Tag Archives: First Solar

energy supply - AZ Business Magazine May/June 2012

First Solar Building Latin America’s Largest Solar Plant

First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) today announced it has received board approval from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, and IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, for financing to support construction of the 141MW(ac) Luz del Norte solar power plant in Chile’s Atacama Desert. The loans, which are expected to close later this summer, clear the way for First Solar to proceed with construction planning at the site, which is near the city of Copiapo. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.

The OPIC board approved a loan of up to $230 million; the IFC board approved a $60 million loan.

The Luz del Norte project is the first of several projects First Solar has in its regional development pipeline, and will be the company’s initial project to start construction in Chile. The Chilean government’s National Energy Strategy includes expansion of the country’s renewable energy capacity to 20 percent of its total generated power by 2025. Energy from Luz del Norte will be supplied into the Chilean Central Interconnected System, contributing significantly towards this goal.

“The Latin American region has a growing need for innovative and efficient energy solutions right now,” said Tim Rebhorn, Senior Vice President, Americas for First Solar. “This investment support from OPIC and IFC is instrumental in bringing the project in Chile to life.”

Chile’s Atacama Desert receives some of the planet’s steadiest concentrations of direct sunlight, presenting ideal conditions for solar power generation. Widespread utilization of this tremendous resource is relatively new, and Luz del Norte represents an important advancement for development of solar energy in the region.

“The Luz del Norte project is an important step in furthering solar power development in Chile, where the potential for this clean, renewable resource is unrivalled,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC’s President and CEO. “OPIC is proud to support this investment in Chile while helping an innovative American company like First Solar expand its operations and create new markets for its products abroad.”

“Chile is a global leader in developing solar resources as a low cost element of energy supply,” said Bernard Sheahan, IFC Global Head of Infrastructure. “This engagement with Luz del Norte and First Solar exemplifies IFC’s efforts to support cutting edge transactions in emerging markets’ infrastructure.”

Rebhorn said First Solar has been working closely with the Chilean national government, industry, regional authorities and the local community to design, develop and build the Luz del Norte project. He noted that particular effort has been placed on understanding community concerns about environmental impact; national interest in the technology related to connecting the project to the grid; and the broader industry’s power requirements, among other important considerations.

“Forming strong, mutually beneficial partnerships with invested constituents is the only way to build a solid foundation for long-term success in this region, and that’s what we are working toward,” said Rebhorn.

SolarPower

First Solar Will Build 150MW Facility in S. California

First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) today announced that it has been selected by independent energy company Tenaska Solar Ventures to design and build the 150 megawatt (MW)AC Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center West project near El Centro, California.

First Solar will provide full Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) services on the project, employing its advanced thin film photovoltaic modules and single-axis tilt technology. The project sits on approximately 1,100 acres of previously disturbed land in Imperial County. Tenaska Imperial West is the second solar project in Southern California’s Imperial Valley developed, owned and managed by Tenaska. In November of 2013, First Solar completed construction on the 130MWAC Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South power plant for Tenaska.

“We are pleased to continue our relationship with Tenaska,” said Roger Bredder, First Solar’s Managing Director for U.S. Business Development. “This project will provide up to 800 jobs in the Imperial Valley at construction peak, and make a significant economic contribution to the local community. It will also provide the residents of Southern California with a reliable source of clean, renewable energy.”

Bredder said that the highly qualified local workforce that built Tenaska Imperial South over the past two years will provide a strong pool of experienced workers familiar with First Solar’s technology and construction methods.

First Solar has already started engineering and expects to begin construction later in 2014, with full commercial operation anticipated in 2016. San Diego Gas & Electric Company holds a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for all electricity generated by Tenaska Imperial West.

Tenaska is an energy company based in Omaha, Nebraska, with a proven track record of developing, constructing, owning, and operating state-of-the-art electric generating plants.

phoenix

Now is the time to invest in Arizona

It used to be when I traveled to different business meetings across the country, people would ask me about Arizona’s politics. While we still have reputation issues to repair, the questions I’ve been getting recently are more focused on the buzz they’re hearing about our growing technology sector.

There’s good reason Arizona is getting noticed for its growth. Over the last five years, Arizona has developed one of the most robust technology entrepreneurial ecosystems in the country. The state is home to five of Deloitte’s 2013 “Technology Fast 500” firms, specifically First Solar, LifeLock, Telesphere, Inilex and GPS Insight. Other startups that have been home grown in Arizona into industry leaders include Axosoft, GoDaddy, iCrossing, Infusionsoft, Insight Enterprises, LimeLight Networks and WebPT.

We were able to accomplish our strong entrepreneurial spirit in part by drawing the attention of the media and the state’s policy makers to the need to diversify our economy away from construction and climate into a knowledge-based economy with higher paying jobs. Our efforts resulted in a tax credit for qualified research and development that is the best in the nation and a successful angel investment tax credit.

A lot of other resources have been invested. Over a dozen business incubators and accelerators call Arizona home, providing resources to support technology entrepreneurs. In addition to graduating a vibrant workforce to fuel quality jobs, Arizona’s world-renowned universities and community colleges are also heavily engaged.

Arizona State University (ASU) runs the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative and the ASU SkySong Innovation Center was recently awarded one of the best organizations of its kind in the country. University of Arizona (UA) is helping create the technology of tomorrow in its Bridges/UA Bio Park and UA Tech Park that includes a Solar Zone. UA also participates in Startup Tucson – an organization dedicated to growing a vibrant ecosystem of entrepreneurship through educational events. Northern Arizona University fosters business growth through it Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology and benefits from its affiliation with NASA. All of that bodes well for Arizona’s innovation economy.

Other efforts are focused solely on exciting people about technology and science. We just celebrated the third annual statewide Arizona SciTech Festival with over 300K people attending more than 500 events this year.

And although we have a long way to go, there’s a growing pool of capital. We’re home to two of the largest and top rated angel investor networks in the U.S. ─ ATIF and Desert Angels. The Arizona Commence Authority has created the Arizona Innovation Challenge that awards the most money in the country to the most promising entrepreneurs meeting technology challenges. Grayhawk Capital just raised $70 million in funds for early and growth stage technology investments. And Tallwave Capital recently announced it has deployed $500,000 in capital in early-stage ventures.

The 2010 census reports Arizona’s population at 6.4 million, with a median age of 35.9 years. The predicted growth rates for Arizona by the federal and state government expect that between 1.5 million and 3 million people will move to Arizona by the year 2020. That type of robust regional population growth combined with an improved U.S. economy translates into high potential for investors.

It’s true we enjoy more than 300 days of sunshine each year. But we offer a lot more than golf and spas. Venture capital sitting on the sidelines should put money into promising Arizona high tech firms and startup ventures.

Now is the time to invest in Arizona.

energy supply - AZ Business Magazine May/June 2012

First Solar Sets World Record for CdTe Solar Cell Efficiency

Tempe-based First Solar, Inc. announced it has set a world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) solar cell conversion efficiency, achieving 20.4 percent conversion efficiency certified at the Newport Corporation’s Technology and Applications Center (TAC) PV Lab and confirmed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The record-setting cell was constructed at the company’s Perrysburg, Ohio factory and Research & Development Center.

This certified result bests the previous record of 19.6 percent conversion efficiency set by GE Global Research in 2013. Last April, First Solar and GE announced a solar technology partnership in which First Solar acquired GE’s CdTe solar intellectual property and secured a collaborative research partnership with GE’s R&D team. The partnership was formed to accelerate innovation in PV technology and accelerate solar module performance at manufacturing scale.

“This record marks another achievement in our mission to unlock the industry-changing potential of CdTe PV,” said Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s Chief Technology Officer. “We are demonstrating improvement in CdTe PV performance at a rate that dramatically outstrips the trajectory of conventional silicon technologies, which have already plateaued near their ultimate entitlements. The synergy realized in our partnership with GE also demonstrates the value of our consistent and strong investment in R&D. The advanced technologies and processes we developed for this record-setting cell are already being commercialized and will positively impact performance of our future production modules and power plants.”

First Solar’s new CdTe research cell conversion efficiency matches the research cell efficiency record of multicrystalline silicon, another technology used in the PV solar market.

First Solar has continued to transfer its success in the R&D lab into its commercial modules, increasing its average production module efficiency to 13.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, up 0.6 percent from 12.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. The company’s lead line was producing modules with 13.9 percent average efficiency at the end of 2013.

Phil Schiller

Apple brings 700 jobs to Valley manufacturing plant

Apple Inc. says it will open a manufacturing plant in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa that will eventually employ 700 workers.

“Apple’s presence in the region will be a game-changer for the Greater Phoenix area, its innovation landscape and future ability to attract other high-tech companies,” said GPEC President and CEO Barry Broome. “Between their plans to hire 700 direct employees and run completely on renewable energy, I’m convinced Apple could not have chosen a better location than Mesa and Eastmark. This deal is the result of the cooperation and support of several parties, including Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri, City of Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, DMB Associates, the ACA and SRP, whose infrastructure will enable more projects to move forward in the surrounding area.”

The Cupertino, Calif., maker of the iPhone confirmed Monday that it is expanding its U.S. manufacturing operations in a former First Solar plant in Mesa. The city southeast of Phoenix already hosts a long list of high-tech manufacturing firms.

About 1,300 construction jobs will also be created as the First Solar plant designed to make thin-film solar panels is converted. The company sold the plant last month.

Apple spokeswoman Kristen Huguet says the plant will be powered with renewable energy provided by local utility Salt River Project.

Gov. Jan Brewer said Apple’s decision to come to Arizona is a sign that the state’s efforts to provide a pro-business climate are paying off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Solar Investments

First Solar buys S. Calif. power project

First Solar said Monday that it has purchased a 150-megawatt power project in Southern California.

Construction is expected to start this year and finish in 2014. The Tempe company said that the plant could generate enough electricity to power more than 60,000 average California homes.

First Solar Inc. bought the project, which is near El Centro, Calif., from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., energy investment firm Energy Power Partners and a third partner that it didn’t identify. It didn’t say how much it paid.

First Solar, one of the largest solar panel manufacturers in the world, also develops and builds large solar farms that generate electricity sold to utilities.

Its stock added 28 cents, or 1 percent, to $27.24 in afternoon trading.

The industry has in recent years been struggling with a steep drop in solar panel prices. Demand stagnated while manufacturing capacity increased and costs for raw materials plummeted.

image001

Dircks Moving rebrands itself

One of Arizona’s most respected commercial and residential moving businesses, Dircks, announced that it has rebranded its company name and logo from Dircks Moving Services to Dircks Moving & Logistics.  The move comes on the heels of one of Dircks’ most successful years in 2012–a year that saw a bolstered corporate commercial business segment for Dircks and a reinvigorated residential moving market.

Amidst a number of years when residential moves were slowing in Arizona, the Dircks organization recognized an opportunity to reexamine its business model and look for new growth areas.  The result is that Dircks found it could strengthen its corporate and commercial operations with Valley businesses such as Arizona State University, Cigna and First Solar, as well as business accounts outside of Arizona.

Dircks invested in its own infrastructure by dedicating a team to corporate and commercial services whose sole purpose is to streamline every aspect of a business move while increasing overall quality and customer satisfaction.  In the process, Dircks saw that it was not only moving a business from one place to another–or simply from one floor to another–it was providing full-scale logistics services.

“When we looked back recently at all of the events that have led up to the end of 2012,, we realized that the name ‘Dircks Moving Services’ wasn’t a perfect reflection of who we currently are,” said Executive Vice President, Rick Dircks.  “We had grown, we had moved forward.  We have always adhered to the highest standards of quality, and we realized that our name needed to say that.”

In late 2012, Dircks contracted its long-time public relations and marketing agency, Phoenix-based Agency G, to undergo an exhaustive rebranding study.  The two businesses came up with a new name and company logo they feel is reflective of everything Dircks has become.  It is descriptive of Dircks’ services, it conveys forward movement, and it instills renewed enthusiasm for Dircks’ customers, business colleagues and for its industry as a whole.

“Dircks has proven great value to the entire Mayflower system with the outstanding quality of their work,” said Mayflower CEO Rich McClure. “We applaud their continued efforts to diversify their business and congratulate them on their new brand.”

Added Rick Dircks, “While we know that we have gotten where we are today through hard work, determination and an unwavering dedication to quality, we also know much of our success could not be possible without the support of everybody who has been there through the economic ups and downs.  This is a new era for Dircks Moving & Logistics, and we are very excited about our future.”

First Solar

First Solar buys Chilean solar company

Solar panel maker First Solar has purchased Chilean solar development company Solar Chile as energy demand continues to rise in the region.

The companies provided no financial terms in announcing the deal on Wednesday.

First Solar Inc., which is based in Tempe, bought Fundacion Chile’s stake in the company. First Solar and Fundacion Chile created a strategic working alliance with each other in October 2011. Fundacion Chile will continue to provide consultation services.

Solar Chile has photovoltaic power projects totaling approximately 1.5 gigawatts in northern Chile. Its five employees will join First Solar.

First Solar shares finished at $31.02 on Tuesday. They have almost tripled from a 52-week low of $11.42 in June. They peaked for the past year at $50.20 last February.

Brossart Diane final 9314 5-29-12

Valley Forward Exands its horizon

Timing is everything, even when it comes to Mother Nature.

“In 2010, we got an $85,000 grant to look at some federal issues on sustainability,” says Diane Brossart, president and CEO of Valley Forward, which brings business and civic leaders together to improve the environment and livability of Valley communities. “We were asked to target Arizona’s Congressional delegation and get them up to speed in regards to understanding a sustainability agenda for Arizona and what that meant.”

What grew from that seed was an initiative that had actually been germinating for more than a decade, Brossart says: taking the successful Marocopa County-centric Valley Forward and giving is a statewide focus. In August, Valley Forward’s board voted unanimously to to move forward with a business plan that will transition Valley Forward into Arizona Forward in January.

Brossart says the state is facing some serious issues related to the environment and the livability and vitality of Arizona’s cities and towns will be impacted by upcoming decisions related to:
* Land use planning and open space,
* A balanced multi-modal transportation system,
* Improving and maintaining healthy air quality,
* Solar and renewable energy technology,
*  Managing our water resources, and
* Protecting wilderness, parks, national monuments and other natural areas for Arizona’s tourism economy.

“As Arizona and the country recover from the Great Recession, a statewide dialogue is more important than ever,” says William F. Allison, a shareholder at Gallagher & Kennedy. “The issues impacting us – water, energy, transportation, land use – involve the entire state rather than only the Valley. Arizona Forward will provide a forum to think outside the box and beyond the Valley.”

To get Arizona Forward to have its greatest statewide impact, Brossart and her staff connected with nine companies that had influence on communities along the Sun Corridor — the stretch of freeway that connects Tucson, Phoenix, Prescott and Flagstaff — to become charter members of Arizona Forward.

“The leaders of those companies have become our tour guides as we go into Pima County and Northern Arizona,” Brossart says. She points to Kurt Wadlington, employee-owner of Sundt Construction in Tucson, for opening doors for Arizona Forward to spread its wings into Southern Arizona.

“Southern Arizona already has a very strong environmental focus, but struggles with areas that are dependent on statewide engagement from both a funding and advocacy perspective,” Wadlington says. “(Valley Forward’s) shift (to a statewide focus) will provide Southern Arizona with added resources to coordinate its future growth in the larger context of the Sun Corridor.”

Experts agree that now is the perfect time for Valley Forward to shift to a statewide focus statewide because Arizona is at a turning point, economically and environmentally.

“There are major issues that affect the state like transportation; managing resources; and protecting the wilderness, parks, and national monuments,” says Alfie Gallegos, area sales manager for Republic Services. “These are not just environmental issues, but are issues that have an effect on Arizona’s economy statewide. I think Arizona is ready to start having more positive statewide conversations about finding ways to grow our economy in a manner that can be sustained and is environmentally friendly.”

Brossart says that while Arizona has had countless groups that have focused on making their communities better, Arizona Forward will be looking to help educate legislators become the glue that brings those regional organizations together in a spirit of cooperation and unity.

“So much of our goal is to drive a political agenda to the middle and bring folks on both sides of the aisle together,” Brossart says. “The issues that we focus on are sustainability and environmental. Everybody needs clean air, clean water, open space and parks. Those are the things that make a community viable, healthy and liveable. We all want that. Those aren’t political issues. But they do fall into a political arena that sometimes clouds the issues. But if we can be a reasoning voice of balance like we have been successfully in Maricopa County, if we can bring that statewide, it will be really good for Arizona — economically and environmentally.”

Valley Forward members expect the transition to Arizona Forward to foster additional collaboration and conversation on statewide issues, bring additional viewpoints on key issues and allow for a more global conversation.

“My hope is that we can, over time, have a collective vision that regardless of our own regional filters, we’re all in this together and need to find ways to move forward as one sustainable, economically successful state,” says Iain Hamp, community affairs representative, Wells Fargo Team Member Philanthropy Group.

Brossart says one of the biggest messages Arizona Forward will be trying to communicate is that making sound decisions about issues surrounding sustainability and the environment are good for business.

“If we make a case that shows the economic impact of parks and open space on the tourism industry, the business community will take notice and they are uniquely poised to deliver of that message and be heard,” Brossart says. “Parks groupies are great and they are important. But when the business community gets involved, people listen.”

Where Arizona Forward could have its biggest economic impact is on growth industries that rely on the state’s amazing natural resources.

“It’s an exciting time to be a part of solar energy, as the clean, renewable energy source is experiencing massive growth and helping the state and country achieve greater energy independence,” says Patricia Browne, director of marketing and communications for SOLON Corporation in Tucson. “And Arizona has been at the center of this growth. This has been made possible not only by the companies developing the solutions, but by the state and local officials, Arizona-based businesses and individual residents who recognize the importance that solar plays in a number of ways such as a cleaner environment, economic development, and energy price stability. However, there are still challenges in making the adoption viable on a large scale, and Arizona Forward helps bring together the right players to help make this happen on a state level.”

Richard Mayol, communications and government relations director for Grand Canyon Trust in Flagstaff, says Arizona Forward will give members in northern Arizona the opportunity to not only have a voice in discussions that affect the state today, but in decisions that impact what Arizona will be like 20 years from now.

“We hope it will help create an economy that provides the opportunity for prosperity without sacrificing the environment,” he says, “and makes northern Arizona an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.”

And that is what Arizona Forward’s mission is all about: bringing business and civic leaders together in order to convene thoughtful public dialogue on statewide issues and to improve the environment and sustainability of Arizona.

“All areas of the state will benefit, from urban to rural and suburban areas in between due to a coordinated and planned strategy for such essential elements as affordable energy, water, transportation, affordable housing, and a wide band of employment opportunities,” says Janice Cervelli, dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Arizona. “All geographic, economic, and environmental sectors of the state will increasingly become part of a larger, interdependent, connected system.”

GOALS OF ARIZONA FORWARD

* Establish cooperative relationships with like-minded Arizona conservation organizations and facilitate collaboration on sustainability initiatives.
* Bring business and civic leaders together to convene thoughtful public dialogue on regional issues and to improve the environment and sustainability of Arizona.
* Increase awareness of and interest in environmental issues initially in the Sun Corridor and then beyond, statewide, building on an agenda of land use and open space planning, transportation, air quality, water, and energy.
* Support efforts to promote the Sun Corridor as an economic development area incorporating sustainability and smart growth principles.
* Serve as a technical resource on environmental issues through Arizona Forward’s and Valley Forward’s diverse membership of large corporations, small businesses, municipal governments, state agencies, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations.

ARIZONA FORWARD CHARTER MEMBERS
Arizona Community Foundation
First Solar
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold
National Bank of Arizona
SOLON Corporation
Sundt Construction
The Nature Conservancy
Total Transit
Wells Fargo

FOUNDING MEMBERS: Access Geographic, LLC; Adolfson & Peterson Construction Company; APS; Arizona Conservation Partnership; Arizona Department of Transportation; Arizona Heritage Alliance; Arizona Investment Council; Arizona State Parks Foundation; Arizona State University, Global Institute of Sustainability; Aubudon Arizona; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona; Breckenridge Group Architects/Planners; Caliber Group; City of Tucson; Environmental Fund of Arizona; Fennemore Craig; Gabor Lorant Architects; Gammage & Burnham; Godec Randall & Associates; Grand Canyon Trust; Guided Therapy Systems; Haley & Aldrich; Intellectual Energy, LLC; John Douglas Architects; Jones Studio; Kinney Construction Services, Inc.; Lewis and Roca LLP; Logan Halperin Landscape Architecture; Pima County; RSP Architects; Southwest Gas Corporation; SRP; University of Phoenix; TEP / UNS Energy Corp.; The Greenleaf Group

customer.service

ASU Center becomes a resource to teach service

Customer service was once viewed as the cost of doing business.

“Across almost every industry, leaders are focusing on service as a way to compete in today’s competitive marketplace,” says Mary Jo Bitner, academic director for the Center for Services Leadership at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business.

But times have changed. Companies that are in search of new revenue streams are finding that in addition to providing great customer service, offering value-added services to their product lines are helping their bottom lines. And the help them make the most of the opportunities, many are seeking help from the ASU Center, which focuses on research and executive education in managing and marketing services.

“Customer demand and the competitive challenges posed by the commoditization of many products has pushed many goods-based companies to take another look at services as a source of revenue and profit,” says Stephen Brown, director of the Center for Services Leadership, who has spent the past 20 years tracking the growing importance of services as a product. “Many are following market leaders to become goods-and-services companies.”

For example, Boeing has broadened its offerings by adding the lucrative market of services to its aircraft manufacturing. The Hewlett Packard and Compaq merger created a new company whose major product is services. IBM’s impressive financials over the past decade — in shining contrast to its competitors — were largely the result of its service businesses.

“In 2001, we were launching our first fee-based service business,” says Steve Church, president of Avnet Integrated and chief corporate business development and planning officer. “We wanted to offer more services and solutions. We knew a lot, but there was a lot we didn’t know.”

Church says Avnet’s membership in the center — which concentrates on expanding service innovation by combining the latest scientific insights from the academic world with the best of business strategy in the real world — allowed the company to “build a culture of service excellence that focuses on the customer and gives each a great customer experience.”

The Center, which was created in 1985, remains the only one of its kind in the United States, devoted to research and education in the services field.  Its research findings form the foundation of the Center’s executive education program, attended by managers and executives of leading firms.  Member companies include AT&T, Charles Schwab and Co., Ford Motor Company, IBM, Mayo Clinic and others, who sponsor research, fund scholarships, host MBA student teams and participate in executive education.

Many member companies sponsor research that is published in academic journals, and shared at the Center’s executive education forums. Bitner, for example, has been studying the effects of self-service technologies (SST), working with Ford and a major pharmaceutical benefits management company.

“The Center is really a tremendous resource for any company that has a strategy to to improve customer serve or add services to augment its products,” Church says. “We learned that by getting our employees engaged in customer service, we built customer loyalty, it helped us compete, and it enhanced our financial performance.”

Untitled

AWEE presents 2012 Faces of Success

A formerly homeless veteran who lost his hearing from an explosion in Vietnam, an ex-offender who chose drugs over her children and today counsels individuals in similar circumstances, and a Baltimore transplant who had to rely on the financial support of family when she couldn’t find a fulltime job despite a steady work history will tell their turnaround stories and be honored at the 18th annual Faces of Success Luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 15 at The Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa.

The annual fund-raising luncheon supports Arizona Women’s Education & Employment (AWEE), a workforce development organization using a diverse range of evidence-based training and support services to advance Arizona’s workforce and change the lives of women, men, young adults and special populations through the dignity of work.

Also at the luncheon, Michelle King Robson, who overcame life-threatening health issues to start the widely praised social health website EmpowHER.com for women will receive the Jeanne Lind Herberger Award.

More than 700 people are expected at the luncheon, which is presented by Bank of America.  Registration and reception begin at 11 a.m.   The highly entertaining, rapid-fire program of giveaways, raffles and remarkably moving stories of success will be co-hosted by television personality Tara Hitchcock and Alfredo J. Molina of Molina Fine Jewelers.  Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton will make brief congratulatory remarks.

Molina also has donated a stunning pair of 18-karat white gold earrings with .39 carats of brilliant diamonds surrounding black onyx for a raffle.  The earrings are valued at $4,990.  Raffle tickets are $25 each or 6 for $100 and can be purchased at the event or online at www.awee.org.

Individual tickets for the Faces of Success Luncheon are $100 each and also can be purchased online or the day of the event.  Sponsorships are still available.

The highlight of the annual luncheon comes midway through the program when the three Faces of Success take the audience through their personal journeys from rock bottom to steady employment and self sufficiency thanks to AWEE programs, services and support.

The 2012 Faces of Success are:

• Craig Leighton, a U.S. Marine Corp photographer whose life fell apart after returning from Vietnam in 1974 deaf and angry.  Leighton eventually found himself battling alcohol and drug addiction, homeless and in jail.  “I needed help,” he said.  “Coming out of prison, you have a choice:  Go back to your old behavior or start over.  AWEE is what saved my life.”

• Vicki Rainey, the mother of two children who grew up in Phoenix living a “wonderful childhood” until the family moved to a new neighborhood.  That’s when she started making a series of bad choices with alcohol, drugs and criminal behavior and wound up homeless and in and out of prison.  Prison let her come out of the meth-induced fog she had lived in for months when she chose the drug over her kids.  She learned about AWEE in prison workshops and classes, rebuilt her self-esteem and her life and is now the marketing manager at Recovery Opportunity Center.  “The simple fact is, I wouldn’t be where I am today without AWEE.”

• Tanya Smith moved to Phoenix from Baltimore after her mother died.  Smith wanted warmth and sunshine.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t find permanent work and ran out of money between assignments through a temporary agency, needing help from family members.  Surgery complicated matters.   After getting on AHCCCS, she was referred to AWEE where resume writing and interview training keyed her turnaround.  Today, she’s working fulltime in the Home Modification Division of the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

Jeanne Lind Herberger honoree Robson combines a successful track record as a businesswoman and entrepreneur with nearly two decades of civic and community leadership to lead one of the fastest-growing social health companies on the Web.  She started EmpowHER following her own personal struggle with a debilitating health issue and the challenges she experienced in finding the health resources she needed.  “I thought ‘If this happened to me, what is happening to women all over the world?’  At that moment, I decided I would dedicate my life to making sure no other woman would suffer as I had by creating the resources I wish I had when I was sick.”

Kathey Wagner, CEO, B-On The Obvious and Nicole Spracale, Senior Vice President, Jobing, are co-chairs of the 2012 Faces of Success Luncheon.  Bank of America is the Presenting Sponsor with additional support from: The Herberger Foundation, Bruce T. Halle Familiy Foundation, APS, B-On The Obvious, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Discover Financial Services, Jobing, EmpowHER.com, First Solar, Molina Fine Jewelers, SRP, State Farm, Lewis & Roca, MidFirst Bank, Wells Fargo, Avnet, Comerica Bank and University of Phoenix.

For sponsorship information, contact Chief Development Officer Jamie Craig Dove at jamiecraigdove@awee.org or by calling (602) 223-4333.  For ticket information, visit www.awee.org.

Arizona Energy Consortium - AZ Business Magazine May/June 2012

Arizona Energy Consortium – Power Brokers Leading The Charge

The Arizona Energy Consortium is establishing the energy roadmap to create a brighter economic future for Arizona. The following individuals are leading the charge.

Robert Bowling - First SolarRobert Bowling
Company: First Solar  

Position with Arizona Energy Consortium:
Co-Chair of the Workforce Development Committee, which focuses its efforts on current barriers to Arizona’s energy workforce development, as well as devising potential solutions to overcome such barriers.

Relationship to the energy industry:
25 years of power generation experience in Fossil, Hydro and PV.

Why he became involved with the AEC:
“Having always been ‘involved’ in various initiatives throughout Arizona, I saw the value that this consortium has towards the greater good for all Arizonans.”

Why he thinks Arizona needs the AEC:
“As a nation we all understand the various issues surrounding energy dependence. The Arizona Energy Consortium will help AZ be the leader in a variety of energy issues.”

Predicted impact the AEC will make on Arizona by 2022:
“Hopefully by making Arizona the leader in lost cost, sustainable energy production and a hub for energy innovations.”

Tekla Taylor - Golder AssociatesTekla Taylor
Company: Golder Associates, Inc.

Position with Arizona Energy Consortium:
Co-Chair of the Membership Committee, which is dedicated to growing the Arizona Energy Consortium in terms of membership recruitment, as well as promoting the AEC in the form of event planning and hosting. Members of this committee will be responsible for identifying members who could positively contribute to, as well as benefit from, involvement within the AEC.

Relationship to the energy industry:
Manager, Golder Energy Services US

Why she become involved with the AEC:
“Actively participating in AEC keeps us informed of the opportunities and challenges that face energy sector growth in Arizona thereby impacting our clients.”

Why she thinks Arizona needs the AEC:
“Collaboration among all stakeholders in the industry is critical to ensuring long term success and placing Arizona as a leader in the renewable energy market.”

Predicted impact the AEC will make on Arizona by 2022:
“Through design and implementation of innovative renewable market solutions, AEC will have a significant impact on market sector growth, diversity and economic development.”

Mary Wolf-Francis - DIRTT Environmental SolutionsMary Wolf-Francis
Company: DIRTT Environmental Solutions

Position with Arizona Energy Consortium:
Co-Chair of the Energy Efficiency Committee, which is responsible for reviewing energy efficiency programs, as well as current barriers to energy efficiency across a wide range of Arizona energy sectors (solar, natural gas, oil, coal, nuclear, wind, geothermal, etc.). Members are encouraged upon review of energy efficiency barriers, to develop potential solutions that would maximize energy efficiency and encourage future Arizona project development.

Relationship to the energy industry:
Business liaison for the State Energy Sector Partnership Grant that brought the Arizona Energy Consortium into fruition as part of the objectives in the grant.

Why she became involved with the AEC:
Brought companies in energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainability and utilities together to discuss creating the AEC then passed the torch to Michelle De Blasi and Steve Zylstra at the Arizona Technology Council.

Why she thinks Arizona needs the AEC:
“Companies in Arizona need to work together to grow and sustain energy companies here in the state.

Predicted impact the AEC will make on Arizona by 2022:
“The AEC will be the catalyst for diversifying our energy companies here in Arizona to reduce our reliance on the grid.”

Chris Davey - EnviroMissionChris Davey
Company: EnviroMission

Position with Arizona Energy Consortium:
Co-chair of the Arizona Energy Consortium and co-chair of the Energy Roadmap Committee, which will focus its efforts on developing and implementing an Energy Sector Roadmap for Arizona. Documents such as, Arizona’s Solar Strategic Plan and Arizona Town Hall’s AZ’s Energy Future Report will be utilized in constructing the Energy Sector Roadmap.

Relationship to the energy industry:
As executive director of EnviroMission, he has been vital to the development of the first U.S. Solar Tower project in western Arizona. He has negotiated a number of Power Purchase Agreements, secured parcels of land with both governmental and private bodies, raised capital to deliver the unique Solar Tower technology and advocated on behalf of the solar industry.

Why he became involved with the AEC:
“I want to put something in place to make it easier for people to get done what I’m getting done now. I’m from 8,000 miles away, but I call Arizona home now and I want to make it a better place.”

Michelle De Blasi - Quarles & BradyMichelle De Blasi
Company: Quarles & Brady

Position with Arizona Energy Consortium:
Co-chair of the Arizona Energy Consortium and co-chair of the Energy Roadmap Committee, which will focus its efforts on developing and implementing an Energy Sector Roadmap for Arizona. Documents such as Arizona’s Solar Strategic Plan and Arizona Town Hall’s AZ’s Energy Future Report will be utilized in constructing the Energy Sector Roadmap.

Relationship to the energy industry:
She is chair of the firm’s Solar Energy Law Team and focuses her practice on guiding renewable energy projects from concept to completion. In addition, she practices in the area of environmental and natural resources law advising clients on federal and state air and water quality issues.

Why she became involved with the AEC:
“With its solar resource and geographic proximity to target markets such as California, Arizona has an opportunity to revitalize its economy by continuing to grow its clean energy sector. By combining business leadership with guidance for good public policy, the Arizona Energy Consortium will play an important role in helping Arizona achieve its clean energy sector expansion goals.”

Ann Marie Chischilly, Esq. - ITEP at NAUAnn Marie Chischilly, Esq.
Company: Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) at Northern Arizona University

Position with Arizona Energy Consortium:
Co-chair of the Public Outreach Committee, which is responsible for educating investors, developers, legislators, and the general public on the Arizona Energy Consortium and the energy industry.

Relationship to the energy industry:
“I began my work in the energy industry as an attorney with the Gila River Indian Community and founded their Renewable Energy Team in 2010. I began my position at NAU in April 2011 and have been developing the Tribal Clean Energy Resource Center, which will help tribes and Alaska Native Villages transition from fossil fuel based energy to clean and renewable energy. For 20 years, ITEP has become a national leader in training and educating tribes in the environmental mediums and has served more than 500 of the 565 tribes nationally.”

Why she become involved with the AEC:
“I want the 22 tribes of Arizona to be included in the process of developing the Energy Roadmap and seeking their input is essential to accomplishing the mission.”

Why she thinks Arizona needs the AEC:
“Arizona has many great organizations, but AEC captures all of them into one group and unites the renewable-energy sector. Becoming more organized and united will make Arizona a leader in this industry.”

Predicted impact the AEC will make on Arizona by 2022:
”The AEC will help Arizona become a leader in the renewable energy industry nationally.”

For more information on Arizona Energy Consortium, visit Arizona Technology Council’s website at aztechcouncil.org/committees/aec.

Go to related article – AEC – Creating an Energy Roadmap

AZRE Magazine May/June 2012

first solar

First Solar Names Antoun As COO

First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq:FSLR) today announced that Georges Antoun has been appointed Chief Operating Officer. Antoun will initially have responsibility for manufacturing, R&D, quality and product management. Reporting to Antoun will be Tymen DeJong, Senior Vice President of Global Operations; Raffi Garabedian, Chief Technology Officer; and Tom Kuster, Vice President of Product Management and Customer Support.

“Georges brings a depth of operational leadership experience that will help First Solar execute its strategy,” said Jim Hughes, First Solar CEO.

Most recently Antoun was a venture partner at Technology Crossover Ventures, a private equity and venture firm. Prior to joining TCV, he was the head of Product Area IP & Broadband Networks for Ericsson. He joined Ericsson in 2007 when Ericsson acquired Redback Networks, where he had served as Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Operations. After the acquisition, Antoun was promoted to CEO of Redback. Prior to Redback, he spent five years at Cisco Systems, where he served as Vice President of Worldwide Systems Engineering and Field Marketing, Vice President of Worldwide Optical Operations, and Vice President of Carrier Sales. He has also held senior management positions at Newbridge Networks and Nynex (now Verizon Communications), where he was part of its Science and Technology Division.

Antoun earned a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a master’s degree in information systems engineering from NYU-Poly.

First Solar is a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar systems which use its advanced thin-film modules. The company’s integrated power plant solutions deliver an economically attractive alternative to fossil-fuel electricity generation today. From raw material sourcing through end-of-life module collection and recycling, First Solar’s renewable energy systems protect and enhance the environment.

For more information about First Solar, visit www.firstsolar.com.

valley partnership - AZRE Magazine May/June 2012

Valley Partnership Former Chairmen Discuss Phoenix Development – Part 1

Valley Partnership is celebrating 25 years as Metro Phoenix’s premier advocacy group for responsible development. In looking back – and also looking ahead – AZRE magazine brought together six former chairmen to discuss goals the group has successfully achieved and challenges that lie ahead.

With the commercial real estate industry making a slow recovery from the Great Recession, the advocacy role undertaken by a group such as Valley Partnership is magnified. “The surge in commercial real estate is evident,” says Richard Hubbard, president and CEO of Valley Partnership. “The comments from our past chairs provide great direction to Valley Partnership for the next several years. “With the increasing activity, it is imperative we re-energize our advocacy efforts with particular focus on the local communities while always monitoring our state and federal governments for any issue that affects our industry.” Participating were John Graham (JG), Sunbelt Holdings, chairman in 1989; Dave Scholl (DS), Westcor-Vintage Partners, chairman in 1990; Clesson Hill (CH), Grayhawk Development, chairman in 1997 and 1998; Jim Pederson (JP),  The Pederson Group, chairman in 1999; Pete Bolton (PB), CBRE/Grubb & Ellis (Newmark Grubb Knight Frank), chairman in 2004; and Charley Freericks (CF), DMB Associates, chairman in 2006. Rick Hearn (RH) of Vestar, the current chairman, served as moderator.

RH: During the past 25 years, has the level of economic development undertaken by local governments and the state been inadequate, adequate or exceptional?

PB: Frankly it’s all three. Over the years, it’s been inadequate, and it’s gone to adequate, and then I think in some cases it’s been exceptional. It also depends on which state we compare ourselves with because some states are exceptional and then some states are just barely adequate. And then you can go in the opposite direction, say inadequate, compared to Texas, and some of the other big ones across the country. Overall, we are doing a better job today.

CH: I would agree. I think there is lack of funding these days and I think that education has suffered greatly and that is a major infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt. Not just here but everywhere, and as we move forward and embrace new technology, it is a new way of life as we look toward the future.

DS: When I looked at this question, I really focused on the side of economic development and “are cities making investments?” I think that a lot of ways the cities have been trying to operate with their arm tied behind their backs. The constitution and our legislators have never really given our local government a whole lot of choices in their tool boxes. With the limited tools they have in there, they have done a pretty good job. I think that the industry I have been in has had a lot of city participation in economic development, and I think that they have been pretty aggressive about getting the most out of what limited tools the state’s constitutional statues have given.

RH: Charley, your company was impacted by this exact thing at Eastmark (in Mesa) in regard to Apple. What are your thoughts?

CF: Well it was not just Apple. It happened to us positively with First Solar. We were able to compete and win there. And with Apple, to be in the mix, I’m where Pete was. It is an evolution where economic development has come a long way since 1987. I had to think about 25 years, and I didn’t know I had been in the business that long. I look at what has happened now as the communication level of real prospects is very high and people know they’re coming and looking, which in the old days you would hear about it and it was here and gone. I’ve been in that side of the business almost my entire career chasing prospects from out of state. We come in second place to states that want to write checks. When we lose, we lose because somebody wrote a check and throws money at it to the prospect. I’ve never been a huge advocate at writing big checks. It’s a complicated business. I think we are doing a lot better chasing these deals and being in the running and again the tool kit is very limited.

JG: I’m actually optimistic about many things and this is actually one of them. My view is that being a young state one of the things that we did probably an amateurish job in early on was in economic development. I think that was a maturity problem not a “we didn’t quite get it problem.” With what we have now with GPEC and ACA and trying to address some of our structural and political and legislative problems, we got a really good pipeline of stuff that is being looked at and is being professionally handled.

JP: Certainly economic development depends on how you define it. A lot of people think that dangling a check in front of a major company is going to bring jobs into the state. But as Clesson mentioned, it’s more than that. It is infrastructure investment; it’s education and venture capital.

RH: Has Valley Partnership had a positive effect of creating a better image for developers?

Pete Bolton - AZRE Magazine May/June 2012

Pete Bolton

JP: There is a word that has been overused but I think that it is applicable. In this case, that is sustainability — the sustainability of our communities. It directly relates to our industry because we plunk down projects, neighborhoods or communities, and we depend upon a standard of living that is directly dependent on the rents that we get for our properties. During recession times, construction prices go down, land prices go down, but you have to achieve the rents if you are going to be successful at the end of the day. What Valley Partnership has done, by emphasizing how development relates to a sustainable lifestyle in the various communities where we live, is to look more beyond the block of where you are developing. It’s looking at your community, looking at your neighborhood. Looking at the various infrastructure investments that are critical to the kinds of things we do. We manufacture a product. And to manufacture the product, you need certain things, at least in the shopping center business. You need good tools. You need quality neighborhoods. You need good infrastructure investments. All of those things that directly relate to the level of rents we are going to get. In that regard I think Valley Partnership over the past 20 years has been excellent. I think it’s an organization that has emphasized the sustainability concept.

JG: I think the short answer is yes, that is has improved the reputation of how people view the development industry. The other part of that is the role that Valley Partnership will never go away because inherently we are in a conflict relationship with neighborhoods and other people. No matter how good of a job we did, it’s always going to be viewed that way. I think we have changed the conversation from one that was always in essence an adversarial, to at least everyone understanding that it is a two- or three-legged stool at a minimum, and that things have to be done by more than consensus. It has to be more by partnership and good conversation. That is why Valley Partnership will always have a role to the extent of how we want to have it because no matter how good a job we do, we will have different rubs with different constituency groups. But I think the role we need to continue to take is being the group that is not adversarial, rather constructive in those conversations for solutions.

CF: I was more optimistic on this one. My immediate reaction was absolutely that my focus was on the government. As an industry dealing with all of the city, town and county issues for regulations of our industries locally, I think Valley Partnership’s reputation really had a big impact because we have rational and moderate voices coming through consistently saying, “Gee, your regulation here is either irresponsible or maybe needs a little tune-up or maybe you missed a big idea here.” So from the professionals within our industry that we deal with, staff level government in particular, I think our reputation over the past 20 years has improved radically. I’m with the other guys here. The challenge we face will always be in conflict with residents and neighborhoods, and we need to keep doing our jobs well to keep doing that and not be controversial.

DS: I agree. I think that whenever you look at an image, you have to talk about which audience you are talking about. I think among consumers or neighborhood groups and homeowners, I don’t know if they have enough regular engagement to really understand who Valley Partnership is. I don’t know if the developers’ image among the average fellow on the street has improved that much. I agree with Charley. I think we are front of mind when a city or a local government says, “We need input, or we are thinking about changing this part of our code.” I think we are one of the first people they think of to come to the table and have the dialogue; whereas before Valley Partnership, it was a very splintered industry, and I don’t think there was a common voice and more importantly a common set of ears that listened to cities when they needed have that dialogue, too. So I think it has been vastly improved.

PB: What Valley Partnership has really accomplished with the local municipalities is to provide them with a dependable, educated voice. I remember sitting on a board and something would come up and a local municipality would ask, “Can you guys put something together on this billboard issue?”, and we would have six very educated voices at the table later that afternoon. That just doesn’t happen in any other organization. From my side of the business (brokerage), that has been extremely positive. As soon as we get the local municipalities on board, which they are, the neighborhoods rarely follow, but they don’t have much depth of voice anymore because if the politicos are truly believing the intelligent voices of the marketplace, they have a tendency to be more objective.

CH: I think part of the sustainability of 25 years of leadership is that Valley Partnership has been able to maintain frontline guys and women who are involved in development and kept them passionate about Valley Partnership. It has never faded away or lost its image in the cities to know that if we come, we will get quality people stepping up and get engaged and deliver some kind of end product. I think it’s a tribute to the leadership inside Valley Partnership to maintain that constant level of quality people.

Continue reading this article.

For more information on Valley Partnership, visit Valley Partnership’s website at valleypartnership.org.

AZRE Magazine May/June 2012

Solar in Australia

First Solar To Provide Power Projects Under Australian Solar Flagships Program

First Solar announced it will design, construct and maintain two utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power projects totaling 159 megawattsAC (MW) for AGL Energy Limited as part of Australia’s Solar Flagships Program. AGL was selected as the successful proponent in the solar PV category of the program and will receive federal and state government funding to help deliver on its commitment to greater investment in renewable electricity generation.

The Australian Government’s Solar Flagships Program is one of a number of programs and market mechanisms providing unprecedented support for the development of a broad range and scale of solar energy projects and technologies in Australia. The Solar Flagships Program is offering funding to support the construction and demonstration of large-scale, grid connected solar (PV and thermal) power stations in Australia.

Under the program, AGL will develop a 106 MWAC project in Nyngan and a 53 MWAC project in Broken Hill, both in New South Wales. First Solar will design and construct the integrated PV power plants, using its leading engineering, procurement and construction services and its advanced thin-film PV modules for both projects. First Solar will also maintain both projects for AGL Energy for their first five years of commercial operation. The electricity produced by the projects will be sold under power purchase agreements to AGL Hydro Partnership, a wholly owned subsidiary of AGL.

The projects will be supported with funding provided by the federal government and the state government of New South Wales under separate funding agreements.

“This is a significant step forward for the utility-scale solar industry in Australia—an order of magnitude increase in project size—and a testimony to the confidence our customers have in First Solar technology and its performance in some of the hottest and harshest conditions in the world,” said Jim Hughes, First Solar Chief Executive Officer. “These projects demonstrate First Solar’s ability to apply its vertically integrated capabilities to deliver competitive, comprehensive, utility-scale solar solutions in future sustainable markets. We look forward to working with AGL on more projects like this in the future.”

On an annual basis, the projects will produce enough electricity to meet the needs of at least 30,000 Australian homes. The projects are expected to provide approximately 350 GWh of energy annually.

The projects are expected to create approximately 450 jobs at peak construction. Construction is expected to begin on both projects in 2014, with commercial operation in 2015. AGL will be the majority owner of the project vehicle.

“AGL is delighted to be working with the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments, the people of Broken Hill and Nyngan, and our project partner First Solar to deliver these significant renewable energy projects. These projects represent a tremendous opportunity for AGL and the broader solar industry to begin the roll-out of solar power as a meaningful source of generation supply in Australia,” said Michael Fraser, AGL’s Managing Director.

AGL is one of Australia’s leading integrated renewable energy companies and is taking action toward creating a sustainable energy future for investors, communities and customers. Drawing on over 175 years of experience, AGL operates retail and merchant energy businesses, power generation assets and an upstream gas portfolio. AGL has Australia’s largest dual fuel customer base. AGL has a diverse power generation portfolio including base, peaking and intermediate generation plants, spread across traditional thermal generation as well as renewable sources including hydro, wind, landfill gas and biomass. AGL is Australia’s largest private owner and operator of renewable energy assets and is looking to further expand this position by exploring a suite of low emission and renewable energy generation development opportunities.

For more information on First Solar and Australia’s Solar Flagships Program, visit First Solar’s website at firstsolar.com and visit Australian Government’s website at ret.gov.au.

Taliesin West

Successfully Energized Solar Power System To Sustain Taliesin West

Desert masterpiece Taliesin West is pursuing the dreams of a mastermind. With a mission to honor its founder, The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation inaugurated a new 250 kw solar photovoltaic (PV) power system donated by First Solar, which will help power the 75-year-old Taliesin West campus.

Energy efficiency consultant Big Green Zero has also joined forces with the foundation to turn Frank Lloyd Wright’s imagination into a manifestation.

“We are excited to have partnered with Big Green Zero and First Solar to complete the first phase of Energizing Taliesin West and are on track to making a world-famous National Historic Landmark site entirely self-sustaining,” said Sean Malone, CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

An architectural game changer of the 20th century, Frank Lloyd Wright left behind a legacy of sustainability that sparked the interest to revamp Taliesin West’s campus.

“As we continue to move forward with this endeavor we remain consistent with the values of Taliesin West and advancing the Foundation’s mission to preserve and expand the heritage of Frank Lloyd Wright,” Malone said.

The commissioning marks the successful completion of the first phase of the Energizing Taliesin West initiative, a pioneering effort to transform the entire National Historic Landmark Taliesin West site into a net-zero energy customer, producing as much energy as it consumes annually.

An energy audit conducted by Big Green Zero found that Taliesin West’s nearly $200,000 energy bill could be eliminated through improving its lighting, insulation and climate controls and also generating renewable on-site energy, which is the focus of the comprehensive project.

Many local companies have donated materials and labor to make the project possible. Tempe-based First Solar designed the system and donated approximately 4,000 of its advanced thin-film solar panels as well as Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) services.

Power-One donated an Aurora PVI-Central-250 kw inverter and the associated performance-monitoring equipment for the project, and Klondyke Construction donated electrical construction services.

Other local companies that contributed include Buesing Corp. (structural post installation), OMCO Solar (panel mounting structural materials), CLP Resources (structural and modular installation labor), Rummel Construction (site grading), Rapid (electrical equipment), Syntech (surveying), and Oldcastle (precast inverter pad). Other donors included Highway Safety Corp. (structural steel posts) and Olson Motor and Control Co. (electrical equipment).

The entire solar power system is engineered to provide maximum renewable energy with minimal impact. The ground-mounted First Solar PV system is expected to generate more than 500 megawatt-hours per year of emission-free electricity with no water or waste, displacing more than 300 tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking more than 50 cars off the road.

“We are very proud to be a part of this historic landmark, and we are confident the integration of clean solar power into Taliesin West will help advance the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and educate visitors from around the world about renewable energy,” said Jim Lamon, First Solar’s Senior Vice President of Engineering, Procurement and Construction and Operations and Maintenance.

Native cacti and other plant species, which were removed during construction, will be transplanted throughout the project site. Visible portions of the mounting system have been painted for blending into the desert environment. In addition, the solar modules at the site are covered by First Solar’s industry-leading, prefunded module and recycling program, under which the company will collect and recycle its modules at no additional charge.

“In the pursuit of energy efficiency, this is just the beginning,” said Bob Roth, CEO of Big Green Zero. “Our goal is to make Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West a Big Green Zero.”

Arizona

Taliesin West Gets Solar Power System

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation today inaugurated a new 250-kilowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) power system donated by First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) which will help power the historic Taliesin West campus. The commissioning marks the successful completion of the first phase of the Energizing Taliesin West initiative, a pioneering effort to transform the entire National Historic Landmark Taliesin West site into a “net zero” energy customer, producing as much energy as it consumes annually, while maintaining the historic and architectural integrity of the site. The comprehensive project, led by energy efficiency consultant Big Green Zero, is focused on the twin goals of maximizing the campus’ energy efficiency through improved lighting, insulation, climate controls and other techniques while also generating renewable energy on-site.

Many local Arizona companies donated materials and labor to make the project possible. Tempe-based First Solar designed the system and donated approximately 4,000 of its advanced thin-film solar panels as well as Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) services. Power-One donated an Aurora PVI-Central-250kW inverter manufactured in nearby Phoenix and the associated performance-monitoring equipment for the project, and Klondyke Construction donated electrical construction services. Other companies with operations in Arizona that contributed include Buesing Corp. (structural post installation), OMCO Solar (panel mounting structural materials), CLP Resources (structural and modular installation labor), Rummel Construction (site grading), Rapid (electrical equipment), Syntech (surveying), and Oldcastle (precast inverter pad). Other donors included Highway Safety Corp. (structural steel posts) and Olson Motor and Control Co. (electrical equipment).

The entire solar power system is engineered to provide maximum renewable energy with minimal impact. The ground-mounted First Solar PV system at Taliesin West is expected to generate more than 500 megawatt-hours per year of emission-free electricity with no water or waste, displacing more than 300 tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking more than 50 cars off the road. Native cacti and other plant species which were removed during construction will be transplanted throughout the project site, and the entire site will be seeded to restore native vegetation. Visible portions of the mounting system have been painted to help blend into the desert environment. In addition, the solar modules at the site are covered by First Solar’s industry-leading, prefunded module and recycling program, under which the company will collect and recycle its modules at no additional charge.

“We are excited to have partnered with Big Green Zero and First Solar to complete the first phase of Energizing Taliesin West and are on track to making a world-famous National Historic Landmark site entirely self-sustaining,” said Sean Malone, CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. “As we continue to move forward with this endeavor we remain consistent with the values of Taliesin West and advancing the Foundation’s mission to preserve and expand the heritage of Frank Lloyd Wright. We will continue to educate and empower new generations of innovative thinkers to address the critical issues of sustainability and healthy living environments.”

“We are very proud to be a part of this historic landmark, and we are confident the integration of clean solar power into Taliesin West will help advance the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and educate visitors from around the world about renewable energy,” said Jim Lamon, First Solar’s Senior Vice President of Engineering, Procurement and Construction and Operations and Maintenance. “This project represents a microcosm of the solar industry in Arizona, and we are gratified that many of the same partners we work with to build utility-scale projects like Agua Caliente and APS Paloma joined in to support our community and make this vision a reality.”

Bob Roth, CEO of Big Green Zero, explained that the Energizing Taliesin West™ project started with a 2011 energy audit which found the site’s nearly $200,000 energy bill could be reduced 51 percent through energy efficiency improvements and balance could be offset by renewable solar energy. As a result, Big Green Zero proposed developing the Energizing Taliesin West™ program to demonstrate best-of-breed energy efficiency and solar energy technologies at this profoundly historic property.

“Today, we are celebrating this absolutely beautiful 250 kilowatt solar system,” Roth said. “And in the pursuit of energy efficiency, this is just the beginning. Over the next several years, the Energizing Taliesin West team will be installing and experimenting with additional energy efficiency technologies. Our goal is to make Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West a Big Green Zero.”

For more information on Taliesin West visit their website at www.franklloydwright.org.

first solar - new ceo

First Solar Appoints Hughes CEO

First Solar, Inc. announced that James Hughes has been appointed Chief Executive Officer. Hughes succeeds Mike Ahearn, First Solar’s founder and Chairman, who has been serving as interim CEO since Oct. 2011. Hughes joined First Solar in March as Chief Commercial Officer. Ahearn will continue in his role as Chairman of the Board.

“Jim has been instrumental in developing the strategic plan that will enable us to compete and win in this new era for the solar industry, and it became clear he is the right person to lead the execution of that plan,” said Ahearn. “Jim brings a wide range of experience that will be invaluable in leading our organization, having owned and operated utilities, built power projects, cultivated partnerships and led profitable growth in a wide array of key markets around the world.”

“I am excited for this opportunity to lead First Solar into a new era for the industry,” said Hughes. “First Solar is unrivaled in terms of talent and experience and has the premier platform from which to implement solar power at a meaningful scale around the world. The rapid cost reductions in the industry position solar at the threshold of the mainstream energy markets, and we are well-positioned to capitalize on that opportunity.”

Hughes has nearly 20 years of experience in the global energy industry. Before joining First Solar, he served as the CEO of AEI, which owned and operated power distribution, conventional and renewable power generation, natural gas transportation and natural gas distribution businesses in 19 countries. Prior to that, he was President and Chief Operating Officer for Prisma Energy.

Hughes earned a juris doctor from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, a Certificate of Completion in international business law from Queen Mary’s College, University of London, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southern Methodist University.

For more information on First Solar, visit First Solar’s website at firstsolar.com.

First Solar 2 vacancies for board members

First Solar Expands Board Of Directors

First Solar, Inc. announced that it nominated two new candidates for election to the Company’s Board of Directors and that it has expanded the size of the Board to eleven from nine, creating two vacancies as it continues to seek additional independent directors. As detailed in its Proxy Statement, which was filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission, First Solar nominated George “Chip” Hambro and Richard “Rick” Chapman to stand for election to the Board at the Company’s Annual Meeting of Stockholders, which will be held on May 23, 2012. Chapman will serve as an independent director.

To fill the two new vacancies, First Solar has retained an executive search firm to help identify candidates with experience that will support the company’s strategy to compete as a vertically integrated provider of photovoltaic power plants in energy markets that are sustainable without subsidies.

The company also announced that José Villarreal, a director since 2007, will retire from the Board due to personal commitments and will not seek reelection at the Annual Meeting.

“We are pleased to be adding two distinguished candidates to the First Solar Board of Directors. Chip and Rick are both knowledgeable about First Solar’s strategy and operations and have diverse experience and expertise that will make them valuable additions to our board. We are also committed to further expanding our board by adding two additional independent directors to support our long-term strategic plan,” said Mike Ahearn, First Solar’s Chairman and Interim CEO. “On behalf of the First Solar Board of Directors, I extend my gratitude to José, who has been an engaged and dedicated Director for the past five years.”

Chapman, 58, is CFO of Walton Enterprises, Inc., where he has worked since 1983. In his current capacity, Chapman oversees all aspects of the Walton Family Office in Arkansas. Chapman currently serves as a director on the boards of the Arvest Bank Group; the University of Arkansas Foundation, where he serves on the Executive and Finance Committees; and the Razorback Foundation, where he is a member of the Investment Committee. Chapman was previously a member of the Board of Managers of First Solar Holdings, LLC prior to the Company’s initial public offering and JWMA (formerly True North Partners, L.L.C.), an equity investment firm. Chapman earned a B.S.B.A. in Accounting from the University of Arkansas and is a Certified Public Accountant.

Hambro, 48, previously held various positions at First Solar from June 2001 through June 2009, including serving as Chief Operating Officer from February 2005 through May 2007. Prior to joining First Solar, he held the positions of Vice President of Engineering & Business Development for Goodrich Aerospace from May 1999 to June 2001 and Vice President of Operations for ITT Industries from February 1997 to May 1999. For the last five years, Hambro has been a director of both the Toledo Zoo and Imagination Station, Toledo’s children’s science museum. Hambro currently serves on the board of directors of Soladigm, Inc., a developer of next-generation green building solutions. Hambro graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a B.A. in Physical Science (Applied Physics).

For more information on First Solar, visit First Solars’ website at firstsolar.com.

First Solar

First Solar Lays Off 2,000 As Demand Wanes

Tempe-based First Solar Inc. will lay off 2,000 workers and close its factory in Germany following a collapse in solar panel prices that has erased the industry’s profits and forced some smaller companies into bankruptcy.

America’s biggest solar manufacturer said the layoffs amount to 30 percent of its global workforce. It’s an about-face for a company that doubled the number of employees at the Frankfurt, Germany, plant to more than 1,200 just last year. First Solar will also shutter some production in Malaysia. It plans additional job cuts in Europe and the U.S.

“The solar market has changed, and so must we,” Mark Widmar, First Solar’s chief financial officer, told analysts in a conference call.

The price of solar panels, which generate electricity from sunlight, has plummeted recently. An influx of Chinese competitors has led to a rapid buildup in supply. At the same time governments in Europe, the biggest market for solar power, are reducing generous subsidy programs that had fueled demand. From March to December last year, solar panel prices dropped 50 percent, said Aaron Chew, an analyst with the Maxim Group.

Cheaper solar is good news for consumers, but manufacturers are struggling to stay afloat. Last year, Solyndra LLC of Fremont, Calif., Evergreen Solar Inc. of Marlboro, Mass., and Spectrawatt Inc. of Hopewell Junction, N.Y. all declared bankruptcy.

“Nobody’s making money in this business right now,” Chew said.

Analysts said job cuts, factory closures and even mergers are to be expected in a relatively young industry that still welcomes new players every year. They see the industry following in the footsteps of television and computer makers by locating factories in Asia, where labor costs are low and governments provide few regulatory obstacles.

“It’s a very healthy thing,” Jefferies & Co. analyst Jesse Pichel said. “This is a shakeout period for solar in which uncompetitive technologies are getting kicked out.”

Earlier this year, First Solar Inc. said it would delay operations at its planned Mesa plant, citing a market flooded with photovoltaic panels.

First Solar specializes in “thin film” solar modules that are cheaper than those made by competitors. But the decline in global panel prices has eroded its status as the industry’s low-cost leader. First Solar’s modules are also less efficient than others, limiting their use. For instance, they’re ideal for large-scale projects that deliver power to the electrical grid, but they less effective for smaller systems used on rooftops.

The company lost $39.5 million in 2011 after earning $664.2 million in 2010. Its shares have dropped nearly 85 percent in the past 12 months. They rose about 10.3 percent Tuesday to $22.96 after the company announced the cuts.

“It is essential that we reduce production and decrease expenses,” First Solar Chairman and CEO Mike Ahearn in a statement. “These actions will enable us to focus our resources on developing the markets where we expect to generate significant growth in coming years,” such as the U.S. and China.

First Solar expects the restructuring to reduce its manufacturing costs by $30-$60 million this year and another $100-$120 million a year afterward. It will book a charge of $245 to $370 million, mostly in its first-quarter results.

Analysts said First Solar needs to cut costs even more and demonstrate that its panels are as durable as its competitors. Pichel said that as prices continue to fall, consumers will likely favor more efficient, polysilicon panels made by other solar companies. Goldman Sachs analyst Brian Lee downgraded First Solar to “Neutral” from “Buy” and cut 2014 earnings expectations to $4 from $5.75 per share.

Meanwhile, sales of solar panels and related equipment should keep rising, but nowhere near the blistering pace of the past several years. Solar installations are expected to increase by 3.7 percent this year, compared with a 49.7 percent increase from 2010 to 2011, according to energy research group GTM Research.

For more information on First Solar, visit their website at firstsolar.com.

First Solar

Hughes Joins First Solar As Chief Commercial Officer

First Solar, Inc. announced it has hired James Hughes as Chief Commercial Officer. In this newly created role designed to accelerate First Solar’s entry into emerging markets, Hughes will have comprehensive leadership responsibility for global business development and sales; project development; engineering, procurement and construction (EPC); product management and international public affairs and communications.

Reporting to Hughes will be Jim Brown, Executive Vice President of Global Business Development; Maja Wessels, Executive Vice President of Global Public Affairs; Jim Lamon, Senior Vice President of EPC and Operations and Maintenance; Tom Kuster, Vice President of Product Management and Customer Service; and Ted Meyer, Vice President of Global Corporate Communications.

“Jim is extraordinarily prepared to help First Solar open new markets and reach revenue goals,” said Mike Ahearn, First Solar’s Chairman and Interim Chief Executive Officer. “We will benefit greatly from his diverse and extensive global and operational experience in the energy sector.”

Most recently, Hughes was CEO and Director of AEI, which owned and operated power distribution, power generation, natural gas transportation and services, and natural gas distribution businesses in emerging markets worldwide. Previously, he was President and Chief Operating Officer for Prisma Energy, which was formed out of former Enron interests in international electric and natural gas utilities.

Hughes earned a juris doctor from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, a Certificate of Completion in international business law from Queen Mary’s College, University of London, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southern Methodist University.

First Solar designs and builds complete photovoltaic (PV) power plants for customers around the world – including the two largest PV projects in the world, which are currently under construction – and is the world’s largest manufacturer of thin-film solar modules. The company is committed to sustainability and created the solar industry’s first prefunded collection and recycling program.

firstsolar.com

Arizona Commerce Authority, AZRE Magazine November/December 2011

Arizona Commerce Authority Celebrates Its 1st Anniversary

With the Arizona Commerce Authority celebrating its 1st year, jobs remain the focus as the state’s CRE industry reaps the benefits.

Arizona Commerce Authority, AZRE Magazine November/December 2011In August, Tempe-based First Solar purchased 635 acres in Pinal County for $9.8M and announced plans to build a generating station on the property.

The rapidly expanding, clean-energy company is still constructing its solar module manufacturing plant in Mesa, expected to be up and running by mid-2012 with as many as 600 new, high-paying jobs.

The company also is building generating stations in Gila Bend and Yuma. In January, Power-One opened its first North American manufacturing facility in Phoenix. The California-based company, which makes inverters to convert renewable energy to usable energy, said it will employ as many as 350 people at build-out.

At Power-One’s grand opening ceremonies, Gov. Jan Brewer credited  the Arizona Commerce Authority for the big win and for wielding CEO clout and corporate incentives in making Arizona a hot spot for solar companies looking to expand or relocate.

“I have been consistently focused on ensuring Arizona is a magnet for business relocation, capital investment and a catalyst for the creation of new business and new jobs. And, with the work of my Arizona Commerce Authority, we’re seeing tremendous results in the solar space,” Brewer said at the time.

A year after the Arizona Department of Commerce, a government agency, morphed into the Arizona Commerce Authority, a public-private partnership led by a board of directors filled with many of the state’s top business leaders, six solar companies boasting a combined 1,700 new jobs have announced plans to expand or move to Arizona, says Bennett Curry, who has been piloting the organization’s business attraction efforts since it launched.

Besides growth in the renewable energy sector, diverse companies are finding Arizona attractive. They include:

  • Amazon, which recently announced plans to add another 1.2 MSF of warehousing space and 200 jobs to its existing Arizona enterprises;
  • Able Engineering, which hopes to expand into new manufacturing facilities in Mesa, eventually more than doubling its 230-employee roster within a few years of the expansion;
  • Ventana Medical Systems, which is expanding and adding another 500 jobs in Oro Valley.

Best is yet to come

Arizona Commerce Authority, AZRE Magazine November/December 2011Arizona Commerce Authority counts new jobs, not the square footage to house them, so it’s difficult to estimate the new office, manufacturing and warehousing space represented by the business growth, Curry says.

But while Arizona Commerce Authority’s mission is to generate jobs, Arizona’s commercial real estate industry is a big beneficiary of the growth, adds Mike Haenel, executive vice president Industrial Division at Cassidy Turley/BRE Commercial.

“Job growth creates absorption, construction and new development opportunities for the state’s commercial real estate industry,” Haenel said.

Arizona Commerce Authority has assisted companies such as Amazon, First Solar, Suntech and others with expansions and relocations, he says, but possibly even more important is the organization’s impact convincing local legislators and other Arizonans about the importance of proffering tax breaks and other enticements to snag coveted business.

He credits the prestige of the corporate leaders backing the group with influencing passage of the Arizona competitiveness package. And their combined weightiness as enticing to national business leaders looking for relocation options.

“Even though the Arizona Commerce Authority has only been in existence for one year, and the fact that we are in a slow recovery cycle, the Arizona Commerce Authority has  been instrumental in educating the business community and those businesses looking to relocate that Arizona has the incentives available for quality job growth,” Haenel says. “We’re still in a tough economy and having Arizona Commerce Authority can only help the state with job attraction.”

Sundt Construction chairman Doug Pruitt, an Arizona Commerce Authority board member, says the organization has logged some early successes.“Working with Arizona Commerce Authority partners, there has been a
massive reduction in vacant space,” he says.  But Pruitt says the biggest bang-for-the-buck is still to come as the organization spent much of its first year laying groundwork.

“Arizona Commerce Authority’s active projects are up 38 percent over a year ago,” Pruitt says. “One of our short-term plans includes aggressive recruitment of California-based firms within our targeted business sectors.”And the vision doesn’t stop at the Pacific Ocean. “Not only are we working to promote the state nationwide, we are taking the message that Arizona is the best place to do business to a global audience,” he says.

DMB Associates chairman Drew Brown, also an Arizona Commerce Authority board member, says each successful recruitment breeds more business. And as the expansions and relocations pile up, a boom in the state’s commercial real estate industry will be a welcome by-product.

“I think Arizona Commerce Authority’s function of attracting high-quality export jobs will be a big shot in the arm for the local economy,” he says. “The multiplier effect will encourage other new jobs.”

As more businesses come to the state, they will fill up vacant residential and commercial real estate, generating demand for new construction and development and the new jobs associated with that. “It’s out there. It will happen,” he says.

Building lasting relationships

Arizona Commerce Authority, AZRE Magazine November/December 2011Brown, like other Arizona Commerce Authority leaders, says the organization can’t take most of the credit for attracting the impressive influx of new business during its first year.

Arizona Commerce Authority has been forging important strategic relationships with key economic development groups such as Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) and Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO) to marshal joint clout, Brown says.

“We are working with the Arizona Commerce Authority on several active projects,” says Laura Shaw, TREO’s senior vice president for Marketing and Communications. “While the authority is still very new and thus getting its legs, so to speak, we have formed a close partnership and have many opportunities moving forward.”

And the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Curry says the new competitiveness package passed early this year opened a lot of doors for Arizona Commerce Authority to pitch the state’s wares.

“Before our toolbox didn’t have a lot of tools,” Curry says. “Now Arizona is ranked high among Western states.”

During a recent trade conference in San Francisco with international companies looking for a U.S. presence, the organization landed 19 meetings with interested prospects, and three are actively pursuing a possible Arizona relocation, he says.

Pruitt adds the Arizona Commerce Authority still faces hurdles — the uncertain global economy and Arizona’s somewhat tarnished reputation regarding school funding, immigration, gun laws and other issues. But he is optimistic.

“Some 300,000 of our residents have lost jobs since the recession began,” Pruitt says. “We realize that people are counting on us to do our job. The Arizona Commerce Authority takes this duty seriously and is focused on a single task — getting businesses to invest in Arizona to create jobs.”

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AZRE Magazine November/December 2011

First Solar, Mesa

First Solar To Open Manufacturing Plant In Mesa

First Solar is moving to Mesa after consolidating its Vietnam manufacturing plant. The First Solar manufacturing plant will bring approximately 1,200 jobs to Mesa. The plant is currently in its construction phase and the estimated completion for the manufacturing plant’s first phase will be in the third quarter of 2012.

First Solar’s Reciprocal Benefits For Company and Community

Greater Phoenix Economic Council president and CEO Barry Broome is excited to bring another big name in solar technology and manufacturing to the Valley.

“The Greater Phoenix region is in a prime position to capitalize on this momentum,” Broome says. “Already home to First Solar’s headquarters in addition to its Mesa manufacturing facility, the region is also home to nearly one dozen solar and renewable energy or clean technology companies such as Suntech Power Holdings, Power-One, Gestamp Solar Steel, Rioglass Solar, Clear Energy, Maxwell Technologies and hundreds more within their supply chains.”

The United States Southwest holds the largest global manufacturing opportunity for solar, clean and renewable technologies. Broome says that First Solar’s choice to manufacture in Mesa will not only be beneficial for the company by being able to take advantage of renewable and sustainable tax credit program, but for the Arizona economy by creating solar technology careers.

University and community college students in the Valley will have an advantage for finding careers in solar technology and engineering when they complete their programs.

“Greater Phoenix turns out superb engineering talent through its universities and technical talent through its community college system,” Broome says. “Mesa was selected over Vietnam because of the [full pallet of renewable resources] that are produced in the East Valley, the leadership of the Mayor of Mesa, Scott Smith and the opportunity that has been built around the U.S. market.”

One advantage for First Solar manufacturing in the United States is the increase for efficiency and that of supply chains in relation to other parts of the country.

“Here in Arizona we have the chance to be an international leader in very important technology,” Broome says. “First Solar, Suntech and all these companies are a clear sign that [solar] is the technology of the future and we have to be strong and focused on this success.

“As illustrated today by First Solar’s decision to embrace Mesa over a low-cost overseas market, we can and will dominate the solar renewable energy and clean technology market.”

 

NAIOP Roundtable 2011 - AZRE Magazine September/October 2011

NAIOP Roundtable 2011

NAIOP Roundtable 2011

The commercial real estate industry is clearly recovering. Companies are absorbing vacant space, build-to-suit development is active and abundant capital is pursuing core real estate. The key question remains, however, how do we compare with the other major markets when it comes to job and population growth?
In short, when will the market justify new development and how will the state and our local commercial real estate industry assist in this effort? To be sure, the future remains bright in Arizona but the recovery will last longer before the next boom.

— Mike Haenel


NAIOP Roundtable Participants Key NAIOP Roundtable - AZRE Magazine September/October 2011

Roundtable Participants

 

1 — SB: Scott Bjerk
President
Bjerk Builders, Inc.

2 — MC: Megan Creecy
Leasing and Development Manager
EJM Development Co.

8 — JD: John DiVall
Senior VP
Liberty Property Trust

MH: Mike Haenel
Executive VP, Industrial Group
Cassidy Turley BRE Commercial
Chairman Profile

6 — TH: Todd Holzer
VP of Development
Ryan Companies US

5 — KM: Keaton Merrell
Principal
Legacy Capital Advisors

7 — BM: Bob Mulhern
Managing Director Greater Phoenix
Colliers International

3 — DW: Deron Webb
Managing Principal
Wentworth Webb & Postal

4 — CW: Clay Wells
Director, Business Development
McShane Construction Co.


Q: What is different in July 2011 in our local commercial real estate industry than a year ago?

BM: The short answer is that the market is stronger, but still burdened by vacancy rates that are high by historical standards, despite being lower than recent peaks. What is decidedly different, however, is that the outlook is considerably brighter than it was a year ago.

Last year at this time, uncertainty was the overriding theme and it plagued the market. The industrial market had posted just one quarter of positive absorption, and it was unclear whether that was a one-time burst in activity or a sign that tenants were more optimistic and the industrial market was beginning to turn a corner. Now we can see that tenant demand for industrial space has been sustained for more than a year, vacancy is tightening, and rents are stabilizing. We are also seeing headline-making announcements from companies such as Amazon and First Solar that not only improve the numbers, but also renew confidence in the market as a whole.

The office market has been slower to bounce back, but it is far more stable today than it was a year ago. A year ago, we were averaging negative net absorption of more than 500,000 SF per quarter, and the vacancy rate was shooting higher. While absorption has been mixed in recent quarters — up one quarter, down the next — the overall vacancy trend is essentially flat. The market hasn’t necessarily started to improve, but it’s no longer in free fall. We’re forecasting slightly positive absorption in the second half of 2011 and then positive absorption of nearly 1 MSF in 2012. We think rents will likely tick lower through the remainder of this year, because the high availability of space will continue to create competition in the marketplace.

MC: Activity is up, but it is still the quintessential “tale of two tenants.” National companies with 200,000 SF+ warehouse requirements are in the market. And, there are definitely more of those types of requirements (including build-to-suits) in the market today than there were last year at this time.

When looking, however, at say deals in the 5,000 SF to 20,000 SF range, there has been an increase in activity, but the regional and local tenants who comprise a large portion of that market segment are still facing a lot of challenges, such as difficulty obtaining financing, and economic uncertainty. These challenges result in a constraint on their ability to expand and the lack of confidence needed to make long term real estate decisions, which is why we are still seeing a number of these tenants in the smaller size ranges wanting only short-term extensions in their current spaces.

TH: I sense that we are now a local real estate industry made up of survivors. The attrition of firms is over for the most part. Those remaining have right sized for this “new normal” that we find ourselves in. Companies in our business have had to make changes in their business plans and doing activities that they did not anticipate 4 to 5 years ago. I think that this transformation has completed where a year ago it was still finding itself.

Q: How would you compare our Metro Phoenix commercial real state market to other major markets throughout the Western U.S.?

BM: At present, the characteristic that best describes the Phoenix commercial real estate market is the vacancy rate, which is among the highest, if not the highest of the major markets in the Western U.S. In the period immediately preceding the recession, development in Phoenix was fairly active, and when the economy cratered and companies slashed payrolls, there was a significant supply/demand imbalance.

The difference between Phoenix and the major California markets — where employment losses were nearly as dramatic as losses here — is that those markets didn’t have nearly as much speculative construction in the pipeline. As a result, vacancies rose in California, but not to the heights that they rose in Phoenix.

The other state that makes for an interesting comparison is Texas, where development has historically been quite active — just like Phoenix. The primary difference between Phoenix and the major Texas markets in the recession and thus far in the recovery is that the Texas markets weren’t hit nearly as hard by job losses during the downturn and the state has led the way with job gains during the recovery.

Looking ahead, the picture brightens significantly. Most forecasts call for Phoenix to rebound favorably once the economic recovery really gains traction nationally. Long-term forecasts call for annual population and employment gains in the 2.5% range, which should be similar to the major Texas markets and far outpace the California markets. This anticipated expansion is the primary source of optimism in the Phoenix market — now we’re just waiting for it to happen.

CW: The Metro Phoenix commercial real estate market has actually fared no worse or better than the other major Western U.S. markets. Retail and office continue to struggle in most markets while industrial vacancies for building over 500,000 SF have started to decrease. Recently a 500,000 SF speculative building broke ground in the Inland Empire and I believe if the economy stays as is we will see a speculative industrial building in Phoenix breaking ground by 3Q 2012. Where the Phoenix market differs from the rest of the Western U.S., with the exception of Las Vegas, is the residential real estate market. Metro Phoenix was too dependent on the residential construction market for creating jobs.

The reason this is so important until we create new jobs to replace these lost jobs, the retail and office sectors will continue to be slow to recover. People have to have a job, which allows them to have diposable income to spend at stores creating a need for new retailers. The same can be said for the office market. Until new companies locate to Metro Phoenix or are created here the need for office space will remain depressed. Most activity we are seeing in the office market are new investors coming to Metro Phoenix and buying distressed properties at a discount. This allows them to quote reduced rents forcing a downward pressure on existing landlords, who must rent space at a loss or lose a tenant. Office markets in some cities that have a more diverse economic base are recovering at a better pace than Metro Phoenix.

MC: While there has been increased activity across the Western U.S., the divergence is in the stage of recovery in primary markets such as the Inland Empire, vs. secondary markets like Phoenix.

The Inland Empire, for example, is one of the strongest industrial markets in the country with vacancy at 6.3%, which is the lowest vacancy rate in 14 quarters. By comparison, Phoenix’s Q2 2011 industrial vacancy rate was 13.9%, which was our 5th consecutive quarterly decline. But, I would say that the steady decline in vacancy we are experiencing here in Phoenix is a positive indicator, and it is only a matter of time before our recovery picks up speed.