22 young commercial real estate leaders to watch in 2022

Real Estate | 3 Feb |

The great Roman emperor Julius Caesar in 52 B.C. recorded the earliest known version of “Ut est rerum omnium magister usus” — generally put, “Experience is the best teacher.” While that age-old adage has stood the test of time, there’s something to be said about the drive, energy and imagination of those in the early stages of their careers, especially young and up-and-coming  commercial real estate leaders.


READ ALSO: Here is the Phoenix commercial real estate outlook for 2022


While there has been a lot of talk about the need for younger generations to join the commercial real estate (CRE) industry, those who have in recent years are proof positive that CRE offers a rewarding and exciting future. Whether they’re in real estate sales, design-build, marketing or finance, today’s rising leaders are making big impacts in an industry that’s moving at one of its fastest paces in history. They’re driving change through innovation, harnessing technology to get work accomplished faster and with less cost, and influencing the growth, prosperity and quality of life in Greater Phoenix and throughout Arizona.

This year, we’re recognizing 22 of the top young commercial real estate leaders who are poised to push the CRE industry forward in 2022 — and beyond.

MORGAN BETANCOURT

Project Director, Okland Construction

Years in CRE: 10

Betancourt, who started her career at Okland Construction, has taken part in multiple healthcare projects, life science buildings and a new sports complex in the Greater Phoenix area and currently manages approximately $100-plus million annually. She is passionate about the construction industry’s future and is actively engaged in Okland’s recruiting committee in an effort to guide the next generation. She also participates in Arizona Construction Career Days and serves as the fundraising chair for the Phoenix ACE Mentor Program.

What do you love about CRE?

“I love the people in the construction industry! I enjoy partnering with owners and architects who are always creating original designs, challenging the ways we get to build really cool things, and trade partners who bring that originality to life.”       

NAYAN BHAKTA

Vice President of Preconstruction for Renewable Energy & Storage, McCarthy Building Companies

Years in CRE: 11

Bhakta has been instrumental in more than quadrupling the renewable group’s solar footprint in the last year and a half, leading his team to identify and implement best value designs and solutions for more than 5 gigawatts of utility-scale solar and energy storage projects. He also developed a 90-day program that guides new team members and helps them navigate and transition to remote solar project locations. His onboarding policies have been so successful that they have been adopted, in some fashion, across McCarthy’s 16 offices. 

What advice to you have for other young professionals in your field?

“Always be open to stepping outside of your comfort zone to trying something new. I started my career in renewable energy after spending time in the petrochemical construction industry, and I knew next to nothing about solar power, but I am not only thriving in this industry now, I truly love it.”   

MARK CASSELL

Vice President, LevRose

Years in CRE: 6

Cassell specializes in investment sales for net-leased properties. Thanks to a persistent work ethic, he offers the most accurate and up-to-date knowledge on the market and provides a diligent service tailored to his clients’ needs. As a member of TCN Worldwide, he is able to access more 200 markets globally, which allows him to meet his clients’ needs on an international level. He also is involved in ICSC and NAIOP locally and nationally.

What do you love about CRE?

“There is such a wide variety of people who make this career interesting. I love that the investors and owners I work with come from all walks of life. Each one of them is successful but brings a different attitude to the way they look at each deal.”

ANDERS ENGNELL

Planning & Development Lead, Culdesac Tempe

Years in CRE: 7

Engnell builds master-planned mixed-use communities for people, not cars. Since 2018, he’s been a part of the acquisition, entitlement and construction — and now leads the continued design and construction — of the $170 million 17-acre Culdesac Tempe, the first car-free neighborhood built from scratch in the U.S. A Tempe resident, Engnell is an avid volunteer for the Tempe Community Action Agency, where he’s on the Escalante Community Garden and Emerging Leaders boards, and he’s an active leader and mentor with ULI and the American Planning Association.

Describe a career highlight.

“The moment when Culdesac Tempe received the first-ever entitlements for a car-free neighborhood in the U.S. was a special one for me. As an urban planner by background, I knew we’d scaled a monumental barrier to building places for people. This precedent has opened doors for other communities to build with reduced to zero parking requirements for residents.”

TINO HERNANDEZ

Assistant Project Manager, Willmeng Construction

Years in CRE: 7

Hernandez began his career with Willmeng as an intern and has worked his way up to project engineer, estimator and now assistant project manager. A native Phoenician, he is proud to be on the board of the Phoenix Union Foundation for Education, a nonprofit that supports the staff and student community of the Phoenix Union High School district with scholarships and grants. He’s also is an active member of NAIOP, completing the Young Professionals Group program and being a part of the public policy committee.

What do you love about CRE?

“I’m fascinated with the development and design of the built environment, especially adaptive reuse and mixed-use projects. The ability to create and build the ‘live, work, play’ lifestyle in urban environments by adding new construction and repurposing old buildings for new uses excites me.”

SHANNON HERSKER

Director of Capital Markets, Walker & Dunlop

Years in CRE: 10

Responsible for nationwide loan origination, Hersker focuses on multifamily and build-for-rent assets. As the client interface throughout the overall loan process, she is involved in underwriting, contacting lenders and securing loan quotes and overseeing the closing process. Because of her leadership and personal touch, she was made partner on her team after only two years. Hersker also is active in ULI, NAIOP and Valley Partnership, as well as several charitable organizations, including Brokers for Kids.

Describe a career highlight. 

“Right before I joined Walker & Dunlop, I began to see a trend in the build-for-rent space. I told my new team that this is going to be the next best thing and that we have to become the experts in the space. We are now one of the leading lenders in that space nationally and are working on a billion dollar pipeline.”

JAKE HINMAN

Partner, Capitol Consulting

Years in CRE: 14

With nearly 15 years in the public policy arena representing clients in the CRE industry, including a $4 billion rental real estate interest, Hinman provides lobbying and public affairs services at the legislative, county and municipal levels and is responsible for bill drafting, stakeholder outreach, legislative testimony and assembling political support for the passage or defeat of measures. He has worked on a variety of CRE issues, from taxation to land use policy to property rights. 

Describe a career highlight.

“Certainly getting the first bill signed into law. It’s a grueling process, especially depending on the level of controversy. But any time you’re able to get your client’s issue addressed or policy item passed by the legislature or city council, it is a highlight.”

KHARA HOUSE

Director of Community Engagement, Bella Investment Group

Years in CRE: 8

House manages a variety of company initiatives, including public relations, legislative updates, establishing various community and civic relationships, and addressing escalated resident concerns. Her work focuses on creative interpersonal collaborations, with a strong advocacy for the industry on the local, state and national levels. Her dedication to professional excellence has led to numerous community leadership positions, industry board and committee appointments, and awards and recognitions, including the Arizona Multihousing Association Corporate Team Member Tribute Award and the Flagstaff Key to the City Award in 2020.

Describe a career highlight.

“Receiving the National Apartment Association’s Emerging Leader Excellence Award. It recognized my numerous professional roles and partnerships, my industry advocacy and my dedication to community development, civic engagement and addressing various industry and community challenges.”

CHAD KIRKORSKY

Partner, Citywide Commercial Real Estate

Years in CRE: 6

With a unique insight into the Valley’s market developed over a lifetime in Arizona, Kirkorsky focuses on the sale and leasing of industrial office and warehouse space. He represents clients in tenant relocations, tenant expansions and investor acquisitions, applying his extensive knowledge of the market and a tech-savvy focus that gives him — and his clients — a competitive edge that delivers proven results. In 2018, Kirkorsky and two partners founded Citywide Commercial, which they’ve since grown to 10 brokers.

What advice to you have for other young professionals in your field?

“Instead of trying to become a jack-of-all-trades, pick a specialty, focus on it and try to become the best you can be.”

CHELSEA LAW

Operations Manager, Arizona, New Mexico, San Diego; Marcus & Millichap

Years in CRE: 3

In 2020, when there was a need to provide additional operational support to the San Diego office, Law oversaw the brokerage, personnel and operations for both it and the Phoenix office, implementing a collaboration that centralized office support and improved productivity — and ultimately led to a larger model that has been adopted throughout the firm. Today, Law oversees a collaboration that consists of Phoenix, San Diego and Denver and has been a crucial part of leading these offices into their most successful quarter to date.

What’s a surprising fact about you?

“I lived in Ireland for nearly four years with my husband and two children. This allowed me to experience new cultures, as well as learn to adapt in new environments, and it has benefited me in many ways, both personally and professionally.”

MOLLIE MORONEY

Director of Development, Barclay Group

Years in CRE: 7

Since joining Barclay Group in 2015, Moroney has played a critical role in the development of more than $400 million in new projects throughout Arizona and other Western states. She focuses on raising capital in addition to managing the entitlement, acquisition, development and disposition/refinancing of new projects. Moroney is an active member of ICSC, NAIOP and ULI.

What do you love about CRE?

“I love that with each day comes new challenges, both big and small, and that I have the privilege of working with great people from whom I am constantly learning. I’m grateful to be a part of the CRE industry during such an exciting time for Phoenix and other high-growth markets in the Western U.S.”

THOMAS MYZIA

Preconstruction Estimator II, Kitchell

Years in CRE: 6

A native Chicagoan with bachelor’s and master’s of science and engineering degrees from Arizona State University, Myzia is passionate about adopting and implementing new technologies to improve productivity and collaboration and is excited to help drive innovative ideas and solutions during preconstruction. He works collaboratively with owners, architects and subcontractors to establish realistic cost models in an ever-changing market and recently completed the procurement of the new $345 million Valleywise Health Medical Center in Phoenix.

What are your professional strengths?

“I have a constant need to push the envelope for technology in the construction industry. I have developed and deployed multiple software tools that are used in the day to day operations within the Kitchell offices.”

BRIANNA NESSLER

Marketing Director, Small Giants

Years in CRE: 8

As the leader of Small Giants’ marketing team, Nessler creates a collaborative environment that fosters successful client strategies and repeatedly translates into impactful marketing initiatives. In addition, she has an OSHA 10-hour Construction Training certification and was the first female in the industry to receive a Section 333 Exemption-Drone pilot certification. Her dedicated involvement in the CRE industry led to her being included in Engineering News-Record’s ENR Southwest’s 2018 Top 20 under 40 list.

What advice to you have for other young professionals in your field?

“Be humble and set goals. Identify where in your career you want to be in five years, acknowledge any gaps in your skill set, network or experience that will hold you back from getting there, and create a plan for yourself to fuse those gaps.”

TAYLOR PERKINS

Business Development Manager, CHASSE Building Team

Years in CRE: 5

Perkins works with CHASSE’s K-12 team to build and re-build schools across Arizona. She helps school districts provide proactive and hands-on education experiences for students and faculty before, during and after building engagements, including STEM programs in the classroom, construction field trips and community outreach projects. Perkins also serves on the board for Careers in Architecture, Construction and Trades Uplifting Students and several education foundations.

Describe a career highlight.

“Just prior to the onset of the pandemic, I oversaw a partnership between CHASSE and Agua Fria High School to build 60 picnic tables for their campus — as well as some for partners in need — through the Better Building Project, which gives students a hands-on volunteer project, teaches them a trade skill and helps them create something of their own using teamwork.”   

ALANA PORRAZZO

Construction Law and Surety & Fidelity Attorney, Jennings Haug Cunningham

Years in CRE: 5

Porrazzo specializes in defending bond claims and bad faith allegations, litigating performance defaults, prosecuting subrogation and indemnity claims and representing sureties in principal and indemnitor bankruptcies. She has developed a name for herself by regularly presenting at surety and fidelity law conferences, has authored numerous articles on complex topics for the industry and is the editor and/or co-author on multiple books addressing legal matters related to the industry.

What are your professional strengths?

“My reflective, analytical bent, coupled with a love of writing. Some of the most satisfying victories in my legal practice are those won by motions and briefs.”    

KELLY ROYLE

Associate, Industrial/Supply Chain & Logistics, JLL

Years in CRE: 3

Royle specializes in representing property owners, developers and tenants in industrial sales and lease transactions, matching the business needs of industrial users with leasing opportunities offered by landlords. With a background in design and construction, she supports her clients with project planning and feasibility. She currently serves on the NAIOP Arizona Developing Leaders Steering Committee as the Philanthropy Chair and was selected as a member of this year’s Young Professional Group. 

What do you love about CRE?

“As an Arizona native, I love watching my home state grow, and I feel as though I’m an integral part of that process. The relationship-based nature of CRE has encouraged me to get more involved outside of the industry, as well, through organizations such as UMOM, St. Vincent de Paul and
St. Mary’s Food Bank.”

BENJAMIN TATE

Land use attorney, Withey Morris

Years in CRE: 5

A second-generation Arizona native, Tate uses his extensive knowledge of development processes in municipalities and counties across the state to guide developers and property owners through every aspect of real estate development, from land use entitlements and zoning to site plan and design review. He has been recognized by his peers for excellence in land use and zoning law and has been honored in Best Lawyers’ “Ones to Watch” and Southwest SuperLawyers’ “Rising Stars.”

What are your professional strengths?

“Creative problem solving. By looking at a problem from all angles and being open to unconventional solutions that nobody else has considered, I’ve been able to solve development issues that would have otherwise left a project stalled for months or resulted in a costly redesign.”

JOSH TRACY

Vice President of Development, Ryan Companies

Years in CRE: 8

With a nuanced and nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the Valley, Tracy is a valuable resource to Ryan’s development team — and its customers and partners. During his career, he has been participated in the development of more than 1 million square feet of commercial office space in Arizona and Washington and was the lead developer of the 68-acre Chandler Airport Commerce Park. He currently has five additional light industrial projects under construction in 2022.

Describe a career highlight

“Winning two Best of NAIOP Awards in 2020 (Industrial Build to Suit of the year and Spec Industrial Project of the Year) for Chandler Airport Commerce Park. It was a wonderful way to cap a several-years project that overcame neighborhood, budget and weather challenges.”   

JENNIFER VILLALOBOS

Vice President of Business Development & Marketing, Sharp Construction

Years in CRE: 4 years

Villalobos is successfully able to identify strategies that sustain the growth of the company and implements sales and marketing initiatives that increase brand awareness and revenue opportunities. She prides herself in giving back and influencing the next generation of industry leaders. She is a founding member and current board chair of the American Cancer Society’s Latinos Contra el Cancer — Arizona Chapter and is an active member of NAIOP and ULI.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in your field?

“Hustle at your job, get a mentor and invest in yourself! The first 10 years of your career are so influential. As young professionals, we should be reaching out to mentors to help us think big and set high goals.”

BOBBY WUERTZ

Agricultural Land Advisor, Land Advisors Organization

Years in CRE: 6

Wuertz pairs his life-long involvement with agricultural production and his real estate background to close successful land transactions for investors, farm families and agriculture investment funds. He has a deep understanding of agricultural economics, commodity trading and land values as well as a commitment to the ongoing preservation and success of farming agricultural land. He is the founder of the Pinal 40 Organization, which promotes agriculture education and has raised and distributed more than $850,000 to support youth programs and scholarships for rural communities.

What are your professional strengths?

“Most important is the reputation I’ve established as a trusted advisor in both the agricultural world and with private equity and investment fund audiences. The ability to relate, adapt and listen to people from both of these very different worlds and bring parties together for their mutual benefit has helped me to excel as an agricultural land adviser.”

AUSTIN WILSON

Project Engineer, Earthscapes

Years in CRE: 7

Growing up playing competitive sports helped Wilson develop strong communication and problem-solving skills. As project engineer for Earthscapes, a full-service landscape company founded by Haydon Building Corp, he oversees all aspects of a job from start to finish. Currently, he’s working on the largest project of his career — the 320-acre Legacy Sports Park that’s scheduled to open this month in Mesa.

What’s a surprising fact about you?

“I’m an avid golfer. Before I got married and had my first child, I was aspiring to do a walk-on at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. That didn’t happen, but I still like to golf in my free time with my family and brother — and anyone else who would like to join me.”

BRYAN WRIGHT

Associate, Kimley-Horn

Years in CRE: 9

Wright’s collaborative approach to design with contractors and owners of industrial, commercial, healthcare and multifamily developments helps deliver owner expectations with constructability and cost in mind, and he’s has built a strong reputation as a trusted partner to a wide range of clients, from cities and public agencies to leading commercial entities. In particular, Wright has years of experience working on large campus projects, helping plan future improvements while balancing the client’s needs for today.

What do you love about CRE?

“My favorite part of CRE is creating lifelong friendships with clients and partners. This industry has healthy cross section of people with different opinions and backgrounds, which helps bring out the best in projects and relationships.”

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons