Michelle Ray joins SmithGroupJJR

The Phoenix office of SmithGroupJJR, one of the nation’s leading integrated design firms, has hired Michelle Ray, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, as principal and mixed-use specialist. In her new position, Ray will work alongside Phoenix Workplace Practice leadership to expand the firm’s mixed-use expertise and create environments that support the market’s emerging expectations and needs.  

With more than 25 years of experience in the industry, Michelle has been involved in several large retail, office, multifamily and hospitality projects. Prior to joining SmithGroupJJR, Michelle was with OMNIPLAN where she served as Project Manager, Designer and LEED Manager. Her project work included the award-winning Chandler Fashion Center, San Tan Village and Santa Monica Place.

“Michelle’s expertise will expand the firm’s influence within the mixed-use environment using an integrative and collaborative process to address this complex and changing market,” states Brad Woodman, Phoenix office director.

Karen Gaylord honored by State Bar

Jennings Haug Cunningham’s Karen Gaylord was named the recipient of the Michael J. Brophy Distinguished Service Award by the State Bar of Arizona Environmental & Natural Resources Law Section (ENRLS).

The Michael J. Brophy Distinguished Service Award is awarded at the discretion of the ENRLS executive council of the section to a member of ENRLS who exemplifies the qualities of commitment of service to the environmental and natural resources law profession and the community that was valued by Michael Brophy. The Award is presented to a lawyer who, like Michael Brophy, approaches personal and professional demands with honesty, integrity, courage, grace, dignity, respect, wit and compassion — taking the long view, and keeping in mind the community of which we are all a part. The Award was created to recognize a lawyer who thinks creatively about clients’ problems and solutions, teaches and mentors younger lawyers, and strives to balance the demands of their professional and personal life.

Karen Gaylord is the leader of the environmental practice at Jennings Haug Cunningham. Her practice focuses on environmental and natural resources matters. She counsels government entities, water providers, businesses and individuals. Karen has extensive experience representing responsible parties in state and federal Superfund sites throughout Arizona. She has negotiated and obtained a variety of permits, assisted with the purchase and development of Brownfield and contaminated properties, advised clients on cleanups of soils and groundwater, advised on the storage, handling, and disposal of solid, hazardous, and other wastes, and handled wastewater treatment and reuse matters. Through the years, Karen has mentored many young lawyers, engaging them in the complex cases she manages. In addition to her professional engagements, Karen is also actively involved in the community. She serves as the chair of the board of directors for Audubon Arizona and participates in competitive dragon boating, where she is assistant coach for a breast cancer survivors’ team.

Chris Hixson joins Johnson Financial Group

Brian McKay, Vice President, Mortgage Regional Production Manager in Arizona announced that Chris Hixson has joined Johnson Financial Group as Assistant Vice President – Senior Mortgage Loan Officer.

Hixson has more than 20 years of experience in residential mortgage lending in the Phoenix area. He specializes in new construction, custom home building and custom home financing. Hixson will report to Chris Northrop who recently joined Johnson Financial Group as Vice President, Mortgage Sales Manager. Both Hixson and Northrop came from Compass Bank.

A graduate of Arizona State University, Hixson is experienced in the local market as an Arizona native who has lived and worked in the Phoenix area for more than 40 years.

Menlo Group SVP earns designation

When Grafton Milne joined the commercial real estate industry fresh out of college a decade ago, he looked for ways to push himself to continually improve.  At the top of the list was achieving the SIOR designation awarded by the Society of Industrial and Office REALTORS®. This month he turned that goal into a reality.

“I have always tried to apply Covey’s Principle of ‘Sharpening the Saw’. I am always looking for ways to become better in all aspects of my life. Obtaining the SIOR designation was a perfect way to push myself professionally.” Milne said.

SIOR, which boasts of having just 3,100 members across the globe, is the pinnacle of achievement for anyone desiring to become one of the top brokers in their city. The exclusiveness means that these brokers are considered the most ethical and trustworthy professionals in the field.

“I have always looked at local SIOR’s as being the “cream of the crop” in our market,” said Milne.

Milne started his real estate career working alongside his brother Tanner. In the summer of 2007 they worked together for a commercial developer and as the Phoenix market began to decline that year, Grafton took a gamble and followed his entrepreneurial-minded brother and they started Menlo Group Commercial Real Estate in October 2008. Since then, Grafton has been involved in hundreds of real estate sale and lease transactions. One notable transaction was the sale of the former Phoenix Memorial Hospital in downtown Phoenix. 

“It is an absolute honor to be welcomed into such an elite group of professionals. Not only are SIOR designees known for being the top producers in their markets but they are market-tested, ethically driven, and respected in the industry.” Milne added.