Who to Watch ‘O7

Above: Photography by Mark Peterman Business Leaders | 1 Jan, 2007 |

Who to Watch 2007

These seven individuals will undoubtedly make headlines in 2007. Enjoy this sneak peak of the Class of ’07.


William Harris, Science Foundation Arizona

William HarrisWhen you enter Dr. William Harris’ office, something other than science jumps out at you. Photographs of Harris with state leaders like President George W. Bush hang near autographed photos of baseball heroes. His bookshelves feature rows of studies that lie near bats and leather balls. But upon closer examination, his baseball bat has a flat face with a curved end and is not a baseball bat at all. His bat is a hurling stick. And the stick is covered with autographs—from Ireland’s prime minister and deputy prime minister. Harris began his new role as president and CEO of Science Foundation Arizona fresh off a five-year term as Science Foundation Ireland’s director general. He adopted hurling as his sport-of-choice after moving to Ireland, to strengthen the country’s science industry in 2001. His work helped contribute to a booming, viable economy that has become a template for other nations to follow.

“In 1988, the World Bank almost declared [Ireland] bankrupt,” says Harris. “Through education and a commitment to the idea that being rich is better than being poor, the country changed things around…These simple principles galvanized people to work together. Ireland wanted to create a cadre of competitive workers and speed was important in getting it done. The challenge was compelling.”

Harris spent his career teaching chemistry at the collegiate level in South Carolina. Later, he worked for the National Science Foundation for 18 years, then came aboard Columbia University’s Biosphere 2 project in Tucson and eventually returned to the south.

Born out of the 21st Century Innovation Fund and initiated in the spring of 2006, Science Foundation Arizona seeks to support the science, engineering and innovation industry within the state. The nonprofit is a public/private partnership and was appropriated with $35 million to help create a competitive environment that encourages and supports knowledge-driven economics.

“We should be embarrassed by the fact that we rank 47th or 48th in education,” says Harris. “How can you be an Arizonan and be at the bottom and think that it’s okay? Why don’t we have a shared consensus that we owe our children a good education?”

“A culture that welcomes new things and new ways of thinking is very attractive to young people.” he says. “I’d like to create a culture where there is an ambition here for high school students to become the next Bill Gates or Michael Dell, where this state will inspire and support these students. Of course, I also want the next greatest baseball pitcher to come from here too,” he adds.

Dana Naimark, Children’s Action Alliance

Dana NaimarkDana Naimark possesses that rare combination of business savvy and genuine compassion. Her desire to advocate for children does not detract from her business acumen and strategic expertise. This dichotomy has helped her represent Children’s Action Alliance for 13 years as director of special projects and now, allows her to segue into her new role as president and CEO starting this month.

“How children are doing and functioning is so important for all Arizonans,” says Naimark. “[CAA] is 18 years old and our founder is moving out of state, so our goal is to remain as strong, credible and active as ever.”

CAA is a nonprofit, privately funded research and advocacy organization which seeks to improve the quality of life of Arizona’s children. The organization focuses on vulnerable children, including those who are abused, neglected or live in poverty. CAA does not provide direct services; its staff influences public decision and provides research and potential solutions to benefit these children. “We identify the problem, identify the solution, then bring people and ideas together to make those solutions happen,” she says.

Her major goals for the organization are health coverage and early childhood development. She stresses that continued research of babies, toddlers and preschoolers’ experiences affect their overall brain development.

“[This research] is incredibly vital to the state,” she says. “It’s critical to what Arizona will look like—Who will be our workforce? Who will care for us?”

Her involvement in policy began as a budget analyst for the state legislature under Gov. Rose Mofford. CAA Founder Carol Kaiman soon realized the agency couldn’t be too effective on children’s issues without being effective on budget issues and needed someone who would both understand and excel in both these subjects. “At that time (1993), I was looking for a challenge that was rewarding and had a mission I cared about, so it was a perfect match,” says Naimark.

CAA’s $1.3 million budget supports non-partisan research and advocacy projects and a staff of 13 people in Phoenix and Tucson. Both national supporters, like the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Ford Foundation, and local funders, like the Pulliam Foundation, help provide the needed financing to let Naimak and her staff continue their work.

“Over the past few years, Arizona and the United States have become more polarized,” she says. “CAA focuses on finding common ground. There is a lot of hope and confidence we’ll find ways to carve solutions out in this polarized environment. Professionally and personally, I’m committed to helping families here—both for the state’s future and for my own family.”

Jennifer Croll, Croll Corp.

Jennifer CrollIf you instantly recognize Jennifer Croll’s name, you probably have a savvy shopper in your circle or you yourself are the fashion plate. Her boutiques, which share the same name, offer high-end designer clothing for men and women. This fashion-forward entrepreneur could easily be mistaken for one of the glamorous celebrities she dresses—from her white, Dior sunglasses down to her black, peep toe heels.

However, this successful, trendsetting retailer now has another avenue to create a more stylish Arizona. The Mix, a 30,000-square-foot space along Scottsdale’s waterfront, is Arizona’s newest foray into exclusive shopping and upscale entertainment, and Croll’s first foray into large-scale development. Her project is the retail element of Southbridge, the “urban village” that will offer residences, dining, entertainment, a nonprofit aspect and plenty of pedestrian-friendly space.

“We’ve handpicked the tenants and stayed local,” she says. “We wanted to embrace the local talent, so we sat with each prospective retailer to find out their vision, reputation and personality… We want something unique.”

There are no national chain stores included in the $10 million retail development. “If there ever were to be another Mix in another city, we’d localize the retailers there too,” she says. Three buildings comprise the retail component: Nest offers upscale products for home and garden; Live features fashion, lavish restaurants and luxurious spa treatments; and Play, which features a toy store and interactive retailers.

Her aptitude for predicting fashion trends (in addition to her aversion to mall culture) led to the opening of her first boutique in Los Gatos, Calif. A few years later, Croll and husband Cristian opened boutiques throughout California, Texas and Arizona. They eventually relocated here and now have been completely focused on The Mix. She hopes retailers like Moody Blues, Melange and Angelic Garden will help create a major destination point in downtown Scottsdale.

Croll’s retail experience complements the work of partner Fred Unger, president and founder of Spring Creek Development, who is developing Southbridge. “Fred knows all about the hospitality and residential industries, and since I know retail, it was a great [collaboration],” she says. “I’ve worked with brilliant people on this project. We’ve collected a group of people that all believe in this vision—I couldn’t do it on my own.”

With The Mix opening August 2007, six successful boutiques across the western United States and two children, Croll’s schedule will not be easing up any time soon. “This has been an unbelievable process—designing the project, picking retailers,” she says. “It’s been fun and different from my past projects.”

Mike Ebert, RED Development

Mike EbertVisit any Arizona drugstore or airport gift shop and you’ll find racks of postcards featuring cacti, sunsets, howling coyotes and the Grand Canyon. Mike Ebert hopes to add one more photo to the display—CityScape.

Ebert, a managing and founding partner of RED Development, hopes CityScape, a 2.5 million-plus-square-foot downtown development, will be the “iconic project for all of Phoenix” and its skyline will serve as postcard fodder for years to come. “When people are flying over the airport, they will say ‘What’s that?’ as they touch down near downtown Phoenix. This is the opportunity for downtown Phoenix to have a heart and soul.”

The three-block, Copper Square downtown project is one of the largest private investments in the state’s history—nearly $1 billion to create a thriving urban development. CityScape will offer residential units, a boutique hotel, 550,000 square feet of Class-A office, 250,000 square feet of retail, more than two and a half acres of pedestrian-friendly open space and three Light Rail stops. Phase I is set to open spring 2009 and the remaining construction planned for a 2011 completion.

“Consumers want an experience now,” he says. “[CityScape’s] niche will be the one place in Arizona to have a true urban experience.”

Ebert’s vision for an urban destination perfectly matched downtown’s renaissance as the Phoenix Convention Center expansion, Arizona State University campus, University of Arizona Medical School and other projects began to take form. Building an urban hub required the collaboration of commercial real estate leaders like Cardon Development Group, Baron Collier Companies and Atlanta’s Novare Group. Ebert says downtown previously focused on government, law and banking. Now, as the Arizona Biomedical Campus and ASU campus progress, Phoenix can get the “creative type” downtown.

“Our timing couldn’t be better,” says Ebert. “CityScape can embrace diversity; suburbia tends to be very homogeneous.”

Ebert’s youthful looks seem to contradict his well-established reputation throughout the state. He, with three colleagues, formed RED Development in 1995.

Select purveyors A.J.’s Fine Foods and P.F. Changs China Bistro are the first retailers to commit to the project and be a part of the downtown entertainment attraction. The development will look progressive and contemporary, intermixed with an outdoorsy quality to satisfy pedestrian needs.

“There is no central spot downtown,” says Ebert. “Our goal is when someone says, ‘Let’s meet downtown,’ it’s at Central Avenue and Washington Street—at CityScape.”

Gary Waissi, Ph.D., Arizona State University

Gary WaissiWhen you first meet Gary Waissi, Ph.D., its difficult not to pay attention. A hard-to-place accent comes out of an imposing frame, and while you’re still figuring out where he’s from, Waissi has cracked a joke about his native Finland and his worldly escapades.

With an academic and global business background, Waissi will impart his knowledge and professional skills within his new position as dean of Arizona State University’s School of Global Management and Leadership (SGML). He hopes to extend the school’s “global footprint,” designating ASU as a leader of globally oriented management education and research by 2011.

“When everything is said and done, my internal goal is to make this school nationally recognized as a global presence within five years,” Waissi says. “If I can help ASU expand globally, from this small school at ASU West, then I’ve succeeded.” Currently, the school has 1,700 undergraduate students (200 graduate students); in five years, he hopes enrollment increases to 2,000 undergraduate students (800 graduate students). Additionally, he plans for the SGML to launch six new degree programs by fall 2008.

Accomplishing this goal will be a challenge, but this is nothing new to someone whose strategic planning efforts have become a professional trademark. Waissi’s proven ability to successfully assess, plan and implement academic opportunities for international institutions has taken him around the world, specifically in developing regions like Rwanda, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

Waissi comes to ASU from the University of Michigan-Dearborn (UM) where he completed his deanship at the School of Management last year. Since 1982, Waissi had been with the UM first as a Ph.D. candidate, then as faculty member, then department chair and eventually dean.

Before his time at the UM, he worked as project manager for Philipp Holzmann AG in 1979. His position with the construction giant brought him to west Africa, where he helped build Nigeria’s Onne Lighter Terminal Port and other projects during the course of three years. Earlier, he left Finland to study in Germany and later work as an assistant at the Helsinki University of Technology.

“I went to Nigeria as an engineer, but during my stay, the project manager wanted to return home,” he says. “Overnight, I was given the responsibility of this huge project. I was 29 years old and had almost 1,000 people working for me. I had no idea at the time, but [in today’s dollars], that was a $1 billion project.”

Dr. Richard H. Carmona, Canyon Ranch

Richard Carmona

Photography by Brian Fiske

Dr. Richard Carmona traded in power lunches for balanced, gourmet cuisine and bi-partisan juggling for low-impact aerobics when he left Washington D.C. for Arizona earlier this year.

After completing his term as 17th Surgeon General of the United States, Carmona returned to his home in Tucson and began work with Canyon Ranch—serving as vice chairman of the parent company, CEO of Canyon Ranch Health and president of Canyon Ranch Institute, the company’s nonprofit division. He’ll achieve his goal of prevention not only as business leader but educator as he receives the first Distinguished Professorship in Public Health at the University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Mel Zuckerman founded Canyon Ranch 27 years ago, with its original destination health resort in Tucson, abutting Sabino Canyon.

“D.C. is a contentious environment and health is one of the most partisan issues out there; but as the doctor of the nation, you’re there to take care of the people,” says Carmona. He is the image of good health—a toned physique that more resembles one of his university students than one of his 57-year-old peers. Starting a new career path within a wholesome, amiable setting has allowed Carmona to re-focus his efforts on preventative medicine and health and wellness. A staunch supporter of “health-oriented” treatment, Carmona’s new challenge becomes the conversion of medical research into a best practices format for people to improve their health.


“I have a very close relationship with the community in southern Arizona,” Carmona says. “I’ve known Mel and Enid for years and they brought me back here. When [I left D.C.], there were job offers from around the world. But my work as surgeon general was a perfect fit for Canyon Ranch’s vision and mission.” Canyon Ranch goes beyond the hospitality, healthcare and beauty industries—the company is an amalgamation of everything needed to live a healthy life, both physically and metaphysically. The resorts offer sumptuous meals that meet balanced dietary guidelines, individual and group classes designed to enhance the mind, body and spirit and opportunities to create personalized assessments of current health goals and future aspirations. Canyon Ranch conveys its philosophy of disease prevention and overall health betterment every way possible—on campus, by research and through collaborations.

Zuckerman, aware of the fact that not every person has the means to access Canyon Ranch’s world-class resources, set up the Canyon Ranch Institute, where doctors and nurses from low-income areas can learn Canyon Ranch methodologies and techniques to take back to improve their respective community’s level of health.

“The revenue brought in by Canyon Ranch provides opportunities to better communities,” says Carmona, who now serves as president of the nonprofit sector. “I have students who want to provide public health to third world countries, and I tell them, ‘Look around.’ Some of the Native American reservations have health statistics sometimes worse than a third world country. Domestic violence, obesity, hypertension, maternal and child mortality rates are all too high. Mel and Enid want best practices in place for needier communities to change the current numbers.”

Carmona describes himself as an “agent of change.” His goal to position Canyon Health at the forefront of the health and wellness industry will secure its place as the No. 1 health organization. “What I’m trying to do here is to ‘be a futurist’ and figure out where we need to be for the health of the American public.”

Brian Mueller, Apollo Group

Brian MuellerOne of the biggest local stories in 2006 was the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium. And with the excitement that surrounded the new look, just as much controversy swirled around the frenzied bidding wars to name the stadium. As potential sponsors salivated at the chance to win naming rights, ticket holders soon discovered where they would be attending games: University of Phoenix Stadium. The 20-year, $154 million naming-rights deal was a huge marketing coup for Apollo Group Inc. (University of Phoenix’s parent company) and its president, Brian Mueller. This sports-marketing venture sets off a massive marketing campaign beginning in January. “The naming rights [deal] is just a small part of the campaign,” says Mueller. “The point is to create dialogue of who the University of Phoenix is and what we do. We want to lift the credibility of the institution so the value of our degrees continue to grow.”

Mueller’s push for national exposure goes far beyond the NFL—University of Phoenix will soon partner with giants Time Warner and Monster.com. Time Warner will work with the academic institution in regards to content. Mueller wants archived/current CNN material to be sorted into coursework, and partner with America Online to build online communities of students, alumni and faculty. Monster.com would involve an advertising partnership to build co-branded Web sites offering information about careers.

“We’re targeting working adults that comprise most of our student population,” says Mueller. “We want to position the university as being innovative in higher education, that thinks ahead in terms of its students.”

According to Mueller, 320,000 students throughout the world attend University of Phoenix, either in person or online. He hopes this marketing push grows the students base 10 percent a year, while also improving the image of the institution. To accommodate this growth, the company is consolidating its online staff and corporate headquarters to the new Riverpoint Center at Interstate 10 and 32nd Street. The 630,000-square-foot project, opening spring 2007, is one of the largest capital projects for Apollo.

AZ Business Magazine December January 2007The University of Phoenix is an important force in Arizona’s economy. Mueller says the school produces $2.4 billion worth of revenue per year, employs a workforce of 10,000 people, leases 2.5 million square feet of space and pays more than $40 million in taxes.

Mueller began his career in education as a high school teacher and basketball coach, later teaching at Concordia College in Nebraska. His work with the University of Phoenix began in 1987 on the Phoenix campus and after many promotions, including CEO of the online campus, he became president of Apollo last year.


AZ Business Magazine Dec Jan ’07 |  Next: Open for Business

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