WESTMARC handed out its annual Best of the West Awards Thursday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. 

The Best of the West Awards competition began in 1993 as a way to recognize outstanding contributions to the image, lifestyle and economic development of the West Valley. Awards are presented in the categories of Economic Engine, Quality of Life within the Community and Education, and Excellence in Innovation. In addition to these awards, WESTMARC also presents the West Valley Regional Advancement Award, Inspiration in Leadership and President’s Choice.

West Valley Inspiration in Leadership Award

Award Recipient: Herman Orcutt, Orcutt | Winslow, Retired

Herman Orcutt is a highly respected architect, the owner of HZ & P Consulting and the retired founder of Orcutt I Winslow, a top ranked architecture firm he launched in 1971 and managed for 37 years. For almost four decades, Orcutt I Winslow has been responsible for the design of many of the Valley’s healthcare, hospitality, senior living and educational facilities. 

During his distinguished career, Herman also played a strong role in securing the Arizona Cardinals football stadium (State Farm Stadium) for the City of Glendale and served on the Arizona Sports & Tourism Authority Board for eight years.

Herman has a rich history of community activism, beginning with two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia. His hands-on approach to community activism, with a passion for supporting the West Valley has benefited this region greatly as he was part of a group that founded the Western Gateway Team, which later became WESTMARC. He also planted the seeds for Leadership West, a program created to develop up-and-coming leaders in the West Valley. Herman continues to dedicate his time to serving on several other professional Boards such as his most recent role as vice chairman of the Sun Health Services Board.

West Valley Regional Advancement Award

Award Recipient: Sharon Harper, Plaza Companies 

As President, CEO and co-founder of Plaza Companies, Sharon Harper oversees all facets of company operations, including the ownership, development, leasing or management of nearly l O million square feet of Arizona medical office properties, senior living facilities and bioscience/biotechnology centers. 

With Harper at the helm, Plaza Companies’ properties and projects have received significant recognition within the real estate, construction, senior living, technology and medical sectors, and the company has proved instrumental in setting a national standard of excellence in the ownership, development, management and leasing of award-winning facilities throughout these sectors.

Her forward-thinking commitment to commercial real estate has helped Plaza Companies emerge as one of the premier real estate firms in the Southwest, earning numerous awards and designations under her leadership. 

WESTMARC President’s Choice

Award Recipient: Cheryl Covert, City of Avondale

Motivated by making a difference in the lives of others, Cheryl’s dozen years of economic development experience has generated hundreds of jobs to West Valley residents. One of her significant achievements with the City of Avondale is developing the Health-Tech Corridor, which yielded quality jobs and brings Avondale residents ‘home to work.’

Cheryl’s passion for the West Valley and paying it forward is evident – she serves on the Leadership West Board of Directors, WESTMARC’s Healthcare Committee Co-Chair and is part of Catholic’s Engaged Encounter. She received her undergraduate degree from Sacramento State and then earned her MBA from Grand Canyon University in 2011. In her spare time, Cheryl loves spending time with her husband and three young children and sampling the incredible spa scene the Valley has to offer.

West Valley Economic Engine Award: The Economic Engine Award recognizes individuals, organizations, businesses, facilities, or programs which have created a significant economic impact for the West Valley. Nominees are not judged only by the sheer size of the nomination’s impact; critical factors of a nomination may include the economic effect in proportion to the size of nominee to the population nominee serves, the adversity which faced the nomination, the ingenuity of the nomination.

Economic Engine Award 


Through the $178 million ISM Raceway Project Powered by DC Solar, ISM Raceway and its parent company, International Speedway Corporation (ISC), generated jobs for nearly 6,000 workers during the construction – including approximately 4,300 onsite jobs direct and indirect construction jobs as well as jobs induced throughout the community by the project.

Upon its completion in November, the modernized ISM Raceway will continue to drive the local economy and employment through increased events and will feature a variety of enhanced amenities for fans, teams, sponsors, and other stakeholders, while creating a best-in-class facility in the West Valley that will serve as a destination for motorsports fans everywhere. In addition to a strong motorsports calendar, ISM Raceway is already well-positioned to host other types of sporting and entertainment events. The modernization effort makes the Raceway a world-class sporting event venue that will ensure and enhance economic growth. 

Partnerships were immeasurably valuable to our impact on the economy. The modernization project has allowed ISM Raceway to provide new opportunities for local sponsors to garner more attention through activations at the Raceway and has also attracted national partners to West Valley through the new venue offerings.

In addition to the project partners (DC Solar, Okland, etc.) the ISM Raceway Project Powered by DC Solar, has attracted significant investment from major companies and notable brands such as Modern Margarita, Miller Lite, Dos Equis, Tecate, among others. Additionally, ISM Connect signed on as a naming rights partner to the Raceway for the next 10 years.

The biggest challenge ISM Raceway faced was being open for business during a massive renovation. During the past year, ISM Raceway has experienced a complete modernization effort which includes new grandstand seating, new and renovated suites, a brand-new INfield and Midway, called the DC Solar Power Pavilion with added fan amenities and social hangouts as well as new and upgraded vertical transportation throughout the Raceway. Throughout the entire ISM Raceway Project Powered by DC Solar, the Raceway has continued to host its regular calendar of NASCAR events and has even added new events, including Playworks Arizona’s Run-the-Raceway – the Valley’s only running event on a NASCAR track.

ISM Raceway is uniquely positioned in a market that’s very desirable for a variety of events for consumers, as well as corporate meetings and media partners. The fan experience will be taken to another level thanks to the new amenities that will keep fans connected and comfortable while bringing convenience to the Raceway with a new pedestrian tunnel and updated vertical transportation through escalators and elevators. 

It is also one of the few facilities in the greater Phoenix area that can accommodate overnight camping to the tune of tens of thousands of guests. That’s very unusual in this market.

West Valley Quality of Life Enhancement Award: The Quality of Life Enhancement Award was developed to recognize individuals, organizations, businesses, facilities or programs which have enhanced the quality of life for West Valley residents.

Quality of Life Enhancement Award in the Community

WINNER: Abrazo West Campus 

No doubt, Abrazo West Campus is a powerful economic driver for the Southwest Valley. The best estimates indicate that for every job created by a hospital in Maricopa County, l .24 jobs are created for local businesses. In other words, every job at Abrazo is matched by a new job in the community. Abrazo touches, changes and saves lives through its commitment to excellence – that extends from CEO Stan Holm to every employee. Just this year, Abrazo West Campus dedicated a new ‘biplane imaging interventional radiology suite’ aiding physicians in treating aneurysm, arterial blockages, brain and neck tumors, and other conditions. 

Perhaps equally importantly, Abrazo clearly believes in the power of community engagement. Abrazo West Campus is the recipient of the Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Icon Award. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association have also recognized Abrazo for implementing a higher standard of stroke care by ensuring patients receive treatment according to national accepted standards and recommendations. Whether it’s a food drive, water collection for the homeless or the Partners for Health Scholarships, Abrazo relentlessly demonstrates its firm belief in that simple statement. 

In addition to high-quality patient care, Abrazo West Campus enhances the economy in surrounding communities through its leadership and participation in events and projects such as:

  • The 13th Annual Heart and Sole 5K in February 2018
  • Development of the Wellness Park, a City of Goodyear community park currently in the master-planning stage
  • The Annual Rescue Roundup, an event that includes health and safety information, car seat checks, helmet fittings, and more
  • Blood drives, water drives, and cereal drives

Also, of note is Abrazo West Campus’ affiliation with Partners for Health, a nonprofit group offering scholarships for post-secondary students interested in pursuing a healthcare career. Five scholarships of $1,000 each will be awarded, with preference given to students who demonstrate financial need. Abrazo West Campus treats adversity as opportunity. Each project mentioned so far includes its own challenges, which Abrazo overcomes as part of its vow to provide the very best patient care and community service available.

Abrazo West Campus prioritizes quality care and serves our communities with distinction. Award-winning board-certified physicians, nursing professionals and staff have all been recognized by national organizations.

Not only a valuable economic driver, but the hospital also provides essential humanitarian benefit in all our communities through a variety of community groups, organizations, and events – making Abrazo West Campus a pivotal partner to the communities in which they serve.

Quality of Life Enhancement Award in Education

WINNER: Midwestern University 

Midwestern University Clinics offer comprehensive patient care at the University’s clinical campus, located across the street from the University’s Glendale Campus. The Midwestern University Multispecialty Clinic’s fully-licensed faculty physicians offer treatment in specialty areas including Clinical Psychology, Family Medicine, Foot and Ankle Services, Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, Physical Therapy, Speech Language Pathology, and Pharmacy Services. The Midwestern University Dental Institute, Eye Institute, and Animal Health Institute clinics provide standard and specialty patient treatment in a single location. Each clinical facility offers a complete, comprehensive solution for family and community care with state-of-the-art technology and resources, all at affordable rates.

Through its low-cost clinical resources, Midwestern University provides comprehensive healthcare for residents at affordable prices.

Midwestern faculty and students participate in a wide variety of outreach programs, including the annual Health Careers Institute for High School Students and Give Kids a Smile; providing health screenings and education throughout the state; and hosting numerous fund-raising and awareness events in the community.

Midwestern University also sends its faculty and students to remote locations via programs such as the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Mobile Clinic and the Health Outreach through Medical Education (H.O.M.E.) homeless outreach program to provide onsite healthcare services for underserved residents and communities. Expert faculty also present informative community lectures on a variety of healthcare topics at the Foothills Branch of the Glendale Public Library.

Midwestern University partners with many community and healthcare organizations, including the American Diabetes Association, Central Arizona Shelter Services, Inc. (CASS), UMOM New Day Centers (UMOM), the Arizona Humane Society, the Delta Dental Foundation, PetSmart Charities, and many more. The University, its faculty, and students work together with these entities through grants and cooperative alliances to provide healthcare, healthcare education, and service to West Valley residents and communities.

Midwestern University’s community healthcare is provided by licensed and experienced healthcare professionals, as well as by advanced students in Midwestern’s healthcare professions programs. This means that West Valley patients help to teach the next generation of medical professionals by receiving their care at Midwestern University Clinics. Additionally, because the University invests heavily in the latest technology and equipment so that its students can be “day one ready” in their future practice, community residents have the advantage of utilizing these services and resources in their personal healthcare, all in a single convenient location rather than having to visit multiple professionals and specialists in different offices. Many Midwestern University graduates who participate in Arizona-based residency programs remain in-state to practice, which results in increased provider resources not only for the West Valley, but for the entire state. Many graduates have also returned to Midwestern University after private practice to become adjunct or full-time faculty at the University’s clinics, which gives current students the added benefit of practical experience from professionals who understand the education process.

West Valley Excellence in Innovation Award: The Excellence in Innovation Award was developed to recognize individuals, organizations, businesses, facilities or programs which have demonstrated an innovative concept to accomplish one of the following: fulfills a need for West Valley residents, preserves the West Valley’s assets or resources and creates an economic benefit for the West Valley. 

Excellence in Innovation Award

WINNER: City of Surprise – AZ TechCelerator Global Concierge Services Program 

The AZ TechCelerator, a city-owned West Valley business innovation center, offers international businesses a unique Global Concierge Services program, otherwise known as a “Soft Landing” program. This program is intended to help international companies who want to expand into the U.S. market with less upfront costs and risks but with more support resources. In March 2018, the program was formally accepted into the Global Soft Landings Network by the International Business Incubation Association (lnBIA). It is now one of 31 members in more than eight countries with the highly competitive lnBIA Soft Landings designation. 

Launching this program and achieving the formal designation at the AZ TechCelerator was both a competitive and an enormous accomplishment that will bring tremendous benefits to the West Valley, including elevated global branding, visibility, credibility, and opportunities to collaborate with lnBIA on international projects and grant proposals. The AZ TechCelerator has initiated several agreements with a number of international companies, including: Glympt (Portugal), Excoro (Romania), Tellspec (Canada), Valtx (Canada), Meditar (Argentina), and MagOu (Taiwan).

The Surprise AZ TechCelerator Global Concierge Program stands out, because it is a first-of-its-kind to directly connect global companies to the West Valley. The AZ TechCelerator itself has helped foster more than 500 West Valley jobs, and this innovative program stands to even further diversify the job growth in the West Valley in the long term. The Surprise Economic Development Department utilizes the strengths of their successful business incubation program to help remove costs, risks and obstacles to foreign-owned companies. 

The concept for the program originated when Surprise began working with two Spain-based foreign-owned companies, RioGlass Solar and Gestamp Solar Steel, approximately eight years ago. The Economic Development Department discovered the AZ TechCelerator program could help them on several fronts: ( 1) assistance with establishing their U.S. corporation in safe, secure, government owned office space; (2) recruitment of local talent and hiring in the U.S. market; and (3) provision of knowledgeable mentors and contacts with experience in issues such as U.S. taxation, incorporation, marketing, language translation, banking, patent protection and other legal issues. 

Foreign direct investment is a crucial component of any modern economic development competitiveness strategy, bringing new jobs, higher wages, new technologies and other economic benefits. For this reason, the Global Concierge Program at the AZ TechCelerator is helping the West Valley’s long-term economic competitiveness. The program has created a true value proposition that any international company can appreciate and offers a West Valley point of entry for new company growth.

The West Valley is geared for innovative growth and the region is home to one of the most entrepreneurial climates for emerging technologies in the country. In Surprise, city staff goes to great lengths to ensure companies entering the market feel welcomed and prepared for success. The AZ TechCelerator became a natural asset for companies looking to transition into the United States by providing the needed amenities and strategic contacts to ensure success. The official lnBIA Soft Landing designation will help demonstrate to companies that the City of Surprise is prepared for them and takes their success seriously.

Surprise has created a unique engagement opportunity for our regional partners to consider the West Valley for new growth opportunities.