

“The quality of schools is a factor that businesses look at when considering relocating or expanding,” Rey says.

Christopher Smith, manager of government and regulatory affairs for Cox Communications, calls education “critical to economic development.”

“It is an essential ingredient in the lifeblood of our economy, both nourishing the supply of talented workers and attracting and retaining the customers they serve,” Smith adds. “Education ranks high on the various lists of important factors in location/relocation decisions, not only due to the increasingly critical competition for knowledge workers, but also because executives making these decisions care deeply about the education of their own children.”

Smith gives Arizona’s education system reasonably satisfactory grades, but says the status quo is not good enough to meet today’s challenges.

“We need to break the mold a bit and unleash more of what made America so great — liberty, bold innovation, inspired risk-taking, creativity, robust competition and an unflagging entrepreneurial spirit,” he says.

Susan Carlson, executive director of the Arizona Business & Education Coalition (ABEC), a nonprofit K-12 education policy advocacy organization, says the business community needs to be more involved in the school-funding process.

“Business needs to be engaged in the conversation,” she says. “They need to watch what the Legislature is doing. We can’t keep saying ‘no’ around tax reform and ‘yes’ around increased skills for students. It may take more money, if money is allocated to the right things. It’s going to take being focused on research-based strategies. Educators are willing and committed to support research-based strategies, and redirecting some of the funding that exists.”

AH Endovascular OR Suite

Executives From West Valley Hospitals Assess The Impact Of The Current Economy

The need for health care services continues to grow across the state, including the West Valley. And under the current recession, hospitals are being asked to do more with less.

Jon Bartlett, CEO of Arrowhead Hospital, says the health care industry is not immune to the impact of the bad economy, but he remains optimistic about the current and future state of the market.

“There are plenty of challenges, but we remain focused and disciplined,” he says.

In fact, he believes West Valley communities are home to some of the finest hospitals around, and the members of the community wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Today, people expect the very best health care outcomes, but they also demand world-class service,” Bartlett says. “It is our responsibility to meet their expectations.”

Arrowhead Hospital has been recognized with three stars in the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ national database in 2007 and 2008 for its superior cardiovascular surgery outcomes.

Tom Dickson is CEO of Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, a 413-bed acute care hospital that specializes in cardiovascular care, neurology care, pediatrics, obstetrics and emergency medicine. He says the slowing economy has actually allowed West Valley hospitals to catch up with their demands.

“Generally, the West Valley has been underserved in terms of acute care beds,” Dickson says. “Now that the economy has slowed and several hospitals have added additional beds, we are not in as critical condition as we were in recent years.”

With a recent expansion of the South Tower, which can grow to accommodate 600 beds, Dickson says his biggest challenge is retaining existing employees and recruiting additional workers to staff the additional beds and programs and services that are growing as a result of the tower.

“The most critical area of need is registered nurses,” he says. “We also have an acute shortage of physicians and other medical professions, including physical therapists, respiratory therapists, pharmacists and medical technologists.”

Jo Adkins, CEO of West Valley Hospital, says the West Valley currently has an adequate amount of hospital beds, but that may not be the case for very long.

“As growth returns to the West Valley, we will need to look at growth of both beds and services,” she says. “We need to stay in touch with the communities’ needs and grow the services so that we can remain a hospital of choice.”

Meanwhile, West Valley Hospital is already very strong in a number of specialties, including its heart and vascular center, chest pain center, emergency room, electrophysiology and obstetrics. But Adkins doesn’t mince words when it comes to the challenges facing the health care industry.

“(It has) taken a large hit,” she says.

Naming two recent 5 percent budget cuts, she adds, “That has had a $3.6 million impact on West Valley Hospital alone.”

Beyond working to overcome the challenges facing the industry as a whole, the leaders of these hospitals are 100 percent dedicated to providing the superior service they believe their community members deserve.

Bartlett notes that the emergency department at Arrowhead Hospital is making a concerted effort to decrease wait times, promising that patients are seen in less than half an hour.

“Our average wait time is 19 minutes,” he says.

And while Arrowhead Hospital does have plans to expand from 220 beds to 260 within the next 18 months, Bartlett explains that he doesn’t just want to grow, he wants to make sure the hospital is getting consistently better.

Lee Peterson, CEO of Sun Health Services (formerly Sun Health Properties), which recently merged with Banner Health, agrees that providing the utmost services and results for its patients is the hospitals’ top priority.

“Banner has a best-practice strategy that is very much in line with our passion for making a difference in people’s lives,” he says.

Boswell and Del E. Webb medical centers are now Banner Boswell and Banner Del E. Webb.

“By coming together with Banner we were able to bring some immediate technologies, such as electronic medical records, in addition to research institutes, which are such a major part of Banner Boswell and Banner Del E. Webb, to the West Valley,” Peterson says.

With the economy putting a freeze on growth for the most part, West Valley hospitals stand poised for continued expansion. All the while, they are not taking their eyes off their mission — to provide the residents of West Valley communities with first-class services administered by highly trained and compassionate health care providers.

West Valley Industry Turnover

WESTMARC Unveils The Results Of A Work Force Labor Market Study

What started as an initiative from the city of Surprise Economic Development Department quickly turned into an unprecedented work force study on the entire West Valley spearheaded by WESTMARC. The study came about through a collaboration of communities, corporations, government entities and educational institutions that contributed more than $150,000 to fund the report.

“West Valley communities have experienced tremendous growth since the 2000 Census. They were having difficulty addressing questions from business prospects concerning the size and skill levels of the regional work force,” says Surprise Economic Development Coordinator Megan Griego, who sits on WESTMARC’s economic development committee and was chair of the Workforce Labor Study of the West Valley. “The communities of the West Valley formed a consortium to better understand their region’s work force and to better promote its growth and development.”

Russ Ullinger, senior project manager of economic development for SRP, and WESTMARC co-chair and member of the economic development committee, adds that the concept for the study developed out of necessity.

“Numerous surveys and studies have identified work force as one of the most important assets when national site selection consultants consider different regions and locations for businesses,” he says.

“This is relevant in good economic times, as well as poor economic times. This study truly drills and provides specific labor information unique to the West Valley.”

Harry Paxton, economic development director for the city of Goodyear, who also acted as co-chair of the study, credits WESTMARC’s partnerships with the Maricopa Work Force Connection, as well as Maricopa Community College in the development and funding of the study. He also praises WESTMARC for bringing together work force professionals to get their input on what the study should entail.

In May 2008, WESTMARC enlisted California-based ERISS Corporation to prepare the comprehensive labor market analysis.

“That analysis involved a survey of all businesses in the West Valley with 20 or more employees — all such businesses were contracted and 1,100 completed the survey — and a detailed review of newly available government information,” Griego says.

The detailed data developed by the survey and the analysis of various government data sources is also available through www.usworks.com/westmarc, which presents the comprehensive information and data relevant to businesses, site selectors, economic development professionals, work force development professionals and educators into convenient and customizable reports.

The results of the study can now help the 15 West Valley communities represented in the report to identify their specific needs when it comes to work force issues, transportation and industry growth, and demand. For example, Glendale encompasses more than 6,000 firms, according to the report. Health care accounts for more than 12 percent of total employment in Glendale, which is higher than the Metro Phoenix area as a whole (9.1 percent), but is on par with other West Valley cities. The results also show that 19.6 percent of Glendale workers live and work in the city. The majority of other Glendale employees travel from Metro Phoenix (35.3 percent) and as many as 1.3 percent commute from Tucson.

In general, the study found there are more than 450,000 workers available to fill jobs for the right offer. In addition, there are growth and expansion opportunities in the industries of transportation, wholesale trade, traditional and non-store retail, as well as education. Regarding industry growth, health care leads the trend with a 6 percent growth rate. Construction and transportation/utilities follow closely with a 5 percent growth rate each, and retail in the West Valley has a 4 percent growth rate.

As part of the study, businesses were asked to rate their own work forces on a scale of one to seven, one representing the lowest productivity rating and seven the highest.Sixty-six percent of the area’s employers ranked their employees in one of the two highest categories.

Absenteeism is also a non-issue when it comes to West Valley workers as a whole. The majority of employers, 63 percent, reported that absenteeism is “not a significant problem” at their firms, and when absences do occur, 61 percent of employers reported that the cause is a legitimate illness with childcare.
Jack Lunsford, WESTMARC’s president and CEO, says ERISS Corporation did an excellent job with the study and the results have given them a course of action.



“We found that we have in the West Valley, even in this economy, a very large and qualified labor supply, and we still have some industries that are currently growing and that anticipate growth,” he says, adding that results also show West Valley communities need to implement a live/work/play strategy to avoid the problems with transportation issues.

Landis Elliott, business development director for House of Elliott, says the benefits of the study are numerous. “The study is a tool that the West Valley cities can use while working with potential locates to validate the high-quality employees we have in this region,” she says.

money, cash, hundred dollar bills

This Isn’t the First Crisis The Valley’s Banking Industry Has Faced

The Valley has come a long way over the past 25 years, and the banking and financial sector is no exception. Challenges, crises and legislation brought about dramatic change that has created a new era in banking and finance. In the mid-80s local banks dominated the sector, while regional and national banks were nonexistent. The Valley was home to the “big three” — Valley National, First Interstate Bank of Arizona and The Arizona Bank.

The financial sector was real estate driven, with a considerable concentration in housing and commercial real estate development. Second to real estate were the “Five C’s” of Arizona’s economy: climate, cotton, citrus, cattle and copper.

The savings and loan and real estate crises of the late-80s were the turning point in the Valley’s banking sector. At a time when Arizona’s “big three” were suffering, large banking corporations invaded. Bank of America’s first “real” presence in the Valley was assimilating five different savings and loans in the state.

In summary, there have been many milestones over the past 25 years that have shaped the banking sector. Such milestones include sustaining itself through the S&L crisis and the severe commercial real estate downturn of the late-80s; recovering from the infamous Lincoln Savings and American Continental debacle; weathering the “dot-com” implosion of 2000; and passing the Interstate Banking Act that led to dramatic industry consolidation of local banks into regional, national and global banking organizations. More recently, the securitization boom in both the residential and commercial real estate market revolutionized real estate lending.

Today’s “big three” — Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America — control the vast majority of deposits statewide and a much more dramatic concentration of banking resources overall. But more importantly, small and mid-size banks have reemerged. 
There is also now more proactive leadership in the business community.

Arizona and the Valley have a more diverse economic base due to the dramatic progress of our investment in education, as well as the high-tech, defense, life sciences, health care, biotech, telecom, optics, hospitality, entertainment and transportation industries. We now have an “alignment” of stakeholders, including the public, business, academic and philanthropic sectors, and therefore stronger initiatives for more diverse economic development, such as sustainable systems, solar and renewable energy and land management.

That said, in 2009 we are again faced with many economic challenges that will no doubt continue to shape our industry and affect how we operate. Banks need to grow wiser and smarter in serving their communities and Arizona’s businesses. We are resource constrained from a state revenue standpoint and by expenditures driven by our phenomenal population growth and federal-mandated programs. Arizona is a high-growth state and we need to strike the right balance between infrastructure “catch-up” and smart and balanced growth. The banking industry has and will continue to support a more knowledge-based and service-oriented economy.

What does the future hold for the banking and financial sector? Banks will need to play a transformational leadership role in public issues, specifically economic diversification and development, as well as public finance. The industry must become a recognized leader for innovative approaches to capital formation and connecting intellectual capital with financial capital.

We must also promote a diverse array of financial institutions from small local community banks and mid-size niche banks to larger regional and global institutions that promote cross-border trade finance and strategic alliances.

There is no doubt that the next 25 years will bring as many challenges and reforms as we have overcome in the past, but our state’s banks will regain their strength; the strong will survive, consolidate the weak and prosper with our state’s growth. And as Arizona’s banking industry continues to grow stronger and smarter, we foster confidence as we reaffirm the leadership role in Arizona’s economic foundation.

money in vice

The Economic Recovery Begins In 2009, But It Will Be Slow Going

The national and state economies are expected to start feeling the effects of a recovery during the last quarter of 2009. However, the recovery over the next year will be slow, with unemployment continuing to rise and economic growth anemic at best. Meanwhile, the state’s expenditures are rising, even as revenue continues to fall, setting the stage for future budget cuts and an expected tax increase.

That was the consensus forecast unveiled by top economic experts from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University and the Arizona governor’s office at the annual Economic Outlook Luncheon on May 20. Lee McPheters, director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at W.P. Carey and editor of Economy@W.P. Carey, provided an overview of current economic conditions on the state and national level, and offered a forecast for the coming year.
“The economy is going to show some signs of recovery in the last part of 2009, but the way I like to look at this is that lots of our economic indicators will still be underwater in a sense — they just won’t be as far underwater,” he said. “We’ll probably see positive growth in GDP, we will see job losses getting smaller, but there will still be job losses. There will still be people claiming unemployment insurance and, of course, unemployment rates will still be going up.
“It’s going to be a deep, sort of U-shaped recovery and 2011 will probably be a pretty good year of job growth,” McPheters added. 
In the meantime, job losses will continue to mount. In March, with an over-the-year employment decline of 7.1 percent and 136,000 jobs lost, the Valley just edged out Detroit as the weakest large metro labor market in the nation. And even as the economy begins to recover, the Greater Phoenix area will still see its labor market contract by 1 percent in 2010, according to McPheters.
Nationally, McPheters stressed that while the current recession has been painful, it still is not on par with the Great Depression. The Great Depression was marked by four consecutive years of decreases in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while the current recession is expected to result in four consecutive quarters of decrease in inflation-adjusted GDP. In fact, in the first year of the recession, the national GDP actually increased by 1.1 percent.
“During 2008, the first year of the recession, you would expect that the GDP would be decreasing,” he said. “Well, one of the factors holding it up was exports. Exports continued strong in the United States through 2008.”
This year, however, exports are expected to drop by 10 percent. That’s just one example of how the national and state economies will continue to struggle as the recovery begins to take hold. Another example is the expected freefall in the commercial real estate market, especially in Arizona.
“Commercial is the next shoe to drop and we have seen this pattern before,” McPheters said. “Even as you see residential (construction) begin to pick up, I think you can expect that commercial building is going to be very, very weak all the way through 2010 and probably 2011, because what we need to see is population growth come back and job growth to come back. There’s no point in building retail space and office space if the jobs are not there and the consumer is not coming out to shop.”
And it is consumers, who account for 71 percent of GDP, who really hold the key to the economic recovery.
“The consumer is the only part of this economy that can bring us back,” McPheters said. “Consumers are not going to come back into the game until home prices stop falling, until the stock market stabilizes, until they see unemployment rates have peaked out and job losses start to get smaller and smaller. And the consumer has to have confidence to buy, and believe it or not, the consumer has to back off of their inclination to save their money.”
In March, the savings rate as a percent of disposable income was 4.2 percent, up from 2.6 percent six months earlier. While increased savings are considered a good thing in robust economic times, a pullback by consumers as an economy tanks can have devastating effects. McPheters pointed out that for each 1 percent increase in the savings rate, approximately $100 billion are being pulled out of the consumer-spending stream.
However, McPheters expressed confidence that the very calamity that sent our state and national economies reeling will eventually add to Arizona’s attractiveness to new residents and businesses — falling home prices.
“Housing prices have now returned to the traditional level, where Arizona housing prices are now more affordable than the national average,” he said. “In 2005 and 2006, we had come to the point where we were one of the least affordable markets. That has turned around and it has turned around very quickly. Of course that has been very painful.”

Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at W.P. Carey, agreed with McPheters, adding that he believes the state’s economic rebound will be strong.

“This of course is the big question: What kind of bounce will take place? Now, I’ll have to say that the dramatic shakeout in prices in housing, while it has been absolutely disastrous for a number of folk and put a lot of pressure in a lot of different places, it might set us up for a more robust recovery than I would have thought six to nine months ago,” he said. “The thinking is really, very, very simple; an attractive attribute of Arizona has historically been great climate, affordable housing and a place to get a job. That third aspect really doesn’t exist right now, but it could exist if our economy recovers at a little faster pace.”
In the economic downturns of the past four decades, Arizona has bounced back strongly, and Hoffman is confident history will repeat itself, especially if the state and Valley can re-create the environments that people from around the country have found so attractive.

However, a major wrench in making the state attractive again is Arizona’s current budget crunch. In fiscal year 2009, the state’s budget gap stands at $1.6 billion. In fiscal year 2010, that’s expected to almost double to $3 billion dollars. As the economy has worsened, unemployment has soared to almost 8 percent, foreclosures have skyrocketed and businesses have closed their doors. As a result, billions of dollars in revenue from income, property, sales and business taxes have evaporated. Conversely the need for state services has exploded.

“We’re really seeing the effects of the downturn in the economy, both in terms of state revenues — our collections are down at a very significant rate — and likewise, our caseloads are up at a very significant rate, because more of our citizens are in need of services,” said Eileen Klein, director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, adding that in the past two months alone the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) has enrolled 50,000 people.
Hoffman pointed out that in the past, $48 to $50 out of every $1,000 of personal income had gone into the state’s general fund.

Small Businesses Continue To Power The Valley’s Economy While Maintaining A Personal Touch

Small Businesses Continue To Power The Valley’s Economy While Maintaining A Personal Touch

As we approach a new era in Arizona business, I find myself reminiscing about the small business environment in the Valley 25 years ago, recalling the pioneering spirit of many courageous and determined entrepreneurs. In that era, the Five Cs were predominant revenue sources: cotton, copper, climate, citrus and cattle.

That is no longer the case in today’s marketplace. Technology, biosciences and health care are now dominant industries. Although today’s business climate is faster paced, it still preserves the attitude, perseverance and independence of the earlier years, and 97 percent of Arizona commerce is still fueled by small businesses.

In the Valley of 25 years ago, Motorola and Honeywell were key players in the corporate arena, and the “good old boys” network was alive and well. Though there were fewer participants and less competition, who you knew played an important role in opportunities. And, yes, business was done face to face. Often, a small business venture was cinched with a sincere handshake or a proposal outlined on a paper napkin over a cup of coffee.

And don’t forget the “good old girls.” Arizona has always been progressive with women’s involvement in business and political leadership. Arizona gave women the right to vote before the nation did. We have had four female governors in the past 25 years — no other state comes close.

’ve always called Phoenix “the biggest small town.” Even though it has grown to become the fifth largest metropolitan city in America, it still feels like a big small town to me. And, in many ways, Phoenix’ small business community connects much the same as it did in the small-town era, with networking, referrals, camaraderie and support.

The explosive change that arrived 25 years ago was technology. That’s when the microcomputer industry propelled us into a new era where cell phones, the World Wide Web and computer automation were about to be unleashed on our small businesses. I remember hauling around phone books and city maps in my car or stopping at a convenience store to use the pay phone to verify directions to a meeting — no MapQuest, no Google, no GPS. And today, if you want to know about social media, ask a 13-year-old.

Of course, 25 years ago there was less traffic and fewer freeways. For relaxation, I would head to Tempe, where I’d stroll along Mill Avenue and wander into Changing Hands Bookstore, and then head to Cookies From Home. With my new book and chocolate chip cookie,

I’d settle into a comfortable bench. Today, Mill Avenue is a much different business setting in the heart of Tempe. Also, light rail has rejuvenated many small businesses along its pathway through Phoenix.

In the past, the Valley’s small businesses have experienced many economic storms. Any downturn forces small businesses to reexamine expenses, processes and strategies, while requiring more efficiency, resourcefulness and creativity. Sometimes the hard decision must be made to retool, reinvent or even to start from scratch.

I think it is important for businesses that are doing well at this time to reach out to their suppliers and partners and “pay it forward” by doing business with those who may be struggling. Surviving these challenging times will fortify these businesses and poise them to recapture markets and revenues, and flourish in the upturn.

The sun shines on our business climate, with Arizona consistently in the running for one the top five states for small business. I believe small business will always be an integral part of the identity of Arizona; a place where we nurture creativity, value independence, respect stamina and expect tenacity.

Remember, the threads of small business weave a strong and vibrant tapestry, like the blanket you toss onto the back of a bronco. Sometimes it’s a wild ride and you need to hold on.

test tubes

Biotech Startups Need To Take Ideas From Concept To FDA Approval

Arizona has always been known as a great place to start and grow a business. While some industries have been staples of our economy for some time, there’s another growing industry that is bringing jobs, capital, and most of all, innovation, to our state. Arizona has, in recent years, become home to a growing number of biotechnology and medical device companies.

At the heart of every one of these companies is an entrepreneur with a vision and an idea. Some of these entrepreneurs are starting a biotech or medical device company for the first time. That’s scary enough. But the biotech world comes with a whole other set of hurdles that makes it even harder to go to market. One of the first and most important hurdles is getting U.S. Federal Drug Administration clearance. This is a challenging process every biotech, medical device and pharmaceutical company has to face. Here’s an inside look at how startup biotech companies gain clearance for their products and bring them to market.

For starters, which companies need FDA clearance and which ones can bypass the process? Basically, if a company plans to sell its product directly to physicians and hospitals, and wants insurance companies to pay for it, it needs that FDA clearance. All entrepreneurs in this space need to ask themselves that same key question when they start a new venture: Who are you selling this to?

For a small startup biotech business, or even just an engineer with an idea, the FDA process may seem daunting, costly, and in some cases, unnecessary. Many companies try to shortcut the system or choose instead to market under homeopathic regulations, which are quite different than the FDA’s. In these cases, there is often (but not always) less testing or insufficient data to support claims of what the product can do. In some cases, small businesses think the FDA makes the process so difficult and costly they simply can’t do it. It’s important for these startups to remember that gaining FDA clearance should be seen as an investment in their company that allows them to market effectively. It may seem stifling, but it also opens doors to sales channels that wouldn’t be available otherwise and can be very lucrative.

The public often doesn’t realize there are different types of FDA clearances biotech, pharmaceutical or medical device companies can apply for.

Pharmaceutical companies apply for a new drug application, while medical devices fall into three categories:

Class 1 —
This is for low-risk devices and it costs almost nothing to submit for this clearance.
Class 2 — This is for devices that are substantially equivalent to other devices already on the market. This process can cost about $4,000 just for the submission, not including the cost of testing and developing the submission.
Class 3 — This is for new devices or devices that are deemed life supporting/assisting and can cost millions of dollars after testing and the application process is complete. It’s important to remember that only products with a Class 3 are FDA approved, while the others are FDA cleared. FDA approval simply means that the FDA was involved in the testing and it was a new product unlike any other on the market.

Any startup biotech company will want to spend ample time researching the guidelines and class definitions before applying for FDA clearance. It seems like a tedious process, but it is a sound time investment and helps ensure the company only needs to go through the process once per product. Any mistakes along the way can result in going back to the drawing board and starting the process all over again.

To avoid this, these companies need to hire employees and consultants who have been through the process and can lend guidance from experience. Also, it is strongly advised to open a dialogue with people at the FDA. They are there to help companies get through the process smoothly and efficiently, and can help a startup overcome challenges along the way.

So when should you start the process? In most cases, a company will wait until it has a product prototype or a design it’s happy with before starting the application. The process to apply can often begin at the start of the business, but the real work begins once the company has something that can be tested for safety and efficacy. The good news is once the submission is complete, and if everything in the application meets the FDA’s requirements, it will only take 60 to 90 days on average to hear back from the FDA.

Once a company considers FDA clearance they can also expect some changes to their business. As with every form of government licensing, the FDA has rules and guidelines that must be followed, and these are known as the quality systems requirements. This is simply a form of management by the FDA that ensures biotech companies offer a consistent level of quality in every aspect of their business and are marketing products in a way that will not deceive or misguide the public.

In the end, every biotech company has to decide how they are going to grow their business. As we see more and more medical device and other biotechnology companies emerge in Arizona, we’ll see them go to market in vastly different ways.

Rhonda Forsyth President and Chief Executive Officer John C. Lincoln Health Network

CEO Series: Rhonda Forsyth

Rhonda Forsyth
President and Chief Executive Officer
John C. Lincoln Health Network

How would you characterize the health care industry in the Valley?
When I think of health care for the Valley, for the most part we’ve been a growth industry. We have had incredible new facilities that have been built and new partners that have come into town. … But we’ve also been experiencing the downturn in the economy right now, so we are struggling like every other business, and it’s somewhat concerning. Hospitals in particular have been a safety net for our patients, for families, for our community for quite a long time and that is being threatened because of changes in the economy.

Is the health care industry recession-proof?
A lot of people think health care is recession-proof. From our perspective though, we find that we still have people coming in for services … but many people don’t have the ability to pay for their care, and that is why we’ve experienced a downturn; people can’t pay their co-pays, a lot more people are uninsured, so they still need our services and we are here to provide for them … So, I don’t think we are recession-proof. We’ve gone through changes, we’ve had to reduce expenditures, we’ve had to look very critically at some of the services that we provide and assure that they are still mission critical.

What are the major legislative and financial issues facing the Valley’s health care industry?
Well, it’s unclear right now from a legislative standpoint, both how health care reform is going to manifest itself and then on more of a local level, what’s going to happen … the (state) Senate has passed a bill that includes pretty dramatic payment cuts for hospitals, and also reduces accessibility for many people in our community. There are proposals right now to eliminate coverage for a number of children with KidsCare. So those things are really concerning. However, nothing is in its final form and we don’t know. I would just encourage our legislators and our congressmen to really look at what it is that health care provides in the community and be thoughtful about changes that are being proposed.

What are some of the new trends in health care delivery?
It’s an exciting time to be in health care. … one of the great things that has happened is really bringing biosciences and biotechnology to Arizona, and we have really benefited by having those kinds of partnerships with researchers and with some of our scientists in the community. So, when you look at health care out in the future, you really see the opportunity to treat you as a patient on much more of an individual level, so that, through biosciences, we understand you at a molecular level, rather than just say, ‘Well, you have heart disease and the standard treatment for heart disease is X, Y, Z.’ Now we’re saying … ‘We’re looking at you and molecularly this is how you will respond to this kind of drug or this kind of treatment and we know what will work and what won’t work.’

As baby boomers age, what type of competitive edge does that give local health care facilities?
It does concern me — obviously there’s opportunity — but it does concern me from the standpoint that we have people who have far more diabetes, we’re seeing more incidences of certain types of cancers and heart diseases, and many more chronic diseases. So when you look at baby boomers aging and the incidences of chronic disease, there’s opportunity in treating those people, there’s also concern about it potentially overwhelming the health care system. We’re going to need many more nurses, physicians, facilities, and we’re going to need to be smarter about how we take care of people.

How has health care evolved locally?
The most exciting thing that I’ve seen in health care in Arizona is that providers recognize … that we do a much better job of taking care of patients when we work more closely together. So a lot of our initiatives are really bringing a health care team together to look at you as a patient and say what’s going to make sense through an entire continuum of care, and make sure you get the right treatment at the right time. Also, that we work much more cooperatively with you to do preventative work.

To what do you attribute your success at the C-level?
I think I have a great passion for John C. Lincoln and a great passion for our mission. I feel so honored to come to work every day and to work for people who are really making a difference in people’s lives. … I think I’m also analytical, I like to think strategically, I try to think beyond what are the issues of today, but look to where do I want John C. Lincoln, where do I think we should be five years from now, 10 years from now. I also very much value getting the right person in the right job, and we just have some excellent, excellent people here at John C. Lincoln. While I can look to things where I really feel I’ve made a difference here at John C. Lincoln, I know I’ve done that in the context of a really fabulous team of people.

    Vital Stats





  • Appointed president and CEO of John C. Lincoln Health Network in April 2009
  • Joined the network in 1987
  • Held executive posts at both network hospitals
  • The network includes John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital and John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital
  • Under her leadership, North Mountain Hospital was recognized for excellent patient care by U.S. News and World Report
  • Earned a Maser of Science in business administration from Arizona State University
  • Is involved with the Better Business Bureau, the Phoenix Boys Choir and the American Cancer Society
Stimulus Effect

Infrastructure Companies Are Big Winners Under Plan To Jumpstart Economy

Construction companies, big and small, figure to be the primary beneficiaries of some $4.2 billion in federal stimulus money that will flow into Arizona in the months ahead. But economists and industry officials say businesses across the board will share in what could be a spending bonanza.

Clearly not everyone is in construction. Yet, as major projects move from drawing boards to construction sites, laborers and management teams are in a better position to perhaps buy a car or get an old one repaired, purchase a needed washer or dryer, go out to dinner, or shop for clothes for their kids. That’s what many see happening as the money flows downstream.

Industry experts say estimates of the multiplier effect range from 3.5 to 5.5, meaning that for every dollar spent on construction, the impact on the rest of the economy is $3.50 to $5.50. Others say that every $1 billion spent on construction results in 35,000 to 40,000 jobs.

Other businesses in line to benefit include those related to health care, energy efficiency and home improvement. And it will help if a business is savvy about coping with government bureaucracy.

There are debates about whether the Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus package involves too much government or not enough government, but everyone seems to agree that government has to do something to pull the nation out of the worse economic downfall in decades.

Economics Professor Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, is among those who expect stimulus money targeted for indigent health care to have a ripple effect, impacting hospitals and health professionals. But, says Hoffman, who has done projects for Del Webb Construction, the Arizona Department of Transportation, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and APS, there is more.

“Any private sector business that supports K-12 and to some degree higher education, will benefit,” Hoffman says.

He includes suppliers, and maintenance and construction firms that serve the education field. Above all, construction companies involved in infrastructure and road building will receive what Hoffman calls “a needed shot in the arm.”

“The general contractors have been begging for this,” Hoffman says. “They were absolutely on the front lines working for this injection, because their businesses were dead in the water.”

Of the $4.2 billion in stimulus money, $522 million is allocated for transportation.

David Martin, executive director of the Associated General Contractors, Arizona Chapter, echoes Hoffman’s assessment. “All highway and heavy construction firms will be beneficiaries,” Martin says.

Additionally, contractors who work on education facilities, particularly in lower-income areas, and those that build water-treatment facilities, emergency shelters, and public infrastructure projects, such as streets and sidewalks, should benefit. Martin calls it “neighborhood stabilization.”

David Jones, president and CEO of the Arizona Contractors Association, says companies with experience in public works projects will benefit, especially those that “historically understand red tape and the bureaucratic levels of federal contracting.”

Utility companies should be able to take on energy-related projects, and work should be available for companies that retrofit residential, schools and government buildings to solar energy, Jones says. Women, minority and disadvantaged business enterprises, plus businesses run by war veterans “will have a place at the table,” he adds.

Homebuilders could benefit from projects on military bases, such as single-family units or replacing aging barracks.

Doug Pruitt, president and CEO of Sundt Corp., says contractors such as Sundt are positioned to do well in the stimulus world because of the company’s broad market diversification.

“We do highway work, industrial, water and sewage treatment, university work, K-12 — a whole host of building work,” Pruitt says.

He doesn’t expect much school construction, however, because nationally only 8.3 percent of the $143 billion allocated for construction is set aside for schools. Most of the money will go for highways, bridges and water-related projects, with funds funneled through such federal agencies as the General Services Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Pruitt says Sundt is focusing on its federal divisions and moving personnel from other units that have suffered because of the economy.

At Sunstate Equipment in Phoenix, which rents a full line of hand tools to heavy equipment, CEO Benno Jurgemeyer says it all comes down to “job creation and getting consumers back in a spending mode.” He says his company would benefit directly from highway or vertical construction, and indirectly if the stimulus package keeps office buildings and retail centers rented and full of employees and customers, thus accelerating the development process.

Jeff Whiteman, president and CEO of Empire Southwest, an authorized Caterpillar dealer for heavy equipment including off-highway tractors and trucks, says his firm should see some benefits, but adds: “I think it falls far short of being a true stimulus package and truly creating jobs. What we have is better than nothing. It will help us as construction picks up and hopefully some highways are built.”

Typically, businesses such as Empire Southwest are the first in and the first out of a recession. When housing construction stops, site preparation and development stops, and when housing is ready to resume, site preparation resumes. But in today’s economy, so many improved lots are ready for building that Whiteman says his industry’s recovery will be tied to heavy and highway construction.

money line

Stabilizing Asset Prices Is Key To An Economic Recovery

The declines in asset prices are sweeping around the globe like a giant tsunami tumbling everything in its wake. Equity prices are down 47 percent from their highs, commodities 53 percent and, of course, residential real estate 25 percent. Industrial production, retail sales and personal consumption expenditures are all showing losses year-over-year and do not appear to be decelerating in any meaningful way.

In the first quarter of 2009, the negative feedback loop — the lower prices go the lower they will go — is being exacerbated by the erosion of confidence and the availability of credit. If this weren’t enough, the lack of accountability and transparency in the system is further eroding investor confidence, thereby curtailing capital spending and stifling employment.

As the monetarists and fiscal policy makers rush to shore up the banking system, they have, for the most part, missed the mark. Long ago, the highly levered global economy transitioned from a banking-dominated regime to one that hides behind securitized lending. The off-bank balance sheet structures such as SIVs (structured investment vehicles), hedge funds, CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) and the like fueled the explosion in asset prices as they levered up the system exponentially. As we are finding out the hard way, no real underlying economic value was being created, other than prices would surely be higher tomorrow, which reinforced speculative non-productive behaviors.

The false promise that rising prices alone create wealth is being unmasked as the de-levering of credit and speculative excesses unwind. The plea from Congress that banks need to start lending fails to recognize that the highly leveraged off-balance sheet bank, the Shadow Bank, is dead. The credit creation in the Shadow Bank was 30- or 40-to-1, versus 10-to-1 for the banking system most of us are familiar with. It is not that the 10-to-1 folks don’t have problems; it is that they simply do not have the capital to restructure all the 30-to-1 junk that is choking the system.

It’s about the capital
Nouriel Roubini, a highly respected economist and chairman of RGE Monitor’s newsletter, has estimated that the charge-offs and write-downs may reach $3.6 trillion before this cycle bottoms out. Bloomberg Financial, which has been tracking these charge-offs, recently reported that the number has reached $1 trillion, or about one third of Roubini’s best-guess number. In October 2008, the Federal Reserve reported that the U.S. banking system had about $1.4 trillion of capital, hardly enough to deal with the massive write-downs Roubini, Goldman Sachs Group and others see on the horizon.

The obvious simple solution is to figure out how to stop asset prices from declining further. Although this has been attempted over the past many months, the seemingly uncoordinated efforts have failed. The TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), which explicitly gave the U.S. Treasury the authority and money to purchase assets with the intent of stabilizing prices, instead saw those monies going into the checking accounts of banks. However well-intentioned the program was, it did little to stem the tide in the deflationary spiral, leaving us deeper in debt and virtually in the same position as when the legislation was enacted.

Price stability
In order to encourage investment and spending, we must first have price stability. Asset prices do not need to rise to get the economy moving, nor should we expect that they must. The value of the enterprise over time will be clear and will be priced accordingly. The benefits of price stability encourage investors to take on risk and give lenders the confidence to lend. Rapidly rising or falling prices merely confound and confuse even the biggest risk takers among us and that, in large measure, is why we see return of principal trumping return on principal.

All is not lost, however, as interest rates are down, mortgage re-financings are up and the stock market has attempted to battle back from some very bad economic news. The first half of 2009 is proving tough going. But we are guardedly optimistic that the second half will show signs of stabilizing, laying an important foundation for recovery in 2010. The stock market has its own twisted personality, but if it can move above the October lows the more optimistic we are that better times are ahead.

angel statue

New Angel Investment Group Targets Women Entrepreneurs

A new angel investment group called the Catalyst Committee is gearing up to invest in local startup companies that focus on consumer goods such as apparel, high-end furniture and cosmetics. Heading up the new committee is Dee Riddell Harris, president of the Arizona Angels, a group of private investors that has been funding startup, technology-based companies in Arizona for nearly a decade.

“The Arizona Angels have rejected a number of applications from women entrepreneurs over the years because their ideas weren’t technology based or have a patent behind them,” Harris says. “So the point of the Catalyst Committee is to be supportive of entrepreneurs, particularly women, who have good ideas, as well as businesses that are not tech-based.”

Harris started building the framework for the Catalyst Committee about nine months ago. The group met for the first time in November 2008 and now has 35 potential women investors from around the state. During the kickoff meeting, the founders of three local startups talked to the group to provide an idea of the type of companies that could eventually apply for funding. High-end fashion designer Debra Davenport talked about the fashion industry in Phoenix, her couture collection, which she launched in November 2007 during Phoenix Fashion Week, and her hopes of one day raising $1.7 million that would allow her to participate in fashion shows around the world. She also showed a number of garments from her couture collection.

“Being able to participate in key fashion shows in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Paris, Milan and London is a fashion designer’s primary marketing tool,” Davenport says. “But it’s not cheap. It can run anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 per show when you figure in pattern making, fabrication, manufacturing and all the specialized notions, materials and threads that have to be brought in from places like Paris and Italy.”

Last year, Davenport was able to show her luxury collection during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Los Angeles. It’s the second largest and most prestigious fashion week in the United States next to New York Fashion Week. Davenport was also the first and only designer to show from Arizona, according to IMG, the production company that puts on the show. Now, Davenport was invited to show her fall collection during the most recent New York Fashion Week.

“I’m hoping that with the significant achievements we’ve been able to accomplish over the last 15 months, we will catch the eye of some savvy investment people who think this is a winning proposition,” Davenport says.

She is planning to launch her first signature fragrance later this year or in early 2010. She also plans to expand her design offerings to shoes, handbags and china patterns. The 50-year-old fashion designer has already completed designs for china patterns, shoes and luxury handbags that will be manufactured in Italy.

Kathie Zeider, senior vice president of Legacy Bank and a member of the Catalyst Committee, says there are many worthwhile businesses in Arizona like Davenport’s that serve women, or are women owned, and poised for high growth of $5 million to $50 million.

“We’re in a service and tech economy, so for Arizona to grow and prosper we need to nurture both sides of the economy,” Zeider says. “Kudos to Dee Harris for seeing this gap in the Arizona marketplace and developing an initiative to fill this need.”

Committee member Connie Jungbluth also believes early-stage investors are critical to the state’s economic vitality. “It’s important to infuse capital into early-stage companies in our community, especially in this economy,” she says. “Women are also big consumers, so overlooking businesses that serve them is not a good idea.”

The Catalyst Committee is still in search of investors to join the group. Its goal is to have 100 investors and to help one local startup company a month. Investors must meet state and federal accreditation standards. Individual investors need an annual income of $200,000 for the current year and the past two years. Couples require an annual income of $300,000 for the current year and last two years. A net worth of $1 million is also acceptable in lieu of the income standard.

Entrepreneurs can submit their applications and business plans to the Catalyst Committee via the Arizona Angels Web site. Harris says entrepreneurs seeking angel investment need to be well prepared when applying for funding; they need a strong business plan with important information aimed at investors.

“Angels are extremely interested in the management team that gives credibility to the firm, so oftentimes they read the first paragraph of a business plan, then skip straight to the management team because it’s so important,” he says. “They also want to know about the company’s marketing and sales strategy and whether the company has some type of competitive advantage.”

www.arizona-angels.org

Narrow Angle Camera Nasa Mars Mission University of Arizona

Strong Ties To NASA’s Mars Program Fuels Money Into State’s Economy

Millions of miles away and dragging a broken wheel, the Mars rover Spirit illustrates how the stars have aligned for Arizona and its growing position in space research and exploration. Besides the engineering miracle of functioning on just three working wheels, Spirit’s broken fourth appendage is unintentionally digging a trench, unearthing fresh proof the Red Planet once held water and the inklings of life.

Spirit, along with its twin rover, Opportunity, has been operating on the surface of Mars for more than five years, far longer than engineers predicted. In another happy accident, dust devils have routinely cleansed the solar panels of Opportunity, extending its life and its ability to transmit data and images of Mars. That’s something researchers did not expect, or plan for.

“That’s just great engineering — pure and simple,” says Jack Farmer, an Arizona State University professor conducting research in astrobiology within the university’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE). “It’s been a great twist of fate.”

While Spirit and Opportunity might be enjoying a little luck, it isn’t a coincidence that SESE has been quietly blazing a new path for ASU, and in the process elevating the school’s prominence with NASA and a cadre of impressed scientists and researchers.

Kip Hodges came to ASU three years ago to be the founding director of SESE and brought with him an impressive curriculum vitae that includes more than 20 years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In less than three years, ASU’s reputation has risen among its peers, and in the process fostered an academic environment that appeals to some of the nation’s top engineering and research talent. Today, the school continues to conduct groundbreaking experiments and research that merges earth and space sciences with engineering and high-technology processes.

“The vision that has emerged from SESE is one that fuses science and engineering to explore space and the function of our home world, and show us how and where we might evolve in the future,” Hodges says. SESE pairs two already impressive ASU disciplines: geological sciences with astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology.

“Among other things, we look at the fingerprints of ancient time — rocks, ocean sediments — study these and look at how life came to be here and the impact we as humans are having on it,” adds SESE Associate Professor Ariel Anbar, a biogeochemist interested in the evolution of the Earth’s environment. From an economic standpoint, Hodges says that while all the research — the trips to Mars and the search for how we came to be — is key to ASU, it also plays a huge role in the economy of the state and the Southwest. Partnerships to engineer a Mars rover, for instance, can impact several vendors and businesses across many levels. In Arizona, ASU has already worked with Honeywell, for instance, and aerospace and manufacturing titan General Dynamics has built transmitters and transponders to assist in retrieving the data and images from Mars.

The Phoenix Has Landed
Like an asteroid impact, the economic effects of space research extend far and wide. The Arizona Aerospace, Defense and Avionics Industry reports that Arizona ranks eighth in the U.S. in aerospace and defense industry employment and fourth in the employment of full-time workers. Industry figures show these jobs pay more than 52 percent higher than Arizona’s average wage. A recent Battelle study pins aerospace and the related research industries in the Grand Canyon State as one of Arizona’s core competencies. In fact, the state has one of the largest concentrations of telescopes in the world and a legacy of more than 50 missions.

It’s not just the Valley and ASU that reap the rewards of space research and exploration. Scientists, researchers and engineers in Southern Arizona have long played a vital role in the state’s space industry. One of the most visible projects, the Phoenix Mars Mission, put Arizona at the forefront of national media and space research interests.

The Mars Phoenix Lander descended on the Red Planet in May 2008, in full view of a worldwide audience awed by the entire process. The multiagency mission was led by the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, with guidance from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Phoenix Mars mission was the first to be led by a university, and one that Michael Drake, director of UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, says is the perfect example of what can be accomplished when a multitude of international agencies, governments and universities work together to accomplish a single goal — successful planetary and space research and all the far-reaching implications here on Earth.

Drake says projects such as the Phoenix Mars mission bring to light the pioneering research and feats of engineering being conducted in Arizona, which pump significant dollars into the state’s economy. “These types of projects have a huge ripple effect,” Drake notes, adding that UA and ASU continue to work hand in-hand to build Arizona’s leading position in space research and exploration. But, he adds, it is an investment that must come with a commitment from state and federal leaders who must realize that money invested today will likely have a significant impact years down the road. Simply put, he adds, it’s an investment in the future of the state, our universities and our economy.

“The business community understands this,” Drake says. “Besides all of the university employees and researchers, we employ a variety of small businesses — mainly in Arizona. We keep the wealth here.”

Mars Money
George Rieke, a regents professor of astronomy and deputy director of the Steward Observatory at UA, says that unlike many universities working with NASA on space missions already in place, UA has had central roles in building and operating the missions, as well as reaping the scientific benefits.

“Perhaps the most dramatic example was the construction of the Mars Phoenix Lander and its operation from a control center in Tucson,” Rieke says. “As a result, our involvement with NASA brings high technology right into our midst, along with the public interest and excitement in the resulting scientific advances. This interest, in turn, will bring interesting, high-paying jobs to us in the form of a broad spectrum of technology-based businesses.”

The impact of space research is significant in Southern Arizona. According to a recent study by the Arizona Arts, Sciences and Technology Academy, astronomy and space-related research injected more than $250 million into the state’s economy during fiscal 2006. In addition, over a 10-year period from 1998 to 2007, NASA awarded UA $444.3 million in research grants and space exploration dollars. Arizona’s clear skies and moderate desert climate continue to drive much of the growth and interest in further space-related endeavors. Besides the effects in Southern Arizona, there has been a steady increase in the monetary impact to ASU from NASA. In 2000, ASU was awarded $9.9 million in NASA grants, nearly $10.1 million in 2005 and $16.8 million in 2008. Since 2000, ASU has been the recipient of more than $121 million from NASA.

Grant money fuels research, engages future scientists and continues ASU’s cutting-edge work. Hodges, likes to point out that grant money isn’t confined to ASU. When new faculty members or researchers come to ASU to work at SESE, they bring their families, buy homes, groceries and contribute in many ways to the economy of the state. Currently, there are 42 faculty and more than 60 research scientists and postdoctoral scholars at SESE, with 97 graduate and 96 undergraduate students.

Hodges says that while the state has rightly invested heavily in the biomedical sector — and recorded some impressive economic advantages and revenue sources such as TGen — many states around the U.S. are competing for some of the same slices of the biomed pie. However, Arizona has the opportunity to be a magnet for space research and exploration.

“The tactical advantage of space science and research is that not many people are playing in that sandbox,” Hodges adds. “There is a great deal to be gained from an investment perspective. The opportunities are fantastic here.”

Future research is also compelling. The upcoming Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission is scheduled to launch this spring. LRO is the first spacecraft to be built as part of NASA’s return to the moon, and SESE has been intimately involved in preparations for this mission. One of the orbiter’s seven instruments, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), was designed by one of the school’s professors, a project that has brought in nearly $10.4 million from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2007. The school’s lunar center has also been working with the Johnson Space Center to scan and create an online digital archive of all the original Apollo flight films.

In 2008, SESE was awarded $14 million in NASA grants, which equates to about 10 percent of all grants awarded to ASU, and about 20 percent of grants awarded to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, ASU’s largest college. Unlike UA, ASU does not operate any telescopes. Also of note is the fact that $14 million is a hefty sum to be awarded when a mission is not being run.

“This is work force development at its finest,” Hodges says. “We cannot lose out on these opportunities and the momentum we’ve created.” Drake at UA agrees the state has seen significant momentum, but expresses caution and dismay over funding reductions by state lawmakers, who are wrestling with huge budget shortfalls and have identified significant cuts in Arizona’s universities.

“The state Legislature is unwittingly disregarding an enormous amount of money that comes into — and stays in Arizona — from space research and exploration,” he says. “If we can’t compete and keep the people and talent we have, the state is shorting itself of huge economic opportunities. It is very short sighted.”

Sumner Starrfield is a regent professor at SESE and a computational astrophysicist who studies stellar explosions looking for clues on where life originated on Earth. He notes that ASU and UA have made a great deal of progress in attracting and retaining faculty and, in the process, nurturing the next generation of researchers. While the state remains in the throes of a severe budget crisis, officials also contend that further cuts to Arizona’s educational system will put some brakes on the current progress.

“ASU has worked hard to get to where we are today,” Starrfield says. “The grant money generated by the school spreads throughout the economy of Arizona. It is important for us to remember what we are trying to accomplish and how it affects our future.”

Drake notes that while Arizona has made significant inroads with biotechnology job creation and research, space exploration remains an untapped galaxy of economic wealth.

“I always like to say, ‘If a field has a name, it’s too late to get into the game.’ The train has already left the station. That’s where we are at in space research and exploration in Arizona,” he says. “We are pioneering and creating a new economy here. We just need some help to continue to build something great.”

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

A view of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's instrument bench with both Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) telescopes visible in the center. Photo: University of Arizona

Mars' Arabian Terra NASA photos of space

A false-color image of the dunes on Mars' Arabian Terra from the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on the Mars Odyssey orbiter. Photo: NASA/JPL/ASU

Keith Maio President and CEO National Bank of Arizona

CEO Series: Keith Maio President and CEO National Bank of Arizona

Keith Maio
President and CEO
National Bank of Arizona

Assess the current state of the banking industry in Arizona.
It looks pretty tough. The economic environment is difficult. What we deal with in Arizona is that we have a real estate-dominant economy, so many of the local banks are heavy in real estate lending. And — as we all know and see and live in our homes every day — assessed values and real estate valuations have declined dramatically, and that puts pressure on banks. That’s starting to trickle through to the consumer segment and small business segment. Everybody is feeling impacted. That being said, I would tell you that the banks in Arizona, the vast majority, are highly capitalized. So they’ve got the capital base to weather the storm.

In terms of the storm, are you seeing any light at the end of the tunnel?
I haven’t seen the light yet. I know it’s there, but I haven’t seen it yet.

How has the turmoil at the nation’s largest banks affected Arizona-chartered banks?
I think it’s a little bit anecdotal in nature. Some of the problems that the big banks feel are not felt directly by the more local, Arizona banks. Local banks tend to be a little higher capitalized, which is a good thing, and their exposures are more direct-lending exposures versus securities investments and off-balance sheet vehicles.

At the end of the day it’s all about credit contraction, so it impacts people different ways. But the local banks are more direct lenders, so it’s what happens directly in their market.

Do you think that’s a positive thing?
I think it’s a positive thing, other than the fact that we have been impacted so badly in Arizona relative to the rest of the country. So that makes it tougher. But at least when you have direct exposures, you are able to assess on an individual basis what that exposure is.

We are hearing more about the role off-bank balance sheet structures have had in the sharp decline in capitalization among the larger national banks. What type of exposure to such off-bank balance sheet structures do local banks have?
Local banks don’t have much exposure there, and what it allows those banks to do is to assess their risk on a transaction-by-transaction basis, rather than market valuations on pools of securities. So it’s a little easier to assess their risk. Local banks have a little bit more capital to weather the storm, but their exposures on the lending side tend to be a little bit greater than the large national banks.

What challenges and opportunities does the current financial crisis hold for local banks in general, and National Bank of Arizona in particular?
Having been through this before, I think there is an opportunity — and as a CEO you’ve got to always look at the long run, not just the short run. You need to manage what we’re all in the middle of today, but you need to keep an eye on the long run. In getting through this, these tough times actually make people and good organizations better. You’ll learn, ‘What could I have done better before,’ and people who want to improve will improve.

Organizations that can improve end up much better off in the long run. And generally, anytime you have a market disruption — which this is — there’s turmoil in the market and there’s disruption. However, over the long run it presents market-share opportunities to banks. I think that’s an opportunity a lot of us have in the long run — to resettle what the market shares look like at the end of this. For the survivors, it’s a very good thing.

At the end of the day it’s all about credit contraction, so it impacts people different ways. But the local banks are more direct lenders, so it’s what happens directly in their market.

Do you think that’s a positive thing?
I think it’s a positive thing, other than the fact that we have been impacted so badly in Arizona relative to the rest of the country. So that makes it tougher. But at least when you have direct exposures, you are able to assess on an individual basis what that exposure is.


We are hearing more about the role off-bank balance sheet structures have had in the sharp decline in capitalization among the larger national banks. What type of exposure to such off-bank balance sheet structures do local banks have?

Local banks don’t have much exposure there, and what it allows those banks to do is to assess their risk on a transaction-by-transaction basis, rather than market valuations on pools of securities. So it’s a little easier to assess their risk. Local banks have a little bit more capital to weather the storm, but their exposures on the lending side tend to be a little bit greater than the large national banks.

What challenges and opportunities does the current financial crisis hold for local banks in general, andNational Bank of Arizona in particular?
Having been through this before, I think there is an opportunity — and as a CEO you’ve got to always look at the long run, not just the short run. You need to manage what we’re all in the middle of today, but you need to keep an eye on the long run. In getting through this, these tough times actually make people and good organizations better. You’ll learn, ‘What could I have done better before,’ and people who want to improve will improve.

Organizations that can improve end up much better off in the long run. And generally, anytime you have a market disruption — which this is — there’s turmoil in the market and there’s disruption. However, over the long run it presents market-share opportunities to banks. I think that’s an opportunity a lot of us have in the long run — to resettle what the market shares look like at the end of this. For the survivors, it’s a very good thing.

    Vital Stats





  • Executive vice president, Zions Bancorporation, parent company of National Bank of Arizona
  • Joined National Bank of Arizona in 1992
  • Has served as president since 2001; appointed CEO in 2005
  • Current chairman, Arizona Bankers Association board of directors
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of New Mexico; graduate, Pacific Coast School of Banking
money stack

Credit Unions Were Well Capitalized Leading Into The Recession

Arizona credit unions are weathering the rocky economy fairly well, but not without some bumps and bruises along the way. More than 20 of the 55 credit unions in the state have seen their bottom lines slip into the red. Even so, conservative and prudent lending policies that steered them away from the risky subprime market, and the fact they are well capitalized, have put credit unions on solid financial ground.

Insiders say the No. 1 measure of solvency is capital, and credit union capital ratios are considered quite healthy.

Credit unions, which are not-for-profit institutions and do not have stockholders to satisfy, nevertheless are feeling the pain of their members who have lost jobs or might even be in danger of mortgage foreclosure or bankruptcy.

Michael Hollar, vice president of business financial services for the 68,000-member Arizona Central Credit Union, describes the percentage of its loans that are in delinquency as “fairly high.” As of late last year, 1.67 percent of Arizona Central’s loans were in jeopardy, compared to 0.5 percent 12 to 18 months earlier.

If a payment is 11 days late, the credit union contacts the member to find out what the problem is. If the payment is 60 days late, steps are taken to ease the member’s financial pain by extending the amortization and lowering the interest rate.

“From a bottom line perspective, we were well into the red in 2008, roughly $6.5 million,” Hollar says.

“The reason is that we put a significant amount of money into reserve for loan losses. Every time we write something off, we put that much into reserve.”

Through 11 months of 2008, Arizona Central had put $10.6 million into its reserve fund, compared to $1.6 million for the corresponding period in 2007, reflecting the result of troubled loans.

“People walk in with the car keys and say they can’t make the payment anymore,” Hollar says. “It’s amazing. We’re lucky to get 50 cents on the dollar on that vehicle when it is sent to auction. Values are down. We’ve had a fair number of home equity loans that we wrote off. There’s no equity in the home anymore. The first mortgage is probably more than the house is worth.”

The goal was to pack as much bad news into 2008, so Arizona Central could hit the ground running in 2009, Hollar says.

Most credit unions have a very strong capital base. Any capital ratio to total assets in excess of 7 percent is considered by the National Credit Union Association to be well capitalized. In the past year, Arizona Central slipped to more than 10 percent from 11 percent, still well above the 7 percent plateau.

“We’re still north of 10 percent,” Hollar says. “As far as long-term stability, there are no issues. We’re not panicking by any means.”

The sinking economy, however, led to some changes in Arizona Central’s already conservative lending policies. Home equity loans that were offered for 100 percent of a home’s value, now are limited to 80 percent.

Steve Dunham, CEO of Canyon State Credit Union and board chairman of the Arizona Credit Union League and Affiliates, assesses the industry’s status: “I think we’re doing pretty well.”

He cites such factors as credit unions being not-for-profit organizations chasing quarterly profits, and avoiding higher-risk activities, including subprime and no-documentation lending.

“That helped protect us,” Dunham says. “Capital at credit unions was at an all-time high going into the recession. Credit unions started out with very good capital, and we still have very good capital at this point. By and large, I think credit unions will weather the recession very well.”

At Canyon State Credit Union, the 20th largest in the state with $140 million in assets, the number of members who are encountering financial difficulties is accelerating somewhat, Dunham says.

“As they have difficulty, so do we,” he adds. “As unemployment rises, more members are losing their jobs or having their hours cut. Real estate loans that everybody thought were well collateralized, with the drop in real estate values, now we’re discovering they are not so well collateralized. We’re very conservative as far as identifying what that real estate value is.”

Like other credit unions, Canyon State works with its members to help them through tough times on a case by case basis.

Even though some credit unions are operating in the red, Scott Earl, CEO of the Arizona Credit Union League and Affiliates, doesn’t expect consumer members to see much difference when it comes to borrowing. However, credit unions might require more documentation before awarding a loan than they did a year or two ago, he says.

At First Credit Union, where defaulted loans have increased mostly for autos, Carolyn Cameron, vice president of business development, says membership actually rose slightly in 2008 to nearly 60,000.
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“We stepped up our relationship building, our marketing efforts, working hard to attract new members and retain our current members,” Cameron says.

On the financial side, Cameron says, “Our very strong capital position prepared us to weather fluctuations in economic conditions. We also added provisions for dealing with increased loan losses. We eliminated construction loans, and we came out with an assistance program for members having trouble.”

Assistance may involve deferring or reducing payments, and reducing interest rates to help borrowers get back on their feet, she says.

What is it going to take to turn the economy around? Dunham, chairman of the Credit Union League, says the answer is simple.
“In Arizona, we need to absorb the excess real estate that’s available and get home building started again.”

Selling Businesses

Tips On Finding A Buyer For Your Company In Tough Economic Environment

Yes, the lofty business valuations supported by an overabundance of cheap debt have come and gone, but valuations are still attractive by historical standards and deals are still getting done. The companies that are achieving the highest valuations, best terms and actually getting to the closing finish line are approaching the market in a more systematic and pragmatic fashion. Even in today’s turbulent economy, it is still possible to achieve an attractive deal for your shareholders.Here are some practical tips CEOs should consider before endeavoring to sell their companies:

Strategic buyers are driving valuations
Corporate buyers are back with a vengeance after years of being at a significant competitive disadvantage relative to private equity groups flush with cheap debt and the ability to over-leverage deals to justify higher and ever higher valuations. While the market uncertainty has certainly made everyone more cautious, many companies have responsibly maintained conservative balance sheets and are actively seeking acquisition opportunities. You can expect a more thorough and lengthy diligence process, but the strategic buyers are often the most attractive and viable liquidity event available for most sale candidates in today’s market. Most sellers should now focus their efforts on well capitalized strategic buyers to achieve the most favorable outcome for shareholders.

Private equity groups are down but not out
Typically, private equity groups (PEGs) seek significant debt leverage on their equity investment to achieve higher equity returns. With the unprecedented collapse of the debt markets, there is little to no debt available for a typically structured PEG transaction. However, some PEGs specialize in full capital structure solutions, essentially underwriting their own debt for the deal. These PEGs are especially attractive in today’s market. Many of these full-capital-solution PEGs are understandably looking to capitalize on their unique advantage by acquiring companies at lower deal valuations, so they are not likely to outbid a well capitalized strategic buyer. At the same time, many traditional PEGs are still flush with cash and need to put the money to work, so they are accepting lower returns and are pursuing deals with more conservative capital structures. While PEGs are less aggressive on valuations across the board, they should still be approached by most sellers and included in any sales process intended to maximize valuation. Don’t count out the PEG world entirely, but at the moment, the smart sellers are focused more intently on well capitalized strategic buyers.

Create a competitive environment
The primary function of an investment banker is to identify all the likely potential buyers for a company, both strategic and financial, and then create a competitive environment whereby you are able to achieve the best possible transaction for your company by comparing various alternative proposals simultaneously. The best transaction usually involves numerous factors that are specific to each seller, but will generally include price, terms (cash, stock, earnouts, etc.), certainty of closure, cultural fit, and many times other qualitative factors. The sales process is part art and part science, and the experience of your investment banker is critical to achieving the optimal outcome. You should carefully evaluate the expethem, and be sure to ask for client references. Occasionally, a one-off negotiated sale can achieve an optimal outcome, but more often than not, a professional process run by an experienced investment banker will yield far superior results.

Create value with pro-forma “add-backs”
The primary valuation metric in most deals is a valuation multiple based upon earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation (EBITDA). Most buyers are willing to give credit for reasonable pro-forma “add-backs” to EBITDA. If you raise your EBITDA, the purchase price is raised correspondingly by a factor of the purchase multiple (every dollar you gain here can add $5, $6 or $7 to the purchase price). This can be a huge value creator, and can increase the valuation achieved for your company by 10 percent to 30 percent in most cases compared to relying on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) EBITDA. A professional investment banker is well versed in the types of issues that can effectively be positioned for “add-back” credit. These typically involve one time or unusual expenses, investments that GAAP won’t allow you to capitalize, excess salary draws (salary that should be viewed as dividends), M&A process costs, and certain legal costs, among others. This is another area where a good investment banker can add significant value to a transaction by providing good advice identifying and negotiating for these items and not leaving any economic value on the table.

Run your business and leverage your advisors
Letters of intent, or LOIs, are almost always non-binding; you don’t get your check until the deal closes. It can be a long and frustrating process managing the due diligence and documentation process, often taking between 8 to 12 weeks and hundreds of hours of time that can be a serious distraction from running your business. Make sure you have a point person on the management team to coordinate, and most importantly leverage off your legal advisors and investment bankers throughout the process. Good lawyers and investment bankers can take a good portion of this burden off your shoulders and leave you more time to run your business. This is critical. If the interim financial results of your business suffer as a result of your management team being distracted, this can sideline your deal or at the very least result in a downward renegotiation of valuation. Run your business, run your business, run your business. Nothing is more important.

Craig Jackson of Barrett Jackson

Craig Jackson – CEO Of Barrett-Jackson

When Craig Jackson took control of his family’s business, Barrett-Jackson, following the death of his father and brother in 1993 and 1995, respectively, he inherited a company that took in $15 million from one automobile auction. He was ready for the challenge, however, having grown up in the business and working in various roles. Today, the company has grown to three auctions — one in Scottsdale, one in Palm Beach, Fla., and one in Las Vegas — and made roughly $135 million at its 2008 auctions. But to achieve that growth, Jackson had to make several changes.

“My goal was to make it more inclusive and more of a family-oriented lifestyle event, whereas before, you’d call it the boys club,” Jackson says. “(It wasn’t) something the wives felt like they had their own place.”

Live television coverage on the SPEED Network, an active Web presence, myriad vendors of food, clothing and accessories, and a fashion show were all among the auction’s new image. Jackson also broadened the core of the auction — its selection of automobiles.

“Car collecting now isn’t just classics,” he says. “It’s everything that’s got collectability and uniqueness to it. It’s a much broader hobby and industry.

“To have sustainability in this business, you need to have new collectors and a much broader assortment because some things are hot one year and some things are cold another,” he continues. “We’re like the New York Stock Exchange — we sell commodities from all sorts of different types of cars to all sorts of different types of buyers in an open arms-like transaction.”

The current economy, Jackson says, has not had too much of an impact on the business as of yet. The auctions are still garnering a lot of attention. The 2008 Scottsdale auction alone had an attendance of 286,000 people, 30 percent of whom flew in from out of state. However, he is planning some cutbacks in regard to logistics for the auction, including ending the auction earlier than usual. This year’s Scottsdale auction runs from Jan. 11-18 at WestWorld of Scottsdale.

The tourism industry in Arizona is heading in the right direction during this time, Jackson says, but it needs everyone to work together in order to make it stronger.

“Tourism is one of those things that needs constant looking after,” he explains. “There’s constantly a game plan by other states and cities to whittle away at it; this one should have a game plan how not to allow that to happen and not take it for granted. … There are other communities that are very aggressive and their job is to come steal what we have here, and if there’s nobody making sure we’re all getting the support we need, then all of the sudden (moving an event) seems pretty attractive.”

It’s especially important that Arizona municipalities work together, considering that other destinations don’t consider the state a threat, Jackson says. He attended a meeting in Las Vegas when the city government was voting on funding for a new convention center, and while there he saw a chart that listed other cities considered to be their competition — and Phoenix wasn’t listed.

“They’ve already discounted us,” he says, “and that was pretty telling. … It’s in Scottsdale’s best interest, it’s in Phoenix’s, it’s in Paradise Valley’s, it’s in everybody’s to work together collaboratively. … I think it’s turning in the right direction. We’ve let it atrophy for a while, but it needs, actually, an infusion of capital and attention.”

www.barrett-jackson.com

Steven Lockhard TPI Composites

Steven Lockard – President And CEO, TPI Composites

When the goal is to carve out a spot on the cutting edge of green-energy technology, it helps to be in the business of making blades.

That’s the case with TPI Composites Inc., a privately held company now headquartered in Scottsdale that devotes a significant portion of its business to manufacturing massive wind-turbine blades used by such clients as Mitsubishi Power Systems and GE Energy. TPI Composites, which is also involved in the transportation and military vehicle markets, employs about 2,800 worldwide and operates facilities that house about 1.1 million square feet of manufacturing floor space in the United States, Mexico and China.

“Wind energy is our largest business,” says Steven Lockard, president and CEO. “It’s the business that is expanding at the most rapid pace.”

That expansion, which represents around 80 percent of the company’s annual sales, is indicative of an industry that has experienced unprecedented growth in recent years.

Lockard sees wind energy as a clean, reliable source of electricity and job creation, two areas addressed frequently in recent election campaigns.

“Three or four years ago when we had meetings in Washington, oftentimes we were trying to convince people that wind could become big enough to matter one day,” he says. “And that’s no longer the case.”

It matters now. In 2007, the domestic wind-energy industry expanded its power-generating capacity by 45 percent, installing 5,244 megawatts of wind power, according to the American Wind Energy Association. That accounted for about 30 percent of the nation’s new power-producing capacity and represented $9 billion injected into the economy. Through three quarters of 2008, wind power was on pace to add 7,500 megawatts by year’s end.

And when it comes to job creation, TPI Composites plays a vital role. A newly opened 316,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Newton, Iowa, is expected to employ about 500 workers when it reaches full capacity. That is a welcomed development in a town hit hard by job losses when its Maytag Corp. plant closed down in 2007.

Although Lockard is optimistic about the long-term prospects for wind energy, he is also realistic about the short term, suggesting the industry may continue to be impacted by the capital crisis through, at least, the first part of 2009. His observations are exclusive to wind energy, an industryenjoying record gains of late, but there may be a warning here for other high-tech businesses dealing with current financial conditions.

“We would expect to see perhaps more modest growth (in 2009) … not the same degree of growth that we’ve been experiencing the last few years,” Lockard says.

www.tpicomposites.com