Six partners tell why they chose to be involved with Valley Partnership and why they stay.
Mike Markham Jr., vice president and chief operating officer at Markham Contracting, isn’t involved in many trade organizations.
“But I’ve chosen to stay in Valley Partnership because of the value it brings,” Markham says. “It goes beyond just the business connections, it’s about to the community service we do. That’s why we stay involved — Valley Partnership is moving forward and trying to be influential in the Phoenix area while remembering it’s important to give back to the community.”
The fifth-generation Arizonan established membership with Valley Partnership through the community project committee. Eight years later, he’s still involved with both Valley Partnership and the committee, which manages annual donations to local nonprofits to enhance facilities for children and those in need.
Markham began working in the construction industry in 1995, receiving his bachelor’s degree in construction engineering from Arizona State University in 1999. After several years at another company, he went to work for his father’s business, Markham Contracting, in 2001.
“We’re a family business my father started in 1977, so I grew up around Markham Contracting,” he says. “My dad founded it, and now we’re moving into our second generation — my sister and I are taking over the day-to-day operations, transitioning to the second generation.” 68 | May-June 2012
Heidi Kimball, vice president and designated broker at Sunbelt Holdings, exemplifies the American Dream. She started working at the commercial real estate firm in 1982 as the receptionist, and worked her way up through decades of loyalty and dedication.
Kimball became involved with Valley Partnership in 1994, first participating in the state legislation committee. Her first year on the Board of Directors was in 1998, and, after several terms, she served as Valley Partnership president in 2002. Still active in the organization, she foresees Valley Partnership will continue its work as a channel between the public and private sectors.
“I think V.P. will carry on as the single point of contact for parties seeking resolution of a variety of development issues,” she says. “From a public policy standpoints, we provide the resources, the contact to the development community, as well as a bridge to municipalities and government to the citizens through village planning committees and neighborhood associations.”
Kimball, who says she’s proud to see more women entering the construction industry and earning leadership roles, notes that Valley Partnership’s diversity serves in its favor.
“I think Valley Partnership serves a unique role in being able to speak to, really, all sides of an issue by virtue of our diverse membership,” Kimball says. “We can address governmental, citizen and developmental concerns.”
Jeff Chaves joined Valley Partnership four years ago because he shares common values with the organization — action and advancement.
“Valley Partnership has a very strong reputation for being the premier advocacy group in the Valley of the Sun, and I wanted to be part of that,” Chaves says.
Chaves spent the first 15 years of his career as a consulting hydrogeologist, and then ventured into business development with civil engineering firm Olsson Associates. After serving as director of business development at Kitchell, he accepted a position at Abacus-Abengoa as market sector leader and where he currently serves in a consulting and advisory capacity. Abacus-Abengoa is an international company applying innovative technology solutions for sustainable development.
The father of four, baseball coach and California native serves as a member of Valley Partnership’s Board of Directors. Chaves was enthusiastic when asked to join the board last year because Valley Partnership’s impact is a tangible, influential force, he says.
“When you look back 25 years ago, when Valley Partnership first started and industry professionals were trying to get an audience with legislators, for example, it was difficult,” Chaves says. “Now, they come to us. That, as much as anything, is a good indication of the powerful impact of Valley Partnership in the Valley.”
Chaves foresees real estate developers will emphasize sustainability in the future, both economic and environmental. Valley Partnership, he says, will remain a pivotal player in Arizona.
City of Phoenix
Debra Stark, planning director for the City of Phoenix, joined Valley Partnership in the mid-1990s when the organization was first forming and establishing professional ties throughout the Valley. She was working for Maricopa County at the time and recalls being pleasantly surprised when Valley Partnership representatives appeared at the county’s Department of Transportation meeting, hoping to collaborate.
“I thought, ‘That’s refreshing!’ ” Stark recalls. “They want to partner with us instead of us writing some legislation or ordinance and then them reacting negatively, and it’s better to partner than continue to fight. The next thing you know, I was drawn into the organization.”
Stark, who earned her master’s in planning from Arizona State, is on the city/county committee. The Wisconsin native says she’s remained loyal to the organization for so many years because of Valley Partnership’s tangible, constructive impact on the Valley.
“Valley Partnership brings a reputation of quality, and I think any Arizonan wants a quality city, so this organization knows how to reach out and promote that level of excellence,” Stark says. “They’re a voice in Arizona; they’re certainly a voice in Maricopa County and Phoenix, and they get involved for the right reasons, and that’s to improve the quality of life.”
After graduating from the University of New Haven with a degree in civil engineering, Dick Crowley entered the general contracting industry in 1980. Deciding he found his niche, he stuck with the field. “I’ve been involved in projects in 20 states, including retail, commercial, healthcare, parking structures — a vast array of various projects,” he says.
Crowley has since spent his entire career in commercial construction, both in operational functions and in marketing and development. Crowley is eight years into a flourishing career at Kitchell, an employee-owned construction, real estate and contracting company operating primarily in the Southwest, where he serves as vice president of marketing.
Crowley is also an avid pilot, father to 4-year-old Grace, and a strong believer in sustainable expansion. He joined Valley Partnership two years ago.
“Both Kitchell and myself, personally, have a vested interest in our community, particularly in Maricopa County,” Crowley says. “Valley Partnership really has become the premier advocacy group for real estate development, and as such it has created an opportunity for its members to have unique access to the policy makers that influence development in our community.”
Crowley serves on the sponsorship and events committees, and particularly enjoys Valley Partnership’s Friday breakfasts. “There’s a networking function that people enjoy, but what keeps people coming back is that education component where they learn something.”
Ryan Companies US, Inc.
Molly Ryan-Carson is a legacy at Ryan Companies US, Inc., a national developer and commercial real estate firm. Her grandfather founded the company in 1938, blazing a trail for a family business that would eventually span three generations.
Ryan-Carson has been with Ryan Companies for 11 years. She served as retail development director for eight years, then earned a promotion to vice president of development in 2010.
She joined Valley Partnership at the recommendation of a colleague two years ago, when the commercial real estate market wasn’t exactly prospering.
“Though the last two years have been no picnic, it’s been very interesting to see Valley Partnership focus to maintain relevance and importance for individuals who are now looking for jobs, thereby strengthening the community,” Ryan-Carson says. “They really put their money where their mouth is, and they work hard to achieve important goals. Both myself and Ryan Companies are certainly active supporters; we believe in V.P.”
Ryan-Carson sits on Valley Partnership’s Board of Directors, where she says she’s established relationships and connections that have positively impacted her career. She also serves on the events committee and often frequents the Friday morning breakfasts.
“I remain involved because I feel Valley Partnership is out to make a difference for individuals at every level of commercial real estate and development,” she says.