January 23, 2023

Erin Thorburn

AZ Big 100: 25 male business leaders to watch in 2023

It’s hard to know what to expect from Arizona’s economy in 2023. The labor market remains very tight, with low unemployment, high levels of labor market churn, and a tremendous number of open jobs. But any income gains we are making are more than offset by inflation. Rising mortgage interest rates and low affordability have combined to generate a decline in home sales. But as venture deeper into 2023, one thing is certain: Arizona is filled with brilliant minds and innovative companies that are certain to guide us through any economic storms that come our way. That's why we created the AZ Big 100.

The editorial board for Az Business and AZRE magazines met with Arizona industry leaders to identify the AZ Big 100 for 2023: The 100 people and companies who will shape Arizona’s business community in 2023. Today, meet 25 male business leaders to watch in 2023 (in alphabetical order).

AZ Big 100 coverage

Monday, Jan. 16: 25 women business leaders to watch in 2023

Tuesday, Jan. 17: 25 male business leaders to watch in 2023

Wednesday, Jan. 18: 50 commercial real estate companies to watch in 2023

Thursday, Jan. 19: 25 women commercial real estate leaders to watch in 2023

Friday, Jan. 20: 25 male commercial real estate leaders to watch in 2023

Saturday, Jan. 21: 50 Arizona businesses to watch in 2023


Dylan Capshaw

Entrepreneur and owner // Stemistry

Capshaw is a 16-year-old entrepreneur and environmental activist. Prior to opening the first Stemistry in Scottsdale in 2022, he founded two nonprofits – For the Frontline and Capshaw Wildlife. Capshaw was one of the youngest brick-and-mortar store owners in the country when he opened Stemistry. His passion for Scottsdale landed him on the Mayor’s Youth Council.


Amit Bodiwala

Market president // BMO

Bodiwala is an accomplished banking leader with a proven track record of leading multi-site branch teams for BMO, which generates more than $2.1 billion in annual revenue and has more than 600 branch locations across eight states. He is known as a staff mentor with the ability to lead top-tier teams who exceed performance goals with minimal supervision.


Dave Brown

CEO // Valley Leadership 

As CEO of Valley Leadership, Brown empowers Arizonans to lead through the organization’s innovative programming that helps participants expand their perspectives and their network. He also sits on the Advisory Council for Home Matters to Arizona, the first statewide initiative focused on a new generation of affordable housing, connected communities and healthier individuals, families and economies.


Michael Crow

President // Arizona State University

Crow is the 16th president of ASU. He is guiding the transformation of ASU into one of the nation’s leading public metropolitan research universities, an institution that combines the highest levels of academic excellence, inclusiveness and maximum societal impact. Under Crow’s leadership, ASU has been named No. 1 in innovation for eight straight years.


José Luis Cruz Rivera, PhD

President // Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University(NAU) has been repeatedly recognized for its dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion. Under the leadership of President Dr. José Luis Cruz Rivera, the higher education institute has established full tuition coverage for members of Arizona’s 22 federally recognized tribes as part of the Access2Excellence initiative and has helped to make higher education more accessible to underserved populations via the Admissions Pilot. 

José Luis Cruz Rivera

“Northern Arizona University’s vision to elevate excellence as Arizona’s engine of opportunity, vehicle of economic mobility and driver of social impact for students and communities is resonating across the state,” Cruz Rivera says. “Leaders and business organizations see each day how our work increases the value, impact and accessibility of a transformative postsecondary education.”

Cruz Rivera acknowledges that the collective efforts of a mission-driven leadership team are what have truly pushed the DEI needle forward, coupled with maintaining a clear vision and priorities.

“We have tremendous support from the Arizona Board of Regents, who have entrusted NAU as the state’s access university to carry out this crucial mission,” he says. 

Additionally, Cruz Rivera notes that in the first year and a half of his presidency, NAU strengthened the institution’s commitment to students from all backgrounds, identities and life experiences to reach their full potential and contribute to a more just, equitable and prosperous future.

Looking ahead to 2023, Rivera Cruz is excited for the ongoing development work of the Arizona Attainment Alliance (A++). “A++ brings together NAU, the Arizona Commerce Authority and the state’s 10 community college districts to pursue a shared goal of dramatically boosting statewide postsecondary attainment to help students realize their full potential and take advantage of the tremendous economic opportunities throughout the state,” he explains. 

The A++ initiative, which Cruz Rivera says unites NAU and community college partners, will create pathways for transfer and progression to meet individuals’ diverse educational goals, serving more than 322,000 students throughout its ecosystem of collaborators and partners. 

The success of last year’s DEI efforts, combined with in-progress programs such A++, fuel Cruz-Rivera’s hopes on what’s to come in 2023.

“NAU’s entering class of fall 2022 was the largest, most-accomplished, most-Arizonan and most diverse class in NAU’s 123-year history,” he says. “I cannot wait to see all that these exceptional Lumberjacks will achieve.”


Robert Faver

President, Arizona region // UMB Bank

Faver serves as president of UMB Bank’s Arizona region. He focuses on growing UMB’s market share in the region while maintaining current relationships, managing the team and building the region’s long-term strategy for UMB in Arizona. He joined UMB in 2011 and has more than 20 years of experience in the financial services industry.


Sam Fox

Founder // Fox Restaurant Concepts 

The restaurant innovator , who has developed a growing lineup of unique concepts found across the United States, is branching out and developing The Global Ambassador with his trusted collaborator, business partner and friend Brian Frakes of Common Bond Development Group, a company known for its notable lifestyle development projects. 


Andy Fegley

CEO // Phoenix REALTORS

A dynamic and proven leader with more than two decades of experience in business and real estate, Fegley has led the 11,000-member strong association through a period of cultural and operational transformation. He shifted it into a modern, member-first organization that serves as a gold standard among REALTOR associations nationwide.


Phil Gallagher

CEO // Avnet

Gallagher is the chief executive officer of Avnet and a member of its board of directors. As CEO, Gallagher is focused on growing and accelerating the company’s leadership position in the electronic components and technology industry by leveraging Avnet’s global distribution expertise and value-added services from design chain to supply chain.

Phil Gallagher

A 40-year Avnet veteran with a passion for serving customers, Gallagher was named CEO of Avnet in November 2020. Previously, he served as global president of Electronic Components, where he was responsible for leading the company’s massive broadline components distribution business worldwide.

Beginning his long and successful career with Avnet in 1982, Gallagher has held key executive leadership positions in sales, marketing and operations. He led two former operating groups for the company, serving as president of Avnet Electronic Marketing Americas from 2004 to 2009, and as global president of Avnet Technology Solutions from 2009 to 2014.

Gallagher currently serves on the Arizona Commerce Authority Board of Directors and the Advisory Board of Women in Electronics. Gallagher is also a member of Greater Phoenix Leadership and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, and was awarded The Arizona Technology Council’s AccountabiliT Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.

Learn more: avnet.com


Mark Gaspers

Senior manager of government operations // The Boeing Company 

Gaspers serves as senior manager, government operations at The Boeing Company in the southwest. Prior to this role, Gaspers was a trade control specialist in support of Boeing’s Space Exploration division. Gaspers currently serves as chair the board of directors for the Arizona Manufacturers Council.


Todd Gerber

Arizona regional president // WaFd Bank

Gerber leads the commercial and industrial team by working closely with Arizona businesses and residents, helping limit risk, maximize efficiencies and prepare for the unexpected. With more than 28 years in banking, Gerber brings expertise in managing business accounts in industries such as manufacturing, retail and service, healthcare, nonprofit, government and construction.


Steven Gonzales

Chancellor // Maricopa Community Colleges 

In September of 2022, Gonzales was appointed chancellor for the Maricopa County Community College District — one of the largest community college systems in the nation. Before serving as the interim chancellor for two years, Gonzales had been serving as the eighth president of GateWay Community College, one of 10 MCCCD community colleges.


James Goodnow

CEO // Fennemore

Nearly two decades after starting his career at Fennemore as a file clerk, James Goodnow — now CEO and managing partner of the firm — became the youngest known chief executive of a major law firm in U.S. history. 

“I feel like the luckiest person in the world having the chance to work with the amazing people we have at Fennemore,” he says. “I’ve been in my current role for five years, and I still pinch myself. Although I started in the position at a relatively young age (36), I’ve had the good fortune of having incredible mentors I could learn from along the way.”

James Goodnow

According to Goodnow, it’s the extraordinary people at Fennemore that have not only aided in his success but also to the longevity and accomplishments of the company itself.  

“It’s their work and collective efforts that have helped it grow and move into a leading market position,” he says. 

Moving forward into 2023, Fennemore shows no signs of slowing down. “We will certainly continue growth, but we’ll likely focus on lateral growth in 2023, as opposed to large combinations, because we want to ensure we are spending the time needed to make the five deals we’ve done over the past two years successful,” Goodnow explains.


Jorgen Hansen

CFO and co-owner // Copenhagen Imports

Jorgen Hansen, CFO and co-owner of Copenhagen Imports, grew up in Denmark in his family’s furniture store. In 1970, he emigrated to Phoenix to join his late brother, Erik, and business partner, Tony Christensen, in opening the first Copenhagen store.

Jorgen Hansen

“Copenhagen places the customer experience at the center of its service and strategy,” says Hansen, who has helped expand Copenhagen into six locations across Arizona and Texas over the past 53 years. “In 2023, one of our focuses is enhancing the customer experience through better information delivery via digital media. As people’s habits have changed and moved increasingly online, my daughter, Emily, has become more involved in this change. We’re introducing 3D modeling and augmented reality onto copenhagenliving.com, as well as floor-planning software to make the shopping experience more interactive and accessible for the customer.”

But Hansen says although technology enables shoppers in his industry to purchase online more easily than ever before, experts are finding that people still want to shop in-store and have that in-person experience with help from our designers and sales team. 

“In response, we are putting our resources towards advanced technology for online exploring,” he says, “as well as offering large-selection showrooms to allow customers to get a ‘feel’ for the furniture.”

Learn more: copenhagenliving.com


Michael Jones

President, and CEO // Delta Dental of Arizona and Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation

In 2021, Delta Dental named  Jones as its president and CEO. He also took on the role of president of the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation. Over the past year, he has guided the business and foundation through COVID-19 as well as its milestone 50th anniversary throughout 2022.


Jay Heiler

CEO // Great Hearts Academies

Heiler helped create Great Hearts nearly 20 years ago with 130 students in a leased church building. The founders have since labored with numerous dedicated colleagues to build the highly-regarded non-profit network of classical liberal arts academies to more than 22,000 students and 2,500 teachers in Arizona and Texas.


Lee Lambert

Chancellor // Pima Community College

Lambert is a visionary leader who has served as a senior-level executive for over 20 years at three community college districts. He is currently leading the Pima District’s transformation into Centers of Excellence in applied technology, healthcare, hospitality, information technology and cybersecurity, public safety, and the arts.


Kenneth Manuel

CEO // Gila River Resorts & Casinos

Manuel became the first member of the Gila River Indian Community to become CEO of the enterprise in 2017 – this after spending more than half of his life working in the gaming and hospitality industry. Prior to becoming CEO, he participated in a rigorous mentorship program for nearly five years designed to groom him for the position.


Norman R. Mendoza

Market leader // Eide Bailly

With more than 25 years of public accounting experience, Mendoza provides extensive assurance expertise to privately-held businesses in a variety of industries including manufacturing, wholesale and distribution, construction, real estate, franchise and service-related industries. He also has experience in dealing with private equity groups and their related portfolio companies, as well as ERISA audits.


Eric Orsborn

Mayor // City of Buckeye

Eric Orsborn has always been a trailblazer in Buckeye.

“My wife and I were the first residents in Verrado,” Orsborn says of the popular master-planned community in Buckeye. “We bought a home the day before they opened the place up. Our house and our neighbor’s house were finished on the same day. We moved in that night and they moved in a couple of days later. So we claim No. 1.”

Eric Orsborn

That’s not Orsborn’s only claim to No. 1 these days. As mayor of Buckeye, Orsborn presides over the fastest-growing city in the nation, which has an estimated 110,000 residents. And with about 642 square miles of planning space — larger in mass than the City of Phoenix — Buckeye is poised to see that growth continue.

“Verrado was that first really incredible master-planned community in Buckeye that set the bar a lot higher than what a lot of people expected at the time — walkable community, tree-lined streets. Those communities start to breed other and it becomes a domino effect.”

Some of that domino effect that will change the landscape of Buckeye in the coming years includes Teravalis, a 37,000-acre mixed-use master planned community in Northwest Buckeye that is projected to include 100,000 homes and 55 million square feet of commercial development; both Banner Health and Adrazo plan to build hospitals near Verrado Way and the I-10; the proposed Verrado Marketplace will feature movie theaters, a gym and a grocery store, according to site plans for the proposed retail center; and, Orsborn says, Costco plans to break ground soon on a new store near Verrado Way and the I-10, near the Edkey Sequoia Schools in Buckeye.

“We are also seeing an industrial boom,” Orsborn says. “Right now, we have 9 million square feet of industrial that is under construction and 40 million square foot of industrial in the pipeline. If you figure about three employees per 1,000 square feet, that’s 120,000 jobs in the City of Buckeye over the next 10 or so years.”

Learn more: buckeyeaz.gov


Mark Plitzuweit

President and CEO // Edkey Sequoia Schools

From the East to West Valley, and many spots in between, you’re likely to spot an Edkey® Inc./Sequoia School. With President and CEO Mark Plitzuweit at Edkey’s helm, the educational organization has expanded its K-12 schools exponentially throughout Greater Phoenix. 

“It goes without saying that our staff have been the foundation for the growth we have experienced over the past seven years,” Plitzuweit remarks. “Their commitment to our students, combined with exceptional employee retention and satisfaction, has created a consistency through educational opportunities that meets the needs of our diverse student population.”

Mark Plitzuweit

Plitzuweit cites Edkey’s commitment to diversity — both in its student populations and academics — as part of the brand’s success. 

“We listen to our communities and our success comes from the diversity of our educational offerings,” he says. “We do not offer a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter educational model. Edkey is unlike any other educational organization. Instead of a top-down management approach, Edkey prides itself on being a support organization for all of our schools and programs, focusing on the community needs.”

Prior to Plitzuweit’s leadership, Edkey faced a $3 million deficit. In his first five years, he was able to help lead the organization to an impressive $7 million turnaround. 

“With everything that has happened over the past few years, we have been very fortunate to see academic growth, student population growth and financial viability all increase dramatically since 2019,” he explains. 

And, Plitzuweit adds, the growth of the Edkey school system is accelerated compared with other education outlets throughout the nation. One initiative Plitzuweit feels has aided in the organization’s widespread accomplishments is encouraging parent involvement. “Edkey welcomes the conversations to always do what is best for students,” he says. “While many are working on silencing those parent voices, we continue to ask, ‘what can we do to help?’”

In addition to prioritizing parental involvement, Plitzuweit says the key to future educational success is flexibility. “From micro-schools to high-end athletic prep programs like Hillcrest Prep and Ascending Life Prep, the landscape of educational opportunities has become extremely specialized. Blended learning, along with both STEAM- and STEM-focused programs are growing, while students and families have increased the demand for smaller class sizes and individualized instruction.”


Steve Purves

President and CEO  // Valleywise Health

Purves has served as president and CEO of Valleywise health since 2013 and is actively involved in the community. He has over 40 years of service as a healthcare executive. He has helped guide the construction of a new 637,000-square-foot, 10-story hospital that is scheduled to open late in 2023. The new facility will replace the more than 50-year-old center currently in operation.


Brian Mueller

President // Grand Canyon University 

Mueller joined Grand Canyon University in 2008 to usher in a new era for the institution. Since that time, GCU has transformed from a small, financially-troubled school to one of the largest and most innovative universities in the country. Mueller envisions GCU not just as an institution for higher learning, but as an instrument for change.


Chet Samuelson

Arizona market CEO // BOK Financial 

Samuelson was named Arizona market CEO for BOK Financial as of July 2022. Samuelson has more than 20 years of financial services experience, most recently serving as Arizona commercial banking leader for Wells Fargo with responsibility for a $4 billion loan portfolio. He previously served as market president for Utah’s Hillcrest Bank.


Ben Smith

Founder and owner // Gnosis IQ

Smith is the founder and CEO of Gnosis IQ, an artificial intelligence software that predicts and tracks students’ academic success and empowers social emotional wellbeing of students. The software predicts students’ future performance while providing parents, teachers, and administration the ability to intervene before it becomes a significant problem.