The Arizona Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) and Phoenix-based Thunderbird Legacy Development announced today the joint creation of the Arizona Hospitality Academy (AHA), the first-of-its-kind vocational training program in the state.As a new division within the Arizona OIC, the AHA is set to open in March 2023 and will offer training for jobs within the hospitality industry. Through innovative partnerships with local governments, hotel companies and operators, and trade associations, the AHA will aim to train and place high-quality, job-ready candidates into open industry positions.

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“One of the biggest challenges that the hospitality industry faces today is identifying, hiring and maintaining high-quality and well-trained teams,” said Dwight Alexander, managing partner of Thunderbird Legacy Development. “With the AHA, our goal is to provide an accessible, efficient and sustainable program that will bring forth the next generation of qualified hospitality employees that will service the community as a whole.”The main components of the program will cover customer service, English for careers in hospitality and vocational training. The 11 hospitality vocational training programs available to students will include baker’s assistant, bar back, bar porter, bus person, food server, fine dining server, guest room attendant, house person/utility porter, professional cook, steward and wine server.The AHA will be located convenient to downtown Phoenix with easy accessibility to public transportation, including the light rail. The building will consist of a flex space of four classrooms that will be used for banquet room waiter and busser training, mock hotel rooms for training housekeeping staff and a 5,000 square-foot full commercial kitchen. The kitchen will be utilized for culinary training, as well as serve as the foundation for operating a for-profit catering company which will provide practical work experience for students while simultaneously generating a source of operating revenue to support the program.  “At the Arizona OIC, our goal is to help people help themselves by providing valuable resources and programs to disadvantaged individuals,” said Gene Blue, the president and CEO of the Arizona OIC. “The AHA is another tool that will help to support our overall mission, growth and reach within the state by providing thousands of Valley residents with the opportunity to find and develop their passion for the hospitality industry while building a stable and fulfilling career for themselves.”Arizona OIC and Thunderbird Legacy Development recently announced their co-ownership of Fairmont Phoenix, the 25-story, mixed-use hotel and residential tower set to open in early 2025 in downtown Phoenix.“It is incredibly exciting to have two partners, Thunderbird Legacy Development and the Arizona Opportunities Industrialization Center, who are doing such meaningful work for the Phoenix community,” said Heather McCrory, CEO, Accor North & Central America. “One of the most extraordinary impacts of the hospitality industry are the opportunities that it opens up for those who choose to pursue it. The Arizona Hospitality Academy will ensure that even more members of the Phoenix community receive valuable training that will position them for promising careers in this tremendously exciting industry. We look forward to working with the AHA, and welcome the opportunity to hire future graduates of the program at Fairmont Phoenix, upon its opening in early 2025.”To date, Thunderbird Legacy Development has assisted the Arizona OIC in obtaining more than $4 million in federal and state startup funding for the AHA project.For more information about Thunderbird Legacy Development, visit To learn more about the Arizona OIC, visit