Tag Archives: October 2009

Tucson Office Market, Industrial and Retail Sectors

Positive Signs Bolster Tucson Office Market, Retail And Industrial Sectors

Positive signs bolster Tucson office market, as well as the area’s retail and industrial sectors

CBRE has released its third quarter 2011 market analysis of the Tucson area office, industrial and retail sectors. Report highlights include:

Office

•    The Tucson office market reported a stronger third quarter, with 71,209 square feet of positive absorption. This compares to 30,786 square feet of positive absorption in the second quarter and 22,028 square feet of negative absorption in the first quarter.

•    The Tucson office market vacancy rate declined in the third quarter, dropping 80 basis points to 17.1 percent. The area’s lowest vacancy was reported in the North Central and West Central submarkets, which both have rates of 13.6 percent. The highest vacancy rate, 27.4 percent, was found in the Southwest submarket.

•    The average asking lease rate for existing multi-tenant office space decreased for the first time this year, falling to $19.26 per square foot from $19.65 per square foot at the end of the second quarter and $19.43 at the end of the first quarter.

•    There will be no new speculative office construction in the Tucson market until demand picks up and the abundant supply of available space goes down.

Industrial

•    Vacany among industrial product declined for the first time in 2011, falling to 11 percent from 11.3 percent at mid-year. While only a 30 basis point drop from the previous quarter, this represents a 60 basis point decline in the past 18 months.

•    The industrial market recorded 121,971 square feet of positive absorption in the third quarter. Although a strong showing, this could not completely ease the occupied space lost in the first and second quarters, leaving the market with 26,996 square feet of negative absorption for the year.

•    The average asking industrial lease rate dropped significantly – 17 cents – to end the third quater at $6.25 per square foot. This compares to $6.62 per square foot at the end of the second quarter and $6.64 per square foot at the end of the first quarter.

•    With much of Tucson’s industrial product aging and functionally inefficient, any improvement in the economy will quickly lead to new construction, driving up lease rates and sales prices.

Retail

•    Tucson’s shopping center market recorded its second consecutive quarter of positive absorption with 34,629 square feet. This combined with the absorption through mid-year brings the market’s year-to-date total to positive 6,989 square feet.

•    The vacancy rate among shopping centers decreased in the third quarter, albeit modestly, to 12.2 percent from 12.3 percent at the end of the second quarter. Yet, vacany remains unchanged from mid-year 2010 when the rate was also 12.2 percent.

•    The average asking lease rate for shopping center space increased for the third time this year, rising to $18.30 per square foot from $17.71 per square foot in the second quarter and $17.64 per square foot at the end of the first quarter. This hike in the market’s average rental rate has been driven, in part, by an uptick in activity and demand in prime retail hubs.

•    Big box tenants and national retailers continue to vie for premium sites in high-traffic trade areas, while sites on the periphery wane in activity.

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Visit CBRE’s website at www.cbre.com for more information about the 3Q analysis of the Tucson office market, as well as the area’s industrial and retail sectors.

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meetings industry

MPI Is Touting The ROI Of In-Person Meetings

The best advocates for the positive return on investment of in-person meetings may very well be members of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International. The meetings industry has been hit hard by the media and public scrutiny of the actions of major companies that received bailouts from the federal government. But members of the industry remain adamant that face-to-face meetings are a crucial part of every business.

Mindy Gunn, CMP, AVP, senior meeting and event planner with Wells Fargo’s bank technology and operations group, and an MPI member for four years, is the first to admit that times have become increasingly challenging for professionals in the meetings industry.

“We are in a very transparent environment, and the meetings industry is being scrutinized from many angles,” she says. “This, combined with technological advances, has created a movement toward more virtual meetings, whether they be via Web, video or teleconference.”

However, she does not believe these technological advances can entirely supersede face-to-face meetings.

“I don’t think that in-person meetings will ever be completely replaced by Webinars or video conferences, especially those that are designed to build relationships and network with teams,” she says. “I do think, however, that the smaller meetings with existing teams can and will be replaced with the virtual approach.”

She adds that face-to-face meetings facilitate a form of relationship building that simply cannot be done via the telephone or Internet.

“The meetings where interaction plays a key role, such as large project planning, team networking and sales coaching, requires at least periodic face-to-face contact in order to create solid teams,” Gunn says.

Bernadette Daily, meetings manager, corporate meeting solutions with American Express and an MPI member for four years, agrees that in-person meetings offer something that other meeting formats cannot: the human touch.

“Yes, technology has changed meetings, and attendance for in-person meetings has lowered,” she says. “But we are humans. We like to see, feel and touch. People like to put a face with a name, and they like the camaraderie and personal touch that you get with an in-person meeting. Face-to-face interaction and body language mean a lot.”

Technology and recent media scrutiny may have changed the way meetings are being held, but MPI members are united in their belief in the benefits of face-to-face meetings.

There are obvious benefits of in-person meetings, according to Kathi Overkamp, CMP. Overkamp has been an MPI member since 1995, is past president of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter, past board director for the international board of directors for MPI, and manager, special events and client hospitality for US Airways.

“In-person meetings are important for a number of reasons: better learning environment, networking, peer-to-peer interaction and accountability,” she says. “Our meetings are all business.”

Overkamp also thinks that conference calls and the like can be less effective as a result of daily diversions and interruptions.

“Have you ever been on a conference call at your desk? Do you check e-mails? Handle paperwork? Put the call on mute and talk to someone? How can you be engaged when there are so many distractions?” she asks. “Being able to see your counterparts face to face and meet folks you may have only communicated with via e-mail or on the phone is important.”

In Overkamp’s opinion, the biggest return on investment of meetings is face-to-face communication, whether it is a company or business update or training.

“You can communicate via the computer, conference calls and Webinars, but to have the leaders of your company in the same room as you, giving you important information about the direction of your business and then being able to network with these same leaders and talk to them up close and personal — that is priceless,” she says.

Gunn adds: “Meetings create a venue where strategy can be discussed efficiently and key decisions are made. In my industry, especially in the current economic climate, this is critical in doing business.”

She thinks that without effective meetings, the strategic and decision-making processes slow down and critical business suffers.

“Meetings, when planned and executed efficiently, bring together the key players and allow them to communicate in a way that other venues cannot duplicate, thus saving time and resources,” Gunn says.

www.wellsfargo.com
www.americanexpress.com
www.usairways.com

Panel of MPI Students

The Meetings Industry Is On The Offensive To Counter Negative Perceptions

When individuals and organizations meet, solutions are created, ideas are shared, business initiatives are crafted and skills are learned. Such meetings are crucial to North American business success, even more so in a dynamic, faltering, global economy. In an increasingly faceless world, effective human connections are a powerful business weapon.

The EventView 2009 study reveals that for the fourth year in a row senior sales and marketing executives in North America believe meetings and events have the highest ROI of any marketing channel. EventView is produced through a collaboration of the Meeting Professionals International Foundation, the Event Marketing Institute (EMI) and the marketing agency George P. Johnson (GPJ). EventView is the meetings industry’s longest-running global report on event marketing trends.

“This first report of the 2009 series shows that CMOs (chief marketing officers) and senior marketers believe events are the most effective medium to engage customers and move them to purchasing behavior,” says Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO of MPI. “While we’ve seen event marketing mature as an effective marketing channel for several years, the benefits become heightened in an uncertain economy. Marketing decision makers have clearly taken notice.”

Of the company executives questioned in the 2009 Business Leader Survey commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), 82 percent say they believe business travel is important to achieving their businessresults.

“It’s a classic trade-off between short-term cost reductions and long-term value,” says Daniel Diermeier, a professor at the Kellogg Business School at Northwestern University. “During times like these, many companies will go too far, and actually cut back on the activities that would best position them to compete in the future.”

Another study from USTA shows that 87 percent of Americans who have attended an out-of-town meeting or convention for work say it is important to running a strong business. Meetings are far more than a collection of speeches or talking points. They are an opportunity for people of similar interests to come together and share their stories about how they are coping, as well as what they are doing to increase business, says leadership coach John Baldoni, who writes the Leadership at Work blog for Harvard Business Publishing.

Meetings and events are also strategic tools that deepen employee relationships and contribute to the overall health of companies. According to a Harvard Business Review survey, a 5 percent increase in employee retention can generate a 25 percent to 85 percent increase in profitability. Travel events show employees they are valued. If employees are only committed to the paycheck, their allegiance can be compromised when they are offered a higher salary elsewhere.

Additionally, meetings and events are essential to motivating sales forces, rewarding high performers, communicating new company initiatives and attracting top talent. According to a 2008 study by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, responsible, well-designed and well-executed meetings and training sessions have yielded significant benefits. Such benefits include improved company culture, increased employee retention and more highly engaged and satisfied employees. These companies generate better overall returns in the stock market, with firms on the list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For earning up to five times as much return as their competitors.

According to USTA, business travel in general has become a $240 billion industry due to the real value and measurable benefits derived from the collaboration and cooperation that can only occur when people meet face-to-face.

Phoenix, which covers 517 square miles, is the fifth-largest city in the country with a population of more than 1.57 million people. The Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau (GPCVB) has accreditation from the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program, an international accreditation program developed by the Washington, D.C.-based Destination Marketing Association International.

“We are pleased to be recognized in the destination-marketing community for providing outstanding services in accordance with international standards and benchmarks in this field,” says Steve Moore, president and CEO of the GPCVB.

Unfortunately, adds Brent DeRaad, executive vice president of the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, “the positive Arizona attributes we worked so hard to promote as a business destination are being used to portray Arizona in a less positive light. Our meeting planners are telling us they’re hard pressed to ‘sell’ our destination up the chain of command since there is a perception that the Valley is a hotbed of negative media activity, as well as a desirable leisure destination. Regardless of our state-of-the-art meetings facilities, easy air accessibility and the great values our resorts are extending, we’re losing business to destinations facing less scrutiny.”

Since October 2008, four national news stories have featured TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) recipients or federally funded organizations holding meetings at resorts. Three out of the four meetings scrutinized on the national stage were held at Phoenix-Scottsdale properties. As a result, planners charged with staging legitimate, privately funded meetings are fearful to bring them to Arizona and are canceling and downsizing programs. In fact, ArizonaGuide.com reports that some planners are willing to spend more to host their meetings in alternate destinations that are not receiving negative media scrutiny and are not perceived as leisure markets.

In a June letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), asked for assistance to reverse an informal federal policy prohibiting and discouraging government meetings and conferences in cities that are too leisure oriented. Emanuel agreed by saying “federal policy should not dictate the location where such government events are held. Our view on the issue of government travel is not focused on specific destinations, but rather on the justification for and the cost-benefit ratio of the individual exercise.”

The USTA declares that companies receiving taxpayer dollars need to be responsible, transparent and accountable. To that end, the travel community has developed a clear meetings-and-events policy these companies should adopt. Although this policy is intended for companies receiving emergency lending from the federal government, other companies interested in adopting these guidelines may choose to alter metrics based upon industry size, company size and market sector. The general USTA policy statement says “the CEO shall be responsible for implementing adequate controls to assure that meetings, events and incentive/recognition travel organized by the company serve legitimate business purposes and are cost justified.”

USTA President and CEO Roger Dow says “… corporate and government meetings have come under attack in the media and among some members of Congress seeking to portray meetings as excessive and unnecessary. The net effect has been cancellation of thousands of meetings, the termination of tens of thousands of jobs and the loss of billions of dollars of spending for the American economy.”

According to MeetingsMeanBusiness.com, each meeting and event traveler spends an average of $1,000 per trip.

“(Travel for business meetings and events) drives the whole hospitality industry in America, and that industry isn’t fat cats; it’s waiters and dishwashers, maids and cooks, event staff and hotel clerks — blue-collar workers who belong to unions,” writes New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman. Investor’s Business Daily columnist Kathy E. Read adds, “Those who get hammered — the reservation clerks, maids, baggage handlers, waiters and tour guides — are the little guys and gals whom (President) Obama’s stimulus package is supposed to put back to work.”

The tourism industry is one of Arizona’s largest revenue generators. The Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) reports that in 2008, the state hosted 37.4 million visitors, including 32.4 million domestic and 5 million international travelers. AOT Director Sherry Henry explains that although the combined visitation equates to a net decrease of 3.3 percent, or 1.2 million fewer visitors from 38.6 million in 2007, the travel and tourism industry is resilient and continues to generate billions of dollars for the state’s economy.

Based on Arizona Department of Revenue data, gross sales for four key sectors of the meeting and travel industry are down 13 percent year-to-date as of May 2009, with corresponding state tax collections down almost 14 percent.

“Arizona’s visitor spending brought in $18.5 billion in direct travel expenditures in 2008, underscoring the fact that the travel and tourism industry is a major economic driver for our economy,” Henry says. “In the wake of our current economic situation, our industry brings revenue into the state that supports the quality of life of all Arizona residents.”

Last year, visitor spending generated $2.6 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues. Furthermore, the tourism industry is critical to both job creation and revenue generation for the state, supporting nearly 170,000 jobs and generating $5 billion in direct earnings.

According to Henry, unlike other industries, taxes generated by travel industry spending are paid by visitors rather than residents. These visitors bring new money to Arizona’s economy and generate revenue in all 15 counties, validating the economic importance the travel and tourism industry has across the entire state.

The Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association (AzHLA) conducted a poll of select members in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area and determined that canceled or downsized meetings have resulted in lost revenue easily topping $100 million — equating to a minimum of $11 million in tax revenues not funneling to city and state budgets or critical public programs such as education.

“Meetings account for more than 70 percent of most resort revenues,” says Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association President and CEO, Debbie Johnson. “When we lose those revenues, all Arizona taxpayers suffer; our pools are closing early, we’re losing our precious teachers and we’ll likely face a tax increase on the next ballot election. Many of those issues could have been avoided with the tax revenues from those lost visitors.”

www.eventmarketing.com
www.mpiweb.org
www.tia.org
www.visitphoenix.com
www.experiencescottsdale.com
www.azot.gov
www.azhla.com


paid stamp

Business Owners Should Weigh Legal Concerns When Considering Furloughs

Call it what you want — the best of both worlds or making the best out of a bad situation — but many employees confronted with the choice of losing a valued job or agreeing to a reduction in hours or wages, choose the latter. As the conventional wisdom goes, the employees are just happy to be working.

Many employees taking unpaid, mandatory furloughs are tightening their belts and then spending their free time working around their homes and apartments, taking a much needed rest or spending one-on-one time with their families.

Employers are also looking at the bright side of furloughs and turning to them in lieu of layoffs. Furloughs can be structured in many different ways, but the basic furlough requires employees to take a mandatory, unpaid break from work for a specified amount of time. The benefits of work furloughs are many:

  • The company reduces labor costs.
  • The company saves utility and other operational costs (depending on the scheduling of the furlough).
  • The majority of a company’s employees, along with their skills and institutional knowledge, remain in place, thereby saving the company the substantial costs of recruiting, hiring and re-training new employees when the work picks back up.
  • The company remains agile because it can adjust the furloughs to meet changing market demands.
  • The company may preserve employee morale and company culture.

However, the risks are also many. Because of the complexity of the laws and the many business and legal considerations that come with furloughs, employers should consult closely with their counsel before implementing a furlough program. The following is a broad overview of some of the legal risks to be considered.

Wage and hour claims — Furlough programs must be designed by first considering whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt from the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq. Under the FLSA, these categories of employee must be treated differently with respect to furloughs.

Considerations for non-exempt (hourly) employees — There are fewer FLSA complications when implementing furloughs for employees who are paid based solely on the hours worked. If an employee is paid at an hourly rate for the hours she works, and she works fewer hours, her pay is automatically reduced. It doesn’t matter whether the hours are reduced across the board, for one day a week or for an entire week. So long as the applicable minimum wage and overtime provisions are followed, there are few complications to consider — at least in theory.

It is critical in this situation, though, that all managers be reminded that hourly workers must be paid for all time “suffered or permitted” to be worked, using the language of the FLSA. Sometimes furloughs are chosen because there is less work to be done. Other times, the workloads are not reduced, but the furlough is simply an effort to reduce labor costs. In those situations, managers may feel increased pressure to produce the same amount of work in less time. If employers are not careful, managers may ask subordinates to work “off the clock” — a classic FLSA violation that could lead to substantial damages and government scrutiny, not to mention employee morale and other cultural problems.

Another problem can occur when a great deal of overflow work is directed to the lowest-paid exempt workers to avoid overtime pay. Whether a position is exempted from the FLSA is determined on the basis of job duties, not on titles, so it is quite possible a low-level manager suddenly overburdened with leftover work and making the same (or less) money as before, might take a closer look at whether he is improperly classified as exempt and should actually be paid overtime. If his job duties have changed significantly because of the furloughs and he is now doing a higher percentage of manual labor and exercising less and less independent judgment and discretion, he may be right.

FLSA considerations for exempt employees — To maintain an exemption from federal minimum wage and overtime rules, exempt employees must be paid a minimum of $455 per week, along with other additional requirements in relation to their job duties. With certain exceptions, an employee’s salary cannot be reduced for the quantity or quality of his daily work. That typically means that if the employee works any part of the work day, for FLSA purposes he is entitled to his full week’s salary. This requirement presents a problem for furlough programs that are randomly scheduled for less than a week’s time or that allow exempt employees to work part of the week, such as a program that allows an employee to work Monday through Thursday, but asks her not to work on Friday and subsequently reduces her pay by 20 percent.

While it is not impossible to create a compliant furlough program that allows for scheduling flexibility, one of the safest courses of action from an FLSA perspective is to require exempt workers to take weeklong unpaid furloughs. Even with this course, though, there are dangers. Work done remotely still constitutes “work,” so exempt employees should be prohibited during their furlough week from drafting documents, participating in conference calls or from checking or responding to e-mails, Blackberry devices or voice messages. If an employee is so important that she must be on a conference call on Wednesday at 10 a.m. during her furlough week, then the safest course is to either reschedule her unpaid furlough or reconsider whether she should be on the furlough list in the first place.

Another option is to make a long-term prospective change to exempt employees’ salaries. For example, if an exempt employee was making $1,000 a week, her salary could be prospectively reduced on a going-forward basis to $800 a week. So long as the decrease does not make the weekly salary fall below the minimum of $455 per week, this option could be a viable alternative for some employers.

To maintain morale and prevent the risk of losing or alienating key employees, some employers have coupled long-term prospective salary decreases with a comparable increase in paid time off. So, for example, the employee now making 20 percent less in pay, may be given a 20 percent increase in paid time off to compensate. That paid time off might be required to be taken at certain times, or employees may be given flexibility in their scheduling.

This option, if properly executed, has the same effect as a furlough because employees are working less and receiving less income.

This scenario allows the exempt employee to work part of the week, and still receive his full pay for the entire workweek, albeit at a reduced rate. In contrast, in the earlier example, the employee worked part of the week but was not paid for the entire work week, which runs afoul of the FLSA.

Other legal concerns include:
Workplace injuries — When work hours have decreased but workloads have not, employees might rush to complete projects and meet customer deadlines. This can lead to accidents and increased worker’s compensation, FMLA or even disability claims, especially in industries that rely on manual labor.

Express contract claims
— Companies cannot afford to overlook the negotiated contracts they may have with some employees, especially key employees. If furlough requests alter the terms of those contracts, the employer could end up paying damages instead of saving labor costs. Naturally, if a company’s work force is unionized, the collective bargaining agreement must be followed.

Implied contract claims
— Hopefully, all employers already know their employee handbooks may be considered enforceable contracts. Most handbooks that have been reviewed by legal counsel include disclaimers stating the handbook is not a contract and the policies can be unilaterally changed by the employer at any time, with or without notice. Regardless, before making a furlough decision, employers would be wise to review the sections of their current and past handbooks that deal specifically with any of the proposed changes — particularly changes in hours and compensation — to determine whether there is any problematic language.

Employers should also review employee offer letters, which sometimes include language that could be read to imply a contract for a guaranteed salary or schedule.

Notice
— Some states have laws requiring employers to notify employees before significantly reducing their hours or salary. Arizona is not among them, but employers with operations in multiple states should ensure they are in compliance with these notice provisions.

Though some recent economic indicators predict the recession has bottomed out, the need for corporate cost cutting is likely to continue for some time. It is easy to decide to scale down the company picnic, but implementing a furlough program is much more complicated. Companies must be sure to work closely with counsel to ensure their programs meet both their business needs and are compliant with the law. While employees might be doing their best to take job changes in stride, some employees may just decide to spend their furloughs researching their employment law rights.


old computers, electronics

Do You Know What Happens When Your Company Chucks Its Old Computers?

It’s time to swap out your old clunker computer for a fast, new one. You discuss your needs with your systems manager, she buys a new machine and makes the swap. Where does that old computer go after it leaves your desk? Do you need to care?

Electronics waste, or e-waste, is getting increasing attention from environmentalists and policy makers around the world. There are a number of reasons why. One is that computers and IT equipment contain heavy metals, in particular lead, which could pose a health concern. While you’re using the computer these metals are safely stuck inside the machine. The concern is that after the computer is disposed of those metals could get out and cause harm.

Policy makers around the world are developing regulations that aim to make sure electronics are designed more safely and are collected and recycled at the end of their usefulness. Europe has a region-wide mandate for both design and recycling of electronics. While there is no federal e-waste recycling law in the U.S., 19 states have mandated systems to collect and recycle electronics. Arizona has yet to enact e-waste legislation, but it would not be surprising if a national law is developed in the next few years.

From the standpoint of complying with current laws, businesses in Arizona need to be aware of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules relating to cathode ray tubes (CRTs). Due to their lead content, CRTs are considered hazardous waste, and above a certain threshold there are regulations on how they are to be disposed. There also are rules relating to exporting used CRTs for reuse or recycling.

The notion of corporate social responsibility, increasingly part of business strategy, calls on businesses to move beyond environmental compliance to tackle proactive action so as to “do the right thing.” But what is the right thing to do with e-waste?

It turns out that manufacturing computers and other IT hardware is surprisingly environmentally intensive. For example, if you replace your office desktop computer every four years, the energy to make the computer is about equal to the amount you used while it was plugged into to wall. This means that extending the lifespan of computers can have a big effect on reducing energy use and other environmental impacts by cutting down the number of new computers purchased. Extending lifespan also reduces the amount of e-waste generated.

One way to extend lifespan is to use computers longer. Obviously it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice productivity with sluggish computers, but on the other hand, a new computer doesn’t always mean better job performance. Upgrading CPUs (central processing units) and memory are strategies to squeeze more performance. It’s also important to keep in mind the labor and hassle associated with swapping machines.

Even if a machine is deemed too slow to be appropriate for your firm, there are others who might be able to use it. There are organizations such as AZStrUT, a partnership between local schools and businesses, that accept donations of used computers, and refurbish and provide them to schools and students.

The export of e-waste abroad is an important issue to be aware of, as well. A lot of e-waste in the U.S. gets shipped to China, India and other countries for reuse, which is good. But the e-waste also ends up in backyard recycling, which is bad. In backyard recycling, primitive methods are used to recover materials, processes that cause significant harm to the environment. For example, to recover copper from wires, wires are pulled and piled up and then set on fire to remove the insulation. The emissions from this type of fire are very harmful. While the export of used equipment has the benefit of making IT more accessible abroad, it’s important to export usable equipment instead of junk intended for recycling. Whether your firm sells a computer for reuse, contracts recycling or throws it in the trash, data security also is something to be careful about. Deleting a file doesn’t mean the data is completely wiped from a hard drive; there are tricks people can play to recover the file. You could be shipping your firm’s confidential data right out in the bin. There are special software tools that rewrite over hard drives, so as to destroy all previous stored data.

To sum up, my advice on managing IT hardware in a greener way is:

  • Extract maximum use from the equipment while it’s in the firm.
  • Donate or sell usable old machines when possible.
  • Selling abroad is fine, but make sure it’s usable.
  • Contract recycling for junk equipment.
  • Finally, before letting a machine leave a business, make sure data is properly erased or that the contractor will do this.

Man looking up in front of a colorful painting

CEO Series: Brad Casper

Brad Casper
CEO, Henkel Consumer Goods (The Dial Corporation)

Consumers have been cutting back sharply on their purchases as a result of the recession. How has that affected Henkel Consumer Goods’ overall operations, such as vendor relationships, supply chain management, marketing, research and development, etc., and how has the company responded to those challenges?
The challenges have been significant in the past year. It hasn’t materially affected our relationships, but it has forced us to be much more nimble with both with our vendors who supply us, as well as our retail customers who we sell to. You cannot take things for granted in this environment, particularly with our retail customers. One day you think you have the merchandising support, you think they have their back behind you, only to find out that someone has come in and maybe taken your ad space or taken your display space. So that’s forced our organization to be very reactive, to be very sharp with our price points, because value during this recession has been really the operative word. Fortunately, we have a number of great brands that have done very well during this recession, like Purex laundry detergent, Dial bar soaps and body washes, even Right Guard and Renuzit have done excellent. We’re growing share in all of those businesses.

What signs is Henkel Consumer Goods seeing that the recession is abating?
We follow the consumer confidence data very, very closely, and we saw — just in February and March — just as we saw the Dow Jones start to pick up, we saw the consumer confidence (and) you can do a pretty strong correlation analysis between consumer confidence and (the purchase) of consumer goods. Now, they’re still looking for deals. The consumer is still looking for value and bargains, but we are seeing our market sizes that were more discretionary, like air fresheners, a year ago were declining, are (now) starting to grow slightly.

So those categories that I think consumers would classify as “I want, but I don’t need,” we’re starting to see purchases come back in those areas that are wants.

What are some sustainability initiatives Henkel Consumer Goods is undertaking both in its operations and its products?
Henkel has a rich heritage and history in sustainability initiatives. This isn’t something we do just because of the recession; it’s something we do every day. Even starting with the building that we are in, this is going to be a LEED-certified building. We’ve only been open eight or nine months, but we designed this with sustainability in mind. Within our organization we created a kind of self-promoting area we call Eco-mmitment. It was a campaign we kicked off internally because with thought that in order to be a sustainable company (we needed to have) sustainable employees. Eco-mmitment was an internal grassroots effort to create awareness of more sustainable practices that we have here in our offices, as well as in our homes. So we’ve rolled that out, so that all of our employees are a little bit more aware of that.

But when it comes to our innovations, we have a number of sustainability initiatives that are in fact being very successful in the market. More than two years ago we launched Purex Natural Elements — it’s a natural detergent — and it became a $100 million business within a year and we didn’t even have to advertise. It sold itself off the shelf with its natural surfactants. … Again, Henkel’s history in this goes back 40 years. Before most people in this country were talking about sustainability, Henkel was practicing it. And so we (Dial), kind of as the little sister who’s been part of Henkel for five years, we’re adopting these behaviors pretty rapidly.

You worked to make sure Henkel Consumer Goods remained in the Valley. Why was that so important?
It all begins with people. First and foremost, a company can be an accumulation of brands and buildings, but at the end of the day what makes it special are the people. And moving this from the Valley, whether it was just from the East Valley to the West Valley, there’s the risk that we would lose some of our valued employees. Add to that, if you were to take it out of Scottsdale-Phoenix altogether, the probability that we lose the majority of our intellectual property — that would have stood between us. Moreover, when I was offered this job, I was looking forward to moving to Scottsdale, and when I got here I didn’t want to move, I wanted to keep us here!

What skills do C-level executives need in order to succeed in a multinational, consumer products company such as Henkel Consumer Goods?
I think it begins with having a really strong strategic mind and framework. You really have to understand the markets in which you compete, where and how your competition is likely to try to defeat you, and then, kind of like a sports coach, you have to try to figure out how you navigate vis-à-vis them. So you have to understand your own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Business is about people … and therefore you have to learn how to tap those resources that you have. You surround yourself with the best people, but you have to motivate them … and that’s true both of a domestic company, as well as a multinational.

I think when you get into multinationals, we’re working across borders, we’re working across time zones. I’ve been on conference calls earlier this morning with our parent company in Germany as early as 7 a.m. You have to learn to work in a diverse environment, you have to be tolerant of differences, you have to try to leverage those differences to make you stronger. Sometimes that may mean being tolerant of what you thought might have sounded like rude or very straightforward behavior, and it just might be the cultural differences at play there.

Interpersonal effectiveness at the C-level is so critically important, and it’s not just because you’re a multinational; you’d fail, probably, if you weren’t effective in those areas.

    Vital Stats



  • Named president and CEO of The Dial Corporation (Henkel Consumer Goods) in April 2005.
  • Joined Henkel from Church & Dwight, where he served as president, personal care, since 2002.
  • Spent 16 years at Procter & Gamble.
  • Member of the Greater Phoenix Leadership Council and a board member of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
  • Holds a bachelor’s degree in science degree from Virginia Tech University.
  • www.henkelna.com
Hospitals And Health Care Organizations Are Making Tough Decisions To Ride Out The Recession

Hospitals And Health Care Organizations Are Making Tough Decisions To Ride Out The Recession

After a decade of significant growth, the Valley’s health care industry has become an economic driver for the state. During this severe economic downturn, however, the health care industry busted the myth of being recession proof. But that doesn’t mean it’s recession battered.

Health care organizations have weathered the economic turmoil better than most industries in Arizona. For example, the Arizona Department of Commerce reports that in July, year-over-year job losses in health services stood at 1 percent, or 3,200 jobs. That was the slowest rate of loss of any major industry group in the state.

Nonetheless, hospitals and other health care organizations are feeling the effects of the recession and are working diligently to match revenue with expenses.

“Overall, the financial picture for Arizona’s hospitals is somewhat improved from the third and fourth quarters of 2008, despite decreases in volume,” according to Jim Haynes, vice president, finance, and Chief Financial Officer for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. “That improvement is not due to better payment from payers, like the federal and state governments. It is directly linked to the steps hospitals took in late 2008 to contain and cut costs in response to the economic environment.”

Case in point: Linda Hunt, service area president for Catholic Healthcare West Arizona, which includes Chandler Regional Medical Center, Mercy Gilbert Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, says many local hospitals are facing state and federal funding cuts, as well as dealing with growing numbers of people who are uninsured. In addition, admissions in some specialty areas are down because people are waiting longer to seek health care and are canceling or putting elective surgeries on hold.

Catholic Healthcare West also has seen a decrease in donations. Many donors are either curtailing their commitments or making smaller donations.

“The health care industry is strained just like any business,” says Hunt, who continues to serve as president of St. Joseph’s. “Financially we’re facing cuts, plus we don’t know what health care reform is going to bring, so we don’t know what our future is going to be. That’s stressful for the industry across the board.”

To deal with the economic slowdown, Catholic Healthcare West started making cutbacks and implementing cost-saving measures last September. St. Joseph’s reduced travel and catering expenses by 35 percent for a cost savings of $780,000 in fiscal year 2009. The hospital also became more diligent about the use of linens and replaced disposable pillows with sanitary reusable pillows, saving $90,000 in FY 2009. The hospital’s management team also took a 2 percent or more pay cut to help save jobs.

“We met with all the employees and they came up with great money-saving ideas,” Hunt says. “When all was said and done, employee suggestions helped save us more than $3 million a year. We are back on budget and that was our goal.”

Phoenix Children’s Hospital also has been prudent in pushing expenditures back. It cut administrative and advertising costs and stopped using traveling nurses, a move that saved the hospital $7.5 million a year. Bob Meyer, president and CEO of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, says they also have taken a hard look at attrition over the past eight months and have backfilled only 30 of 100 open positions. Phoenix Children’s $588 million expansion, which kicked off in 2008, has been scaled back, as well. Plans now call for shelling 1.5 floors of the 11-story tower for future growth.

“Given the economy and Medicaid reimbursement uncertainty (about 50 percent of kids in Arizona are on Medicaid), we have to be more conservative and push expenditures back,” Meyer says. “But even shelling floors will increase the number of beds we have from 345 to 486 when we open, which is what we need. Our patient volume is growing 15 percent a year and every bed in service is occupied almost 100 percent of the time.”

The tower’s first four floors will be completed in late 2010. Occupying the floors will be a cafeteria, kitchen, clinics, an imaging center and a retail pharmacy. The remaining floors of the tower are dedicated to the hospital’s Center’s of Excellence, clinical programs and private patient rooms. They will be finished in late 2011.

To keep Scottsdale Healthcare moving forward, President and CEO Tom Sadvary cut expenses and re-focused capital spending on medical technology, information systems and refurbishing projects. He also streamlined the management and executive team structure, creating fewer layers and a more agile organization. Green measures also were implemented at Scottsdale Healthcare’s three hospital campuses. Examples of the efforts include:

  • Replacing 40 pickup trucks with electric vehicles at all three hospital campuses.
  • Installing energy efficient lighting in three parking garages, saving approximately $82,000 annually.
  • Reducing natural gas consumption by 10 percent at its power plants.
  • Replacing 300 copier machines with new models that use 40 percent less energy.
  • Eliminating printed payroll notices, saving approximately $150,000 annually and some 200,000 printed notices.

Sadvary contends that Arizona’s health care industry remains healthy and strong despite reimbursement challenges, nursing and physician shortages, and the abrupt changes the health care industry has faced over the past two years.

“I’ve been in Arizona 23 years and I’m proud of the health care industry here and what we’ve done to grow talent, capacity and to improve the size and sophistication of services for patients,” he says. “Arizona knows how to step up and we will continue to do that despite challenges along the way. The health care industry is sensitive to the budgetary issues the state is facing. And while we are all trying to be efficient and frugal with resources, our costs are going up. We’re doing the best we can to manage and provide great care with no more dollars coming in from the state.”

Banner Health President and CEO Peter Fine is a firm believer that major changes are coming down the pike in reimbursement formulas for Medicaid and Medicare that will cause more pressure on local hospitals. If that happens, he says, hospitals will have to make very difficult choices on what services to provide and what services they can no longer afford to provide.

“With rising costs and so many cutbacks in health-care spending, it’s amazing that hospitals and physicians can prosper today, as well as forecast for the future,” Fine says. “Companies have to be flexible enough to embrace change and move with what’s happening environmentally. Banner demonstrates flexibility by making investments grow and starting new programs. We also have great leaders at all levels and we invest in talent management, so our people are developed and prepared to lead us through tumultuous times.”

In spite of the economy, Phoenix-based Banner Health is continuing to make investments and grow in the communities it serves. Banner recently invested $289 million to build a new, seven-floor, 200-bed patient tower and emergency room at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale. It also invested $12 million to rebuild the old Banner hospital in Mesa and create the Banner Simulation Medical Center, the largest simulation training center in the nation. The 55,000-square-foot center opened in August and has 20 full-time employees who will train 1,200 to 1,500 medical professionals (nurses, physicians, surgeons, respiratory therapists) annually. The simulation medical center occupies the bottom nine stories of the building, with the top eight housing Banner offices.

Students at the simulation center train on high-fidelity, electronic mannequins that look like human patients and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The mannequins have a heartbeat and they talk, burp, sweat and bleed. They also have medical maladies such as strokes and heart attacks, as well as give birth and “die.”

“Banner Simulation Medical Center is basically a hospital where we can train nurses to work and interact with 20 patients on a floor at a time,” says Dr. Marshall “Mark” Smith, senior director for simulation and innovation at Banner Health. “Nurses that graduate from medical school can manage one patient, not multiples. We now have the ability to train new nursing graduates to care for multiple patients without putting them at risk or overwhelming them. ”

www.chwhealth.org
www.phoenixchildrens.com
www.shc.org
www.bannerhealth.com
www.azhha.org

Derrick Hall

First Job: Derrick Hall, President And CEO Arizona Diamondbacks

Describe your very first job and what lessons you learned.
My first job came in high school, when I worked in advertising dispatch for our local daily newspaper. I found myself sneaking off to the newsroom to watch and listen. I tried to learn on my own what professionals considered newsworthy.

Describe your first job in your industry and what you learned.
I was hired by the Vero Beach Dodgers, the single-A affiliate to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Florida State League. I did everything from stocking the concessions shelves, to selling ads for the programs, to pulling the tarp (over the field) in the rain. I learned the value of interacting with the fans, as I learned all of their names, the food and beverage preferences, and their favorite seat locations.

What were your salaries at both of these jobs?
I made a little over $5 an hour at the newspaper and I made $16,000 a year with the Vero Beach Dodgers.

Who is your biggest mentor and what role did they play?
One of my mentors is Peter O’Malley, the former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who gave me my break into baseball. He clearly taught me the importance of treating the fans and employees as well as possible. Another is (Major League Baseball) Commissioner Bud Selig, who has grown thegame to all-time heights in attendance, popularity and revenues. He always does what, in his opinion, is in the best interest of the game.

What advice would you give to a person just entering your industry?
People must truly have the passion, and not be star struck. They should expect long hours and low pay in the early years. And most importantly, they must be fortunate enough to have a spouse and family that understand the travel, emotions, exhaustion and stress associated with the sport. Yet, if someone truly loves what he or she is doing, that person will never actually work a day in his or her life.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing instead?
I spent a little time in between teams in sports broadcasting and enjoyed myself. I hosted a morning-drive talk show in Los Angeles and was a weekend sports anchor on NBC there, as well. I would have continued to pursue that — or play-by-play broadcasting or game show hosting!

Avalon enchants with its decor and impressive cuisine

Avalon Enchants With Its Decor And Impressive Cuisine

Avalon’s dining room has chic, minimalist décor and a neutral color palette.
Photos: Avalon Restaurant-Scottsdale AZ

With its modern twist on an ancient legend, Avalon can be found on an unassuming stretch of McDowell Road. The Scottsdale restaurant has an almost whimsical presence and enchanting appeal that is first noted by the serene and placid pool that leads to the entrance while soothing music drifts through the air.

Inside, the chic, minimalist décor and neutral color palette continue the feeling of serenity. The calm ambiance is adorned with touches of nature, such as white tree branches and dark wood accents.

In contrast to its decor, Avalon’s food is an eclectic combination of seafood and contemporary American cuisine prepared and presented with a passionate eye for aesthetic detail. And in a nod to its namesake, a sweet concoction called the Lady of the Lake can be found on the cocktail menu.

My dinner companions and I began our night with several starters. The crispy calamari and polenta-stuffed jumbo prawns were very well received. But the top prizes went to the lobster bisque and the steamed Prince Edward Isle mussels. A special that day, the bisque was creamy with a surprisingly tasty tang. The mussels were swimming in a delicious lobster bouillabaisse loaded with smoked white fish and shrimp. The bouillabaisse struck the perfect balance of piquant and mild flavors. It was my first experience with mussels and — if they’re all this good — it certainly won’t be my last.

Next up was the soup-and-salad course. The Avalon Caesar and roasted beet salads were delicious, but the clear favorite was the organic baby field greens with candied walnuts and fresh strawberries. I also couldn’t resist the French sweet onion soup. With just the right amount of sweet it definitely lived up to its name.

Entrees came next and we chose carefully to keep a balance of appetizing dishes that hailed from land and sea. The shrimp fettuccine carbonara was a rich combination of flavors topped with crispy pancetta, English peas and lemon crema. The seared Maine diver scallops also received rave reviews from our table.

Although the seafood dishes were palate pleasing, it was the lamb and steak dinners that tantalized our taste buds. The Provimi farms lamb dish was made up of a roasted rack of lamb and seared lamb T-bone, topped with a green peppercorn sauce that we all agreed was scrumptious. The aged prime rib-eye steak satisfied even the most devout meat lover, and coupled with a potato pancetta hash, onions and a bordelaise sauce, it was a meal to end all meals.

I didn’t think I had any room left for dessert, but when I saw an item on the menu called Avalon’s Chocolate Decadence I couldn’t say no. Our server informed us that the treat had won an award for best dessert in the Valley for the past five years. One taste and I knew why.

Alas, our time at Avalon had come to an end and the verdict was in: For delicious and innovative fare, a visit to Avalon won’t disappoint. This casually classy establishment is truly an indulgence for the senses — invigorating your taste buds in a serene setting while awakening you to the sights, sounds and flavors of fine cuisine.

If You Go:
Avalon
7707 E McDowell Road, Scottsdale
(480) 656-0010
www.avalon-scottsdale.com

tax day

Recovery Act Provides New Tax Benefits For Small Businesses

In response to an economic downturn the likes of which has not been seen since the Great Depression, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (commonly referred to as the Recovery Act) into law on Feb. 17. Intended to serve as a stimulus for the U.S. economy, the measures set forth in the Recovery Act are nominally worth approximately $787 billion.

Of those measures, roughly $288 billion are devoted to federal tax relief, with $51 billion aimed at providing tax benefits for small businesses. While the impact of the Recovery Act on individual taxpayers has been widely publicized, the beneficial tax provisions for small businesses and their owners have been overlooked. However, many of the Recovery Act’s new tax provisions offer significant tax savings opportunities for small businesses. Some of these provisions are highlighted below.

Election for longer net operating loss (NOL) carryback period
Currently, corporate taxpayers are allowed to use a NOL from one tax year to reduce taxable income in past or future tax years. Prior to the Recovery Act, NOLs could be carried back for two tax years and carried forward for 20 tax years. The Recovery Act now permits certain qualified small businesses to elect to increase the NOL carryback period from two years to three, four or five years for NOLs arising in a tax year beginning or ending in 2008.

Because many small businesses were profitable in tax years leading up to the current economic crisis, the extended carryback period provides small businesses with an opportunity to offset prior years’ taxable income with losses incurred in 2008. For purposes of the extended carryback period, qualifying small business are corporations whose average annual gross receipts are $15 million or less for the three-year period ending in 2008. As a result of the longer NOL carryback period, small businesses that experienced losses in 2008 likely can seek an immediate refund of income taxes paid in earlier years.

Expensing limits continued for another year
Before the enactment of the Recovery Act, the Internal Revenue Code’s expensing rules allowed businesses to deduct up to $133,000 of costs incurred in purchasing certain business machinery and equipment, instead of recovering those costs through depreciation deductions over a number of years. The Recovery Act increased that amount and now provides that, for tax years beginning in 2009, certain qualifying businesses have the option to deduct up to $250,000 of such costs. Although the increased expensing limits are subject to some limitations (for example, the $250,000 deduction is decreased dollar-for-dollar for purchases in excess of $800,000), any amounts that cannot be deducted because of these limitations can be carried forward to later years.

The more liberal expensing rules provided under the Recovery Act provide small businesses with the ability to take increased, current-year deductions for costs associated with acquiring business machinery and equipment, which should help to offset the often substantial economic outlays such purchases require.

Bonus first-year depreciation extended for another year
The Recovery Act also provides a one-year extension on the ability of businesses to take a “bonus” depreciation deduction for the first year new assets are placed in service. The bonus first-year depreciation deduction generally is equal to 50 percent of the cost of qualified property acquired and placed in service in 2009. Qualified property includes most types of tangible personal property, certain improvements to leased real property and most software. As with the increased expensing limits discussed above, the extension of the ability to claim a first-year bonus depreciation deduction may materially reduce the costs associated with acquiring new business property and equipment.

S corporation built-in gain holding period shortened temporarily
Typically, a Subchapter S corporation is not subject to an entity-level tax on its income. Rather, the S corporation’s income flows through to its shareholders, who then pay tax on their pro-rata share of the S corporation’s income. However, a business originally formed as a Subchapter C corporation, which later elects to be taxed as an S corporation, is subject to a built-in gain tax at the highest marginal corporate tax rate (currently 35 percent) on certain gains that are built-in at the time of the corporation’s S election.

These types of S corporations generally are subject to the built-in gain tax on the disposition of appreciated assets acquired during their C corporation period for the first 10 years after their S election. In other words, if the S corporation disposes of appreciated assets from its C corporation period during the 10 years following its S election, the corporation is subject to tax on the gain at the highest marginal corporate tax rate. Thanks to the Recovery Act, the built-in gain tax will not be imposed on any recognized built-in gain if the seventh year in the 10-year recognition period ended before 2009 or 2010. This provision will enable S corporations subject to the built-in gain tax to dispose of appreciated assets earlier in the recognition period without triggering the built-in gain tax on the transfer.

Deferred tax on debt forgiveness income
When debt is discharged or canceled, taxpayers generally must include the amount discharged in taxable, ordinary income. In order to reduce the economic hardships often associated with the recognition of this cancellation of indebtedness (COD) income, the Recovery Act now allows taxpayers to elect to defer the recognition of certain COD income that would otherwise be recognized in 2009 and 2010, until 2014 and then recognize the COD income ratably over five years. The type of COD income that may be deferred under the Recovery Act is COD income that results from the reacquisition or modification of certain business debt instruments during 2009 or 2010. This provision enables certain businesses that might otherwise have taxable income as a result of a debt modification to defer the recognition of that income into future, and hopefully better, tax years.

Kelly C. Mooney and Heather A. McKee are associates in the taxation department at Gallagher & Kennedy, www.gknet.com.

Money Globe

Financial Planning For The Internationally Mobile Can Be Tricky

Living an international lifestyle is often a rewarding, but complex, way of life for individuals and families who move between countries. We live in a world where working abroad at some point is considered to be par for the course for aspiring executives at multinational companies, and more people are seeking a change in lifestyle or better opportunities globally, instead of just locally or nationally.

While working or living abroad may be attractive for a variety of reasons, it brings a new array of daunting challenges when it comes to personal finances and legal entanglements. It can be overwhelming, but planning ahead can provide opportunities as well. If you are considering expatriation, or are even considering purchasing foreign property, do your homework before proceeding.

Become familiar with the income tax treaty between the two countries. Owning foreign property or expatriating may cause your income to be double taxed, but many nations have tax treaties to prevent this. At a minimum, become familiar with the treaty between the two countries. The treaties usually mitigate the double-taxation problem by allowing a credit against one country’s taxes for the taxes paid on the same income in another country.

If you are considering moving out of the United States, keep in mind that U.S. residents and green card holders are always required to report worldwide income to the IRS. This is different than most other countries, which only require reporting of income earned in that country.

When moving to the United States, be careful about the tax implications of living in or even just owning assets here. As long as you have assets here, you will be subject to income tax and perhaps the estate tax as well. In addition to the estate tax, you may have a death tax, or tax upon expatriation from other countries. For instance, Canadian expatriates are charged a deemed disposition tax on their appreciated assets as of the day they move out of Canada.

Noncitizen residents are also subject to more stringent gift tax laws than citizens. For example, while U.S. citizens can freely transfer as much as they want between spouses, noncitizen spouses can only transfer $133,000 (indexed annually for inflation) per year to each other. Any amount above that is subject to gift tax.

Do not assume that your local accountant or tax preparer will be familiar with international tax laws and treaties. International taxation is very specialized. You must seek out a professional who has significant experience in the field. If you don’t, you may end up paying too much, or worse yet, paying too little or under reporting, with tax penalties and long audit processes.

Retirement planning becomes tricky for an expatriate. As you change your country of residence, it is important that you don’t overlook your retirement planning. Keep in mind that pensions, annuities, life insurance products and tax-advantaged retirement accounts may be taxed when income is earned or distributions are made while you are not a resident. When distributions are made from accounts that are tax advantaged in the originating country, there are usually withholding requirements when paid to a nonresident. For example, withholding is required for a distribution from an IRA in the United States made to a nonresident, regardless of citizenship.

The tax may be mitigated by a treaty provision, but special care should be taken to understand the treaty and the tax ramifications for these types of products and accounts. In some cases, there are options such as “offshore retirement plans” that can be utilized to reduce the tax risk to help many expatriates continue to pursue their retirement goals. These retirement plans may not be tax efficient or may be costly, but they can be used when expatriating or living in multiple countries.

If you have met the eligibility requirements for Social Security, you may still be eligible for Social Security if you move outside of the country. This can also be true for forms of social retirement plans in other countries, like Canada’s Pension Plan, if you are relocating to the U.S. Like the income tax treaties, the U.S. has entered into totalization agreements with several nations for the purposes of avoiding double taxation with respect to Social Security taxes.

Investment management introduces more challenges. Most stateside brokers will not make trades in accounts for their clients who live abroad because of having to comply with the regulations of the United States and the foreign country. This is commonly true of brokers in other countries. For the foreign broker to legally deal with a U.S. resident, both the broker and his company must be licensed in the resident’s state of residence.

There may be additional challenges. Be prepared to face a variety of hurdles when making an international move. It can be difficult to obtain credit, health insurance, long-term care insurance, or property and casualty insurance. If you become very ill or severely injured, would you want to be transferred to a local hospital, and if so, how will you pay for it? There will be immigration laws to contend with and various filing requirements. Exchange rate fluctuations and cultural, language, political and regulatory differences can also hinder an otherwise smooth process.

U.S. citizens who will be working abroad for a multinational corporation must address several considerations. Since most other countries’ tax rates are higher, your employer will need to adjust your income so your net income is equivalent to what you earned here. If you are going to places like London or Tokyo, your employer may have to adjust your income for differences in the cost of living. Will you have a travel allowance? Will a driver or bodyguard be needed? Should you consider kidnap and ransom insurance? Will you have to arrange for private schools for your children and who will pay for it?

If you do some planning before you make a move between countries, you may be able to restructure your investment portfolios, your retirement accounts and your asset ownership, so your financial situation will not be as complex and your tax bills will be much lower than they otherwise might be. Talk with as many people as you can who have been through the process and seek professional help if you don’t feel confident. If you know in advance what you will be facing, then you will be much better prepared for the complexities that lie ahead.

Sally A. Taylor is director of financial planning and senior planner and Virginia E. Dhondt is staff planner in the Phoenix office of Keats, Connelly and Associates, www.keatsconnelly.com.

cress in lab

Researchers At The Translational Genomics Research Institute Have Embarked On A Number Of Cancer Studies

While scientists at the Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) investigate diseases of the brain and heart, as well as deadly pathogens, most of the nonprofit biomedical institute’s research is devoted to seeking the genetic causes of cancer.

TGen’s central goal is to discover which genes within our 3-billion-base DNA either protect us from cancer or allow cancers to form.

This year, TGen has been involved in two cancer research initiatives that have potentially far-reaching implications.

In May, Stand Up to Cancer awarded an $18-million grant to TGen and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, TGen’s physician-in-chief, and Dr. Craig B. Thompson, director of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, will lead a three-year investigation into new approaches in treating pancreatic cancer, the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

In April, a study sponsored by TGen, Scottsdale Healthcare and Caris Dx showed that molecular profiling of patients can identify specific treatments for individuals, helping to keep their cancer in check for significantly longer periods and in some cases even shrink tumors. Von Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, released the study’s results at the 100th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Denver.

TGen this year also has made major headlines on a monthly basis following other discoveries and partnerships that could lead to new treatments for cancer patients.

In August, Dr. Glen Weiss, who works for TGen and Scottsdale Healthcare, announced two significant advances in treating lung cancer. Weiss, an associate investigator in TGen’s cancer and cell biology division and director of thoracic oncology at TGen Clinical Research Services at Scottsdale Healthcare, made both announcements at the 13th World Conference on Lung Cancer in San Francisco. In one presentation, Weiss described research that eventually could help prevent lung cancer from spreading to the brain. In the second presentation, Weiss discussed the results of phase I clinical trials for a drug called TH-302 developed by Threshold Pharmaceuticals. The trials, conducted at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare, found that 75 percent of patients with small cell lung cancer who were treated only with TH-302 “achieved stable disease or better.” The trials also found that 67 percent of patients with non-small cell lung cancer who were treated with a combination of TH-302 and other chemotherapy agents “achieved stable disease or better.”

In July, an international scientific team led by TGen received a $1 million grant from the Melanoma Research Alliance to study skin cancer. The team, led by Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen’s president and research director, will conduct a two-year study called, Identification of Novel Melanoma Risk Genes Using High-Throughput Genomics.

Also in July, California and Arizona researchers identified a gene variant that carries nearly twice the risk of developing an increasingly common type of blood cancer, according to a study published by the science journal, Nature Genetics. Investigators at the University of California, Berkeley and at TGen found that mutations in a gene called C6orf15, or STG, are associated with the risk of developing follicular lymphoma. This is a cancer of the body’s disease-fighting network and has an incidence rate that has nearly doubled in the past three decades.

In May, the opening of a new breast health center next to John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital provided significant new research opportunities for TGen. The 9,000-square-foot Breast Health and Research Center includes a tumor biorepository for TGen that will aid the research institute in discovering new ways to diagnose and treat breast cancer, which affects one in every eight American women.

In April, TGen researchers announced they might have found a way to stop the often rapid spread of deadly brain tumors. One gene, named NHERF-1, may be a serious target for drugs that could prevent malignant tumors from rapidly multiplying and invading other parts of the brain, according to a cover story in Neoplasia, an international journal of cancer research.

In February, TGen and the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) announced they would forge a strategic alliance to enable both to maximize their worldwide contributions to science and health. The partnership between TGen and the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based VARI will enable both institutes to speed up their mutual goals of moving research discoveries about cancer and other debilitating medical conditions from laboratories to patient care as quickly as possible.

TGen’s efforts are also international. The institute is partnering with the small European country of Luxembourg to help develop the Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg (IBBL). In addition, TGen is part of the first IBBL demonstration project, Luxembourg Project Lung Cancer, in collaboration with the Partnership for Personalized Medicine.

Steve Yozwiak is a senior science writer at TGen, www.tgen.org.

Child Care: Phoenix Children’s Hospital And Cardon Children’s Medical Center Help Young Cancer Patients

Child Care: Phoenix Children’s Hospital And Cardon Children’s Medical Center Help Young Cancer Patients

Children in the Valley have access to some of the most comprehensive cancer care in the region, thanks to the two hospitals that are solely dedicated to pediatric patients — Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the soon-to-be-opened Cardon Children’s Medical Center.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital houses the state’s largest pediatric cancer program and is a long-standing member of Children’s Oncology Group research consortium. PCH also boasts the Valley’s only pediatric blood-and-marrow transplant (BMT) program, thanks to its partnership with the Mayo Clinic. Phoenix Children’s has state-of-the-art rooms to meet the special needs of BMT patients who have suppressed immune systems.

“We also have a long-term survivor follow-up program, which is really important in pediatrics because you’re not just taking care of a disease, you’re taking care of a child, and those children can be 18 months when they’re first being treated, they could be teenagers when they’re first being treated, either because of the disease they have or the treatment or the surgery or the radiation; its not like adults where a vast majority of patients don’t survive,” says Dr. Michael Etzl Jr., director of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and co-director of the neuro-oncology program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “At least 70 percent of all pediatric oncology patients are long-term survivors. We actually have three of the nurses that are working for us that are childhood survivors of cancer.”

PCH also works to care not just for young cancer patients’ bodies, but also for their spirits. As part of that effort, the hospital offers its Rainbow Kids’ monthly events. Along with providing some needed fun, the events give families who have a child with cancer the opportunity to meet other families facing the same challenge.

The fight against pediatric cancer in the Valley gets a boost next month with the opening of Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa.

Cardon Children’s Medical Center is the new name and home for Banner Children’s Hospital at Banner Desert Medical Center. The new children’s hospital is named after the long time, Mesa-based Cardon family, which operates the real estate company the Cardon Group, in recognition of its $10 million contribution. The Cardon family gift was officially given by Wilford Allen and Phyllis Reneer Cardon, and Banner states that it marks one of the largest donations to children’s health care in Arizona.

“There is no more important cause than the health and care of children,” says Wilford Cardon in a Banner Health statement. “We have been proud to be associated with Banner’s critical work in Arizona for many years and thought this would be a helpful and timely way to elevate pediatric care in this state. Those who have been blessed have an obligation to help those for whom blessings are still on the way.”

Cardon Children’s is a seven-story, 206-bed medical center and is part of Banner Health’s $356 million expansion of its Mesa campus. The expansion has allowed the children’s hospital to move from inside Banner Desert to its own facility on the Banner Desert campus. As a result, thenumber of beds at Cardon’s Children has expanded from 145 to 248.

The first dedicated children’s medical center in the Banner Health system, Cardon has a pediatric emergency room, as well as units for rehabilitation, radiology, intensive care and neonatal intensive care.

Cardon also has a 10-bed unit designed specifically for the needs of children with cancer and their families. The unit features private rooms, convertible sofas for parents, refrigerators, Internet access, flat-screen TVs and video games. The patients also take part in the Beads of Courage program, which helps them keep track of their progress.

Like Phoenix Children’s, Cardon Children’s physicians are board-certified and are members of the Children’s Oncology Group, a national research group. The oncology group works in association with CureSearch, which provides patients with the most advanced treatment options and research trials available.

Cardon Children’s also has partnered with Mesa Public Schools, so young patients don’t fall behind in their schoolwork. Teachers from the district come in and work with kids at their bedsides. For children who can get out of bed, the new hospital has a classroom where they can attend classes.

www.bannerhealth.com
www.phoenixchildrens.com

Cancer research and treatment are coming of age in Arizona

Cancer Research And Treatment Are Coming Of Age In Arizona

The Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson is one of two NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Arizona. Photo: The Arizona Health Sciences Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson

Cancer Conquerors:

There was a time when a diagnosis of cancer almost always meant death. But advances in cancer research and treatment have greatly improved cancer patients’ chances of survival. Throughout the Valley and Arizona, cancer centers touting new technologies and treatments are helping the state become one of the nation’s leaders in the fight against the disease.

“With these various models … it is raising the quality of cancer treatment for everybody in the Valley (and state)” says Dr. Michael Etzl Jr., director of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and co-director of the neuro-oncology program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Comprehensive Care Centers
Since 1976, the Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson has been a pioneer in the fight against cancer. Designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as one of just two Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Arizona, the facility serves the entire state.

“Because of our Comprehensive Cancer Center status, our emphasis on research and our role as part of an academic medical center, we can offer our patients the opportunity to be part of clinical trials, to be treated with newly developed drugs specifically for their particular disease,” says Dr. David S. Alberts, director of the Arizona Cancer Center.

The only other NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Arizona is the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Scottsdale.

“Mayo’s unique approach to health care is a team approach, with many health care providers working to provide comprehensive diagnosis and treatment in more than 65 adult medical and surgical specialties,” says Dr. Rafael Fonseca, deputy director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and site director in Arizona.

Clinical Trials and Research
Research and clinical trials are the critical basis for innovations in cancer treatment. Arizona is able to position itself as a leader in cancer treatment because of the research and clinical trials its hospitals and centers host.

“It is a documented fact that the best cancer care can only occur at centers where clinical trials are being conducted,” Fonseca says.

The Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson has an annual research budget of more than $78 million, operates 60 research labs and enrolls more than 1,700 participants in clinical trials each year.

In the Valley, Scottsdale Healthcare also offers cancer patients cutting edge clinical trials by being a clinical research site for the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). Through a strategic alliance between Scottsdale Healthcare and TGen, eligible patients can take part in phase I or phase II studies at TGen’s Clinical Research Services clinic, located within the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center.

Since 2005, more than 60 phase I (first-in-human) cancer trials have been conducted through TGen Clinical Research Services at Scottsdale Healthcare. Approximately 250-300 new patients participate in other phase I trials every year through the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center.

In a field vastly different from that of adult cancer, Phoenix Children’s is the only hospital in the state to offer pediatric phase I, phase II and phase III trials.

“In pediatric oncology, without the clinical research component of it you really don’t provide cutting-edge treatment,” Etzl says.

Approximately 60 to 70 percent of cancer patients at Phoenix Children’s are on clinical trials.

Pioneering Programs
Along with its research and clinical trials, Phoenix Children’s Hospital prides itself on having a “strong, family-centered, comprehensive program” for young cancer patients, Etzl says.

One of the hospital’s numerous programs includes Child Life, which works to ease a child’s pain and worry about being in a hospital. Through the program, procedures are explained to children as part of an overall effort to make a young cancer patient’s life as normal as possible.

The cancer center at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Downtown Phoenix hosts programs ranging from nutritional support to quality-of-life care that focus on a blend of medical, holistic and emotional support systems.

Meanwhile, an initiative at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center that is open to all cancer patients — regardless of where they’re receiving treatment — is the cancer care coordinator program. It’s comprised of experienced oncology nurses who act as personal advocates for cancer patients by answering questions, clarifying procedures and more.

Collaboration and Partnerships
Dr. Mark A. Slater, vice president of research for Scottsdale Healthcare and the Scottsdale Clinical Research Institute at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, says that with so much cancer treatment and research taking place in the Valley and state, it’s important to “work together to fight cancer and not duplicate each other (and) instead complement each other.”

The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center continues to expand its alliance with TGen. The center recently announced it will be one of three clinical research sites in the U.S. to participate in a three-year investigation into new ways to treat pancreatic cancer.

Since 2002, the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and Phoenix Children’s have worked together on the Valley’s first pediatric blood-and-marrow transplant program.

“Prior to 2002, if a (Phoenix Children’s) patient needed a transplant, the patient and his or her family had to leave the Phoenix area, often for months at a time, to seek care,” Fonseca of Mayo says.

Today, the two institutions have successfully forged a strong relationship that helps patients young and old. “The program has grown exponentially,” Fonseca says. “This year we will perform approximately 120 transplants.”

The Future
As the next phase of cancer care makes its way to the state, one new option for patients is the Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Western Regional Medical Center in Goodyear, which opened in December 2008. Cancer Treatment Centers of America has other locations in Chicago, Philadelphia and Tulsa, Okla.

The center in Phoenix is the first in the country to be 100-percent digital, with a fully electronic health record system designed specifically to support Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s unique model of care.

“The (electronic health record system) is one part of our comprehensive IT platforms designed to maximize patient care. Cancer patients will benefit from greater efficiency created by real-time access to patient data and more,” says David Veillette, president and CEO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Western Regional Medical Center.

Another option coming online in a few years will be the M.D. Anderson Banner Cancer Center on the campus of Banner Gateway Medical Center in the East Valley. The recently announced collaboration between the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is Banner’s largest ever, with a scheduled opening of 2011.

“Cancer treatment will be needed more, naturally, as a result of more people moving into the Valley and the state,” says Bill Byron, a spokesperson for Banner Health. “The M. D. Anderson Banner Cancer Center will be a prominent institution that many will choose.”

Along with new technology, research and treatments, each cancer center in the state offers patients perhaps the most potent medicine of all — hope.

“We foresee a future where cancer will be like infectious diseases — most of the time curable,” Fonseca says.

www.azcc.arizona.edu | www.mayoclinic.org/scottsdale | www.cancercenter.com | www.phoenixchildrens.com | www.stjosephs-phx.org | www.shc.org | www.mdanderson.org | www.bannerhealth.com

Laura Scheller

Laura Scheller: CMP, President And Founder, Solmonte Hospitality

Laura Scheller, CMP, not only is a member of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International, she also is the chapter’s president-elect. In the course of the 18 years Scheller has been involved with MPI, she has held numerous other roles, including chair of various committees and director positions within the organization.

Scheller says the biggest benefit by far of her involvement with MPI is the relationships.

“MPI provides three things: world-class knowledge for our industry, a marketplace to promote our services and products, and, probably the most important to me, a human connection for both personal and professional development,” she says. “In an economy like this, where the entire profession has been knocked to its knees, through no fault of its own, relationships are critical to my success. MPI provides a platform to increase our contacts and tools and provide the maximum ROI for every meeting and event we touch.”

As president and founder of Solmonte Hospitality, which offers full meeting planning services, Scheller says MPI has been critical to the development and expansion of her business.

“Without the support of my fellow MPI members, my company would not be in existence today,” she says. “We are running a business and our members are our clients. We have to provide value to our members through education and opportunity and still be profitable. All of these skills help me to be a better businesswoman in my company.”

Scheller admits that the economy and the “AIG affect” have decimated the meetings and event market. The AIG effect refers to the public backlash to corporate meetings and events following the disclosure last fall that insurance giant AIG was still planning lavish get-togethers for employees even after it received a massive bailout from the federal government. The public and media outrage did not take into account that corporate gatherings make up an important part of the tourism industry — especially in places such as Arizona.

With the help of MPI, Scheller is hopeful the AIG effect will disappear.

“There are significantly fewer meetings occurring, and those that do still exist are often cut back dramatically in scope. MPI, along with other industry organizations, has created a campaign called Meetings Mean Business,” she says.

“Our goal is to dismiss the notion that meetings are fluff and to help educate the business community on the value of meetings and events, and to create guidelines and best practices that support positive impact to our economy. As a chapter leader and local businesswoman, I am proud to be a very small part in this endeavor.”

Jennifer Castro MPI

Jennifer Castro: Dual Market Sales Manager, Dave And Buster’s

Officially the dual market sales manager for Dave and Buster’s, Jennifer Castro prefers to call herself the Ambassador to Fun. With a title like that, you can expect passion, out-of-the-box thinking and positive energy. But there is even more to Castro than that.

Castro acts as the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International’s vice president of education, a role that allows her to manage the details related to the chapter’s monthly programs. She has been an MPI member for eight years and counting.

“I joined in 2001 in California, but became very active in August 2007 after I transitioned to Arizona and needed to create a networking foundation, since I was new to the area,” she says.

MPI provided that venue, and more, for Castro.

“MPI offers incredible professional and leadership development opportunities,” she says. “On a business level MPI was an incredible way for me to get acclimated to the Arizona hospitality market after moving here in late 2006. Over the past two years I have fostered strong networking connections and friendships, as well as generated strong brand awareness for Dave and Buster’s.”

Castro has been with Dave and Buster’s for more than 11 years, and she credits MPI for providing an avenue for her to professionally challenge herself in new ways, as well as allow her to continue her passion for ongoing education in her industry.

“I am responsible for selling events at both Arizona Dave and Buster’s locations at the Tempe Marketplace and Desert Ridge Marketplace,” Castro says. “My membership with MPI has proven to be essential in a variety of ways. I can always count on MPI for vendor needs I have for my events.

Additionally, Arizona is a huge destination city for corporate events and conferences. MPI is a great way to build business relationships with the event professionals that make decisions on where to host their offsite events.”

While it seems no industry is immune to the current economic climate, Castro admits that the event and meeting industry has been particularly challenged this year with negative media exposure.

“Companies across the board have cancelled events nationwide, which has impacted Dave and Buster’s,” she adds. “Corporations are really scrutinizing the events they decide to move forward with.”

However, Castro manages to find the silver lining among the clouds of the economic storm.

“At Dave and Buster’s we have found that many companies are now focusing heavily on team building, which is great for us since that is our specialty,” she says. “MPI is an integral part of helping to re-educate the public on the importance of meetings and helping those in our industry navigate through the changes that are impacting everyone in our industry during these unfamiliar times.”

www.daveandbusters.com

Beth Fagan MPI

Beth Fagan: Senior Manager, Meeting Planning And Membership Services National Council For Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP)

Beth Fagan has been an active member of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International for five years, and has served as co-chair of the chapter’s membership recruitment committee for two years.

This involvement is a natural fit for Fagan, who manages the membership services and meeting planning departments at the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) based in Scottsdale.

“As the manager of membership services, my role is to oversee the maintenance and the analysis of the data for over 1,500 members,” she says. “As a membership association, MPI provides excellent practical examples of dealing with the challenges of attracting and retaining members.”

As manager of the meeting-planning department, Fagan also is responsible for coordinating all aspects of NCPDP’s annual conference, as well as quarterly meetings.

“This includes hotel arrangement, meeting room set up, food and beverage, trade shows, golf tournaments, formal dinners, informal parties and receptions,” she says. “MPI provides education programs focusing on current trends, and by staying informed about what’s going on in the industry, I am able to plan innovative and effective meetings for our members.”

Fagan believes that MPI offers some incredible benefits to help her in these roles, including educational programs and the opportunity to meet and interact with others in the meeting planning industry. “Monthly speakers at the local meetings and annual conference provide a wealth of information that I find extremely useful,” she says. “In addition to the educational speakers, I am able to learn from my peers in the industry at both the local and national levels. The opportunity to network with those who have a shared understanding of the industry has often provided input, ideas and contacts that have helped me become a more proficient and innovative meeting planner.”

All levels of business travel, including the nonprofit sector, have been affected by the state of the U.S. economy, according to Fagan, but she’s dedicated to moving forward in her industry.

“It’s a constant struggle to gain active involvement from our members, but we have tried to address the economic shortfalls with an aggressive membership recruitment campaign and a constant line of communication to our members that illustrates the value of active participation,” she admits.

“Through MPI’s online forums, I’ve had the opportunity to share my experiences and learn what others are doing to counteract this issue.”

MSkalny

Mike Stawiarski: Owner/Technical Producer, MFS Event Technology

July of this year marked the beginning of Mike Stawiarki’s one-year term as president of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International. With this role comes great responsibility, but Stawiarski is up for the challenge.

As president, Stawiarski leads “a very talented 16-member board of directors who sets our agenda for the year with a business plan to serve our members with monthly educational events, networking opportunities and social events.

“In the end, it’s the leadership team’s mission to inform and educate our chapter and bring them all together to develop our individual businesses,” he adds.

Stawiarski is proud to be this year’s president. As a member of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of MPI since 2003, when he started his own company, he has moved through the ranks in various leadership roles and has enjoyed every moment of the experiences MPI has brought him.

After working for the Marriott for 17 “wonderful years,” Stawiarski says, “I ventured out on my own in 2003 as technical producer/owner of MFS Event Technology. I service events with technical audio/visual and production support to make my clients’ events shine.”

As for the importance of his involvement with MPI and the success of his business, Stawiarski reveals, “MPI without a doubt keeps me on the cutting edge of my industry and the direction it is headed. The old phrase ‘it’s who you know’ certainly applies, since MPI has many of the top minds and professionals that I need to know in my business life.”

He believes some of the most beneficial aspects of his MPI membership and involvement are networking and continual education.

“Certainly making business connections is a key benefit, and being educated at our local and national events about all facets of our meetings industry is truly valuable, as it enhances my career and makes me a better, more informed producer,” he says. “Serving my fellow chapter members and giving back to the industry that had been so good to me is the main benefit that I am proud of.”

Perhaps this education comes at no better time than when the economy has suffered such a slump.
“Our industry and my business are both facing challenges in this economy right now like everyone else,” Stawiarski says.

However, Stawiarski is not going to let a little thing like an economic crisis get him down.

“I am an eternal optimist and feel we’ve hit the bottom and are slowly on our way back up,” he says. “More than ever, this is a crucial time to belong to groups such as MPI to keep your client and business partnerships alive and vibrant. This is not the time to be passive, but (it’s the time to be) active in your industry. Meeting Professionals International is a positive force to keep you connected.”

AZ Sunbelt MPI Chapter

MPI Is A Handy Resource For Professionals Throughout The Meetings Industry

Meeting Professionals International has 70 chapters worldwide with 24,000 members who service and support the meetings industry. The Arizona Sunbelt Chapter’s membership currently stands at 532, and is comprised of meeting planners and suppliers who partner to organize and serve the meetings industry across the globe.

With statistics like that, who could doubt the importance and value of MPI as a resource for those in the industry? Not its members, that’s for sure.

Mark McMinn, CMP, director of sales for the Tempe Convention and Visitors Bureau and vice president of finance for the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter, has been associated with the organization for 20 years and a member of the local group since 2001.

In that time, he has experienced first-hand the resources the group offers. He says “education, relevant content to the industry and career advancement and knowledge, marketplace connections to further my business contacts and sales, and being in a community of like-minded professionals and people who understand what you do, and who want to make sure you are successful in the marketplace” are some of the most important aspects of his MPI membership.

Regarding resources, McMinn points to MPI’s directory, available online and in print, as a great place to find a member.

“After you have found us, give any one of the members a call and doors are opened for you,” he says. “A wealth of information can be gained through one phone call or e-mail. It’s the power of connection. There are many resources that can be found at MPI: best practices, forms, directories, books and publications, speakers, subject matter experts, legal advice, discounts, and so much more.”

Beyond that, McMinn says education is MPI’s best resource.

“You can learn so much from our education resources online and at a monthly chapter meeting or at one of our fantastic conferences,” he says.

McMinn adds that with MPI “you are connected to so many professionals like yourself that you are instantly able to get what you need, when you need it from some of the finest professionals in the meetings business.”

Beth Longnaker, site selection specialist with Scottsdale-based Hospitality Performance Network and vice president of membership for MPI’s Arizona Sunbelt Chapter, is all about helping MPI members maximize their memberships and make the most of their involvement with the organization. She even developed the global development committee and has been active on various other committees during the course of her membership.

She agrees that the education aspect is a great tool MPI members can take advantage of, including earning accreditations and certifications within specific specializations.

Longnaker says networking, industry discounts and the MPI global directory are some of the most beneficial resources MPI has to offer, even though, in her opinion, the latter does not get utilized as often as it should.

“People don’t use the directory enough and they don’t use their references enough,” she says. “They need to utilize those connections.”

In addition to the online directory, Longnaker cites as wonderful resources some of the online programs available via the international Web site.

“There are subject boards, special interest groups and programs,” she says. “You can go on and gain knowledge of current trends, and you can ask questions and get honest answers because there are more than 20,000 professionals around the world from which to get feedback.”

Longnaker believes there is always an opportunity to learn something new within the forum of MPI, because it constantly presents new products and tools to help its members keep on top of current trends.

As a site selection specialist, Longnaker acts as a liaison between her client and the hotel they are negotiating a contract with, and she finds the knowledge she gains via MPI invaluable.

“My goal is to present the most beneficial contract for all involved,” she says.

MPI has given Longnaker the tools to offer her clients better opportunities.

“I have the personal knowledge to make qualified referrals and it offers a validity in my profession,” she says.

McMinn encourages MPI members to take full advantage of all the resources available to them.

“Use your membership to the fullest and you have the meetings industry at your fingertips,” he says. “It’s like having a secret handshake … but there is no secret.”

www.exploretempe.com
www.hperformance.com

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

One Valley Resort Shares Its Side Of The Meetings Controversy Issue

The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North is synonymous with luxury, indulgence and the utmost in customer service. The property, nestled in the natural desert setting of the Pinnacle Peak foothills, boasts grand casitas, fine dining, breathtaking views of the city below and some of the finest meeting-and-function facilities available.

Just a year or two ago, one may not have said the words “Four Seasons” and “budget friendly” in the same sentence. But things are different today. The current economic climate has dictated changes in nearly every industry, but the meetings industry has been particularly hard hit by the public frenzy over the abuse — both real and perceived — of Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) funds. Companies receiving government bailouts were blasted by the public and the press for continuing to hold meetings and events, even when taxpayer money was not used to foot costs.

The Four Seasons has not been immune to the situation. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, according to the property’s director of marketing, Dave Akin.

“The crystal ball is still cloudy, but we would like to believe that the worst is over,” he says. “We are cautiously optimistic.”

Akin says that due to the TARP backlash, public scrutiny and the political climate, the Four Seasons saw quite a few cancellations and a dramatic decline in its booking pace starting in the fall of 2008 through the beginning of this year. But he adds that the situation has “stabilized a bit.”

For Akin, the bottom line is that “meetings matter” and they need to continue to take place for many important reasons.

“People need to get together to share ideas and for continued education,” he says.

Although the media spotlighted the amount of funds being spent on meetings, Akin says the public was not apprised of the trickle-down effect of those meetings dollars. A meeting can directly impact literally thousands of jobs.

“So many people are dependent on those dollars,” he says. “It is very important that people in and outside of our industry can put a face and a personality with the statistics they are hearing. We want to make sure people aren’t getting confused between luxury and waste.”

The Four Seasons is taking a very proactive approach in an effort to rekindle the meetings momentum, and in doing so is receiving support from the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International.

The resort’s partnership with MPI has resulted in some very successful endeavors. Akin says the membership database is a very useful tool for reaching out to individuals and sharing thoughts.

“MPI is very good to work with,” he adds.

The Four Seasons and MPI have co-hosted several events, including meeting planners’ World Educational Conference (WEC), where the property was given the opportunity to showcase itself.

“We are taking a collaborative approach to educate people and help them understand the purpose and benefits of meetings,” Akin says. “We need to clear up the misunderstandings so everyone will be better off in the long run.”

To this end, the Four Seasons has received advice from the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) on how to show potential clients and guests the true value, worth and return on investment of conferences. AZ Business Magazine cover October 2009Akin hopes these efforts will help shift the focus back to why meetings are so beneficial, as well as some of the important issues that MPI promotes, including green meetings and social awareness.

“We want to move those topics back to the forefront,” he says.

Meanwhile, Akin insists that while there are certainly specials and values for both business and pleasure travelers to take advantage of at the Four Seasons right now, one thing has not changed.

“We are a company that prides itself on our customer service,” he says. “We are not changing our standards or cutting corners during these challenging times. Our focus is always on taking care of our clients.”

www.fourseasons.com