Tag Archives: John Graham

Franz Tom Headshot

Greater Phoenix Leadership president retires

Greater Phoenix Leadership President and CEO Tom Franz, age 56, today announced plans to retire from the position he has held since 2008. He announced his plans to give the organization ample time to find its next leader, who will be the third president in GPL’s 40-year history.

“All of us at GPL are incredibly grateful to Tom for his leadership and contributions over the last seven years,” said GPL Board Chairman John Graham. “He guided our organization during an extremely important part of its history and we would not be in the position we are today without his commitment.”

Franz joined GPL after more than 27 years in a variety of positions with Intel, completing his tenure as Vice President/General Manager of Intel Corporation’s Fab/Sort Manufacturing.  According to Franz, “I am not retiring to pursue a new position, address any health concerns or for any GPL-related reason.  I am making this change for personal reasons, and to create more space for my many passionate pursuits: cycling, skiing, scuba diving, traveling and, especially, precious time with family and friends.”

GPL Chair-elect Sharon Harper is leading the Board Selection Committee and a nation-wide search for Franz’s successor. 

Said Harper, “We look forward to identifying a dynamic leader with the business acumen and passion for GPL’s mission that builds on our success and capitalizes on the tremendous growth potential of our region.”

A specific date for Franz’s retirement is not set, and will occur when a new President & CEO is identified and a transition process completed.

Shavon Rose, AZ Big Media

RED Awards 2015: Lifetime Achievement Award

On Feb. 26, AZRE hosted the 10th annual RED Awards reception at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa in Phoenix to recognize the most notable commercial real estate projects of 2014 and the construction teams involved. RED Award trophies were handed out in 10 project categories, to six brokerage teams and safety, subcontractor, architect, general contractor and developer of the year awards were also presented. AZRE also recognized Sunbelt Holdings President and CEO John Graham with a lifetime achievement award. Click here to view all 2015 RED Awards Winners.

It’s always sunny at Sunbelt Holdings

Decades ago, John Graham would have told you the sight of clouds in Arizona could make his stomach churn.

Anyone who knows Graham, an articulate optimist, most notably during the recent Great Recession, probably wouldn’t believe that statement. But Sunbelt Holdings’ president and CEO, who got his start in real estate managing a portfolio of Coldwell Banker’s “worst properties” in Arizona, insists he was once less sunny, especially when it came to flooded parking lots and leaky roofs.

More than three decades later, he has made a career out of developing properties that his 20-year-old self would have never cringed at managing.

Graham’s real estate career started before he was out of college. He got his real estate license when he was 18, was 24 when he completed his first development and 28 when he became a founding director of responsible development group Valley Partnership.

Graham, whose father worked at Coldwell Banker for nearly 20 years before forming his own firm, is one of the few people in commercial real estate who intentionally ended up in the industry. Though he studied economics at Stanford, all it took was one day of shadowing an accountant to know he would rather follow in his dad’s footsteps. He got his real estate license and worked at Coldwell Banker during his college summers managing “a portfolio of the worst properties they had.”

He took what he learned in his three summers at Coldwell to Koll, where development hooked him by the time he was 23. He met his Norwegian business partner, Tor Adenaes, when he was 24. Adenaes needed someone to manage two properties he purchased in Arizona when he left for Norway the following year. One was what is now Troon North (then Pinnacle Peak Village, which still needed to be annexed and rezoned in Scottsdale), the second property was what Graham says had some of his supporters scratching their heads. It was an assemblage at 44th and Van Buren streets, which at the time was trailer parks and the red light district.

“People said ‘You’re going to fail,’” Graham recalls. “The thing I started to tell people is the worst thing that’s going to happen is failure. I’m 25; I’ll give it a shot.”

Three years later, Sunbelt Holdings delivered Gateway Park Hotel (now a Doubletree) and One Gateway (his first office building).
“We built our reputation on our ability to identify undervalued properties and then strategically and meaningfully increase their value,” Graham is quoted on the Sunbelt Holdings website.

In the 32 years since Graham joined Sunbelt Holdings, it has logged 55,000 acres of land development, ranging from masterplanned communities to the 2MSF Marina Heights, the largest office development in Arizona, and, most recently, urban infill multifamily property Portland on the Park.

“We’ve made an imprint on the world,” reflects Graham.

His partner defines him as intelligent, witty and compassionate.

“When I first met him back in 1982, he was a very young man. He had qualities that made him and Sunbelt a great fit,” says Adenaes.
The qualities Graham values in himself as a CEO are similar to those Adenaes says originally made Graham a good fit with Sunbelt.

“(John) was motivated and hard-working, had mature judgment, knowledge and understanding of real estate, great relationships and network within the business and Phoenix at large and I liked him and his family,” Adenaes says. “A couple years ago, [John] told me that at the time he [started with Sunbelt], he saw no long-term future in the job, especially not working with a crazy Viking named Tor. He had planned his future employment in months, not years.”

Three-hundred-and-ninety-six months later, and Graham is still with his original business partner, Vice President Heidi Kimball and assistant, Sandy Johnson, have all worked together for more than three decades.

“This is like a family — only just a functional one,” Graham says with a laugh. What makes him a strong leader, though, is his work ethic.
“I know I work as hard or harder than anybody,” he says. “I’m here as much or more than anybody else. By emulation, people know part of my ethic is hard work can equate to success.”

While a successful career has its fulfilling facets, Graham is most proud of his community involvement. He has served on more than 40 boards and commissions and has chaired more than 20 of them. There’s no such thing as too many friends for Graham, and that’s probably why a sense of community emerges from nearly all of Sunbelt Holdings’ projects — be it collaboration at the ASU Research Park or neighbors at Vistancia.

Graham even likes to visit Sunbelt’s masterplanned communities, more often than he’d like to admit, he says, to see residents and the public enjoying themselves. Sunbelt is even repositioning its golf course properties to make them more accessible to more people by adding more public amenities. The developer’s most recent venture includes moving the suburban lifestyle to urban environments to infill parcels with existing amenities, such as Tempe Town Lake or Margaret T. Hance Park.

“Our placemaking skills are really good,” he says. “What makes a vibrant place for people to want to be and play is actually very transportable from a suburban to urban setting. I’m very driven to demonstrate and prove it.”

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

Two houses joined together with staples

Together Again – Multigenerational Living

Aging population, tough economy drive increase in multigenerational living

There is a good chance that when grandma or grandpa came for holiday dinner, they didn’t have far to travel: likely from the next room.

An aging population — the Alliance for Aging Research says 10,000 baby boomers in the U.S. turn 65 every day — and a still-struggling economy have helped the extended family make a huge comeback. It’s also created a new label: the “sandwich generation,” which describes more than 16 million Americans who care for children and their parents in their home.

A Pew Research Center’s study shows that 16 percent of households have two adult generations living under one roof, a 33 percent increase from a decade ago. From 2009 to 2010 alone, there was an increase of more than 500,000 multigenerational residences.

“With pensions failing and retirees experiencing shortfalls in savings, it’s going to become even more popular,” says John L. Graham, co-author of “Together Again: A Creative Guide to Successful Multigenerational Living.” But believe it or not, aging parents are not the age group most responsible for the trend. That distinction belongs to young adults — especially those ages 25 to 34. In 1980, just 11 percent of adults in this age group lived in a multi-generational household. By 2008, 20 percent did, and the economy appears to have played a significant role. A Pew survey found that among 22- to 29-year-olds, one in eight say that, because of the recession, they have boomeranged back to live with their parents after being on their own.

While the increase in the number of multigenerational homes has presented financial challenges for some of those that find themselves with multiple generations living under one roof, it has presented financial opportunities for contractors who are adding additions or remodeling existing homes, and for realtors and home builders who see a new market opening.

“The demographics are changing, the economics are changing” says Alan Jones, Lennar’s Arizona division president. “More Americans are doubling up and it’s a trend that needs to be addressed.” Lennar addressed the trend by introducing its NextGen home, which the company markets as a “home within a home.”

“Lennar is the first home builder in the nation to address this demographic shift in our country,” says Jon Jaffe, Lennar’s chief operating officer. “Having multiple generations living under one roof is deeply rooted and desired by several cultural backgrounds in the United States. Plus, the aging of America is creating a need to care for parents, and for most people the most economical way to do that is at home. This home within a home design offers privacy for everyone.”

Lennar’s NextGen home has a specific floorplan incorporated into the main house that includes a separate first-floor living space with its own entrance, living area, kitchenette, attached garage, patio and barbecue area. There is a door that accesses the main living area. “Everyone living in the house can then share space as they see as appropriate,” Jones says. “We are actually building a home for the way that people are already living.”

Arizona Business Magazine March/April 2012