AZ Big 100: 25 women leaders in CRE 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 100 Arizona commercial real estate companies and people to watch in 2023.
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 women leaders in CRE 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
CEO // DMB Associates
Bansak was named CEO of DMB Associates in March 2021. DMB Associates, the master developer of the Verrado and Eastmark master-planned communities, is partnering with Vestar to create Verrado Marketplace, a dynamic retail center at the front door of Verrado, an 8,800-acre master-planned community in Buckeye.
Vice president // KeyBank Clean Energy Finance
Brist has been in the finance industry for more than 16 years. She is a member of the National Clean Energy team for KeyBank. She works with clients interested in projects such as solar, hydrogen, fuel cells, combined heat and power, energy storage, HVAC, lighting, equipment, and many other unique projects.
Vice President of preconstruction // McCarthy Building Companies
Byers currently leads pre-construction efforts on two large utility-scale solar projects in Arizona and Texas, adding to her more than 2 gigawatts of solar energy expertise. With over a decade of experience in renewable energy construction, she brings a comprehensive understanding of the diverse needs of McCarthy’s clients.
Jennifer A. Cranston
Shareholder // Gallagher & Kennedy
Cranston is a member of the firm’s board of directors. Her unique practice includes real estate, insurance coverage and utility regulation. For more than 22 years, Cranston has counseled land developers and private property owners in condemnation actions and valuation issues. In her regulatory practice, she advocates for public utilities in rate cases and before the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Vice president // Clayco
Davids provides strategic vision to help foster Clayco’s brand and market growth while ensuring excellent project performance. She has more than 20 years of construction industry experience having served in a variety of roles throughout her career including project engineer, superintendent, project manager, project executive, and operations manager.
Martha dePlazaola Abbott
Managing director // Gensler
DePlazaola Abbott’s comprehensive portfolio includes a myriad of “work-life” projects encompassing mixed use, multifamily, hospitality, retail and office, from both the private and public sectors. A natural leader, dePlazaola Abbott’s ability to foster relationships and gain the trust of clients and team members has been instrumental in the success of many high-profile projects.
Director of finance and administration // Cawley Architects
Immediately after joining Cawley Architects as its accounting manager in 2013, Lynette Dreitz introduced new accounting software and project management procedures that increased the firm’s efficiency and improved its production.
“I’m very much a meticulous, detail-oriented person,” Dreitz says. “My strength is following procedures and standards. That’s what my job is.”
As the director of finance and administration for Cawley Architects, Dreitz took on more responsibility when she became a partner in 2019.
“My biggest accomplishment at Cawley has been taking on more of a leadership role within the company,” Dreitz says. “We’re going through somewhat of a transition. With Paul Devers becoming president of the firm, all the junior partners are taking on more leadership tasks. I have been able to tackle that pretty well and maintain the stresses of the office as well as personal life balance.”
How does Dreitz see Cawley Architects’ evolving leadership impacting the business?
“We are looking to grow,” she says. “We hear of a recession and we will do what we can to plan for that. But at this point, we are looking to grow not only within current revenue streams, but with different industries. We are looking to do more interior design type work and we’re looking to hire, too, because in order to grow, we need to hire. And that is probably one of our challenges within the past year: Just getting people.”
And, ironically, that is also what Dreitz says is the most rewarding aspect of her job at Cawley.
“It’s the people,” Dreitz says. “I love working for Sherman Cawley, Paul Devers, the partners. I don’t see it as just a job. It’s a big part of my life. I like to get up in the morning and go to work. There are so many people out there who don’t like going to work, but I do.”
Learn more: cawleyarchitects.com
Executive // Okland Construction
After serving as Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego’s chief of staff for the last three years, Fernandez made the move to the private sector, joining one of Arizona’s fastest-growing and top construction companies, Okland Construction. Fernandez will focus on high-level strategy for the company and special projects, overseeing communications and community relations and outreach.
Vice president of development // P.B. Bell
Long before Angela Hood was vice president of development at P.B. Bell, her interest in real estate was piqued early by a fortuitous opportunity. In high school, she was selected to participate in a business internship program at a civil engineering consulting firm. It was through this opportunity, Hood explains, that she began to move toward a career in real estate. Post high school, she received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.
After college, Hood went on to direct operations for Deco Communities; managed development services for P.B. Bell; served as vice president of asset management at Acacia Capital; managed new development planning for Centex Homes and Meritage Homes and ran WestStone Communities in Arizona. Prior to returning to P.B. Bell, she spent five years learning multifamily construction with M.T. Builders.
Now, 30-plus years later, Hood manages all P.B. Bell development projects from acquisition through issuance of building permits.
“I am so happy to be back on the development side of real estate at P.B. Bell.,” Hood says. “It’s where my heart has always been. From looking at different job sites to developing a theme and vision for each property, I enjoy every facet of the job.”
As a key leader at P.B. Bell, Hood is part of a 45-year legacy the company holds as one of Arizona’s leading multifamily housing development and property management firms. P.B. Bell’s vibrant communities are spread out throughout the Valley — from Goodyear to Chandler, and everywhere in between.
In 2023, P.B. Bell kicked off the year with the opening of Hangar on Thunderbird in Glendale, and will soon celebrate the ground breaking of Everly at Morrison Ranch in Gilbert. Additional projects currently under construction include The Moxie in Gilbert and P.B. Bell’s first single-family built-to-rent community Marketside Villas at Verrado.
“I love seeing homes and communities come to life. Watching a simple concept and idea blossom into someone’s home is so thrilling and rewarding. My hope is that the effort and time we spend thinking through all the little details at each community make people smile and truly enjoy where they live.”
Executive vice president // Colliers
Johnson, CCIM, is an executive vice president with Colliers and an industry leader in providing comprehensive medical, healthcare and seniors housing real estate services throughout the greater Phoenix region. She represents landlords, tenants, investors and owner/users, providing acquisition, disposition, leasing, sale/leaseback, site selection and consulting services.
“This past year, I was thrilled to be recognized by GlobeSt as one of the nation’s Healthcare Influencers,” Johnson says. “My career in Arizona healthcare real estate has been very fulfilling and I am very proud of the fact that my efforts have now been celebrated on the national stage of commercial real estate.”
Johnson’s 30-plus years of experience and long-standing relationships throughout the industry are demonstrated in her comprehensive understanding and resolution of complex challenges. She is recognized for her in-depth knowledge, unique perspective and ability to create solutions to the most complex real estate needs.
“I focus all of my efforts on the client’s success and their best outcomes for each requirement,” Johnson says. “My commitment is to leave no stone unturned in finding every option that will bring optimal results. I think out of the box and seek win-win results.”
Johnson is recognized locally and nationally as one of the industry’s foremost thought leaders and most qualified healthcare real estate specialists. Her leadership has been integral to the growth and evolution of healthcare real estate in metro Phoenix.
CEO // Arizona Chapter of NAIOP
Kinney is an experienced association manager and public policy professional. Since 2017, she has led the Arizona Chapter of NAIOP, the commercial real estate industry association. During her tenure, the Arizona chapter has increased membership by around 30% to nearly 1,000 individuals and was named NAIOP Chapter of the Year in 2021.
President and CEO // Arizona Multihousing Association
Courtney LeVinus, president and CEO of the Arizona Multihousing Association, likes to see things in a positive light amid challenges.
“The Arizona housing community faced huge challenges in 2022, but I’m so proud of the work being done by our Arizona Multihousing Association team,” she says. “We were named ‘Affiliate of the Year’ by the National Apartment Association for going ‘above and beyond to create a lasting and meaningful impact on our industry.’ That’s definitely a point of pride.”
Moving forward, LeVinus is focused on easing the housing crunch in Arizona.
“I have been laser focused on launching AMA’s AZ Housing For All campaign to highlight the housing supply crisis,” LeVinus says. “That’s been a difference-maker.”
While AZ Housing For All will impact her industry, how does LeVinus see 2023 shaping up?
“This looks to be another challenging year for housing,” she says. “The state’s economy is strong, but we’re facing inflation, supply chain issues, high interest rates, and maybe a recession. We have a new governor and ninth floor staff coming in, and a Legislature with razor-thin majorities. We are going to work in a bipartisan manner to accomplish things — and it’s imperative that we remove obstacles to building new homes. Job one is adding 270,000 new homes over the next few years simply to keep up with growing demand. We will face some headwinds, but I think we’re ready.”
Director of market operations // Cresa
Liles, director of market operations for Cresa, is part of the 2023 leadership team for AZCREW, which exists to transform the commercial real estate industry by advancing women globally. Prior to Cresa, she spent eight years with Cushman & Wakefield, most recently as operational specialist.
CEO // Concord General Contracting
Grenee Martacho, CEO of Concord General Contracting, Inc. shares a sentiment for which most people in commercial real estate can likely relate when it comes to industry predictions in 2023: “If only we had a crystal ball.”
After all, rising interest rates, recession uncertainties and other factors that impact CRE make it difficult to forecast exactly how the tides will turn in the new year. Still, Martacho feels mostly positive about the outlook for 2023.
“I’m hesitantly optimistic about what will unfold during the year throughout Arizona,” she says. “We are such a growing and diverse economy that needs a lot of infrastructure to sustain the amount of people and businesses that are coming to our state. However, when you look at the rest of the nation, things are slowing.”
Arizona, Martacho notes, was somewhat an exception to the slowdown, outpacing a majority of states in the nation. And when it comes to exceptions, Martacho is quite familiar, taking on the role as Concord’s first female and first non-technical CEO in 2020. But when it comes to the success of the company, she doesn’t covet the honor on her own.
“You are only as innovative as the people that surround you,” she says. “I am lucky to work with a team of people that are empowered to do their jobs and make decisions that are best for our clients and projects.”
Co-founder // Two Sister Bosses
May and her sister, Colleen Tebrake, founded Two Sister Bosses, a Sedona-based hotel development and management company that is focused on creating sustainable, one-of-a-kind experiences that are in harmony with the natural environment. The company’s first project is Ambiente, a Landscape Hotel, the first of its kind in North America.
Senior vice president // Transwestern
As Transwestern’s senior vice president and member of the company’s Healthcare Advisory Team, Kate Morris provides support to investors seeking to lease, buy or sell their properties. Throughout her more than 30 years in commercial real estate, she has aided physicians, medical building owners, hospitals, as well as senior housing, life sciences and other healthcare providers in making informed and successful decisions — establishing lasting, trusting relationships with her clients.
“My goal has been to be ethical, transparent and do my best as a partner to my clients, my team and others I work with,” she says. “I am grateful for everyone I met along the way and all of the things I learned in this great industry.”
When it comes to passing on what she has gleaned throughout her career, Morris says she prefers to lead by example, “and be respectful of everyone I work with. I especially enjoy mentoring women who are new to commercial real estate, since there still appears to be a barrier to entry.”
Because of her transparency and dedication, Morris has been acknowledged for her many accomplishments both by her clients and peers. This includes recognition by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) as Healthcare Broker of the Year in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Additionally, in the past five years, Morris has completed several complex transactions, including land for micro-hospitals, a consolidation of a corporate headquarters for a medical firm, dozens of clinics and surgery centers and the leasing of repurposed retail spaces.
As Morris and her Transwestern team members plunge into a new year, she anticipates more activity and growth to occur.
“Our team specializes in healthcare, and we expect to see continued growth in Arizona,” she says. “Especially since people from around the country are moving here. More hospitals, surgery centers, clinics, senior housing, rehabilitation and behavioral facilities are required to keep up with the growth.”
Morris adds that on the investment side, many medical office building investors are looking to add to their portfolios and hope to pick up buildings from current owners who cannot afford the higher interest rates.
“In general, we expect 2023 to be a prosperous year for healthcare real estate,” she says.
Learn more: transwestern.com
Executive managing director // NAI Horizon
Denise Nunez was born and raised in Phoenix. She had an accomplished career in publishing until 2010 when she pivoted to work in commercial real estate and focused her work on a particular asset class of the industry – self-storage. It wasn’t long before Nunez became one of Arizona’s more accomplished brokers and, more recently, one of NAI Global’s top-producing brokers worldwide. Now, as one of the shareholders of NAI Horizon, she continues to dedicate herself to the sale, acquisition, and new development of self-storage facilities locally, regionally, and in multiple U.S. states on behalf of her clients.
The past couple of years have been among the most successful for Nunez. Demand for self-storage space exploded with the pandemic and the substantial migration of new residents to Arizona and other states, spurring the need for storage facilities.
While occupancy levels remain strong for storage facilities, the market has begun to change. Nunez has shifted with the change, including working with clients to identify land opportunities and new developments currently being built for potential Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) and stabilized asset sales.
Over the next few years, Phoenix and its suburbs will experience a surge in housing demand, with new single-family neighborhoods and multifamily communities coming online. As such, demand for self-storage facilities is expected to remain high.
In addition to advising owners, investors, and developers in the self-storage industry, Nunez serves in a leadership position at NAI Horizon as one of the firm’s executive committee directors.
Learn more: naihorizon.com
Vice president of business development // GPEC
Pinkal is president of AZCREW, Metro Phoenix’s premier commercial real estate organization that exists to transform the commercial real estate industry by advancing women globally. With a diverse background in both the private and public sectors, Pinkal’s primary focus at GPEC is on the growth of the industrial and advanced manufacturing industries in the region.
Business development // Layton Construction
Rosauro is a commercial real estate industry veteran with more than 15 years of experience in business development. She previously worked as an estimator and project manager and is a LEED Accredited Professional. She is a member of the board of directors for both GPEC and NAIOP.
Molly Ryan Carson
Senior vice president, market leader Southwest Region // Ryan Companies
Carson is responsible for the leadership of office, industrial, retail and healthcare real estate development teams and general business development efforts. She handles site selection and acquisition, municipal use permits and approvals, design and construction coordination, financial packaging and lease or sale negotiation, while working to mentor a strong group of developers.
Owner and architect // MOR Studio
Rutkowski formed MOR Studio in 2016 with a desire to provide exceptional service and design from concept to completion. Her artistic eye and quick iterative design process allow for a seamless sifting of concepts that brings the best design solutions to the table for her clients. She has a “get it done” approach that doesn’t compromise quality.
CEO // SDB Contracting Services
Although Angie Schmidt officially joined SDB Contracting Services in 2012, her initiation into the construction world occurred long before. Schmidt’s father, Dominic Spagnuolo, founded SDB in 1980. Now, as SDB’s CEO, she’s helping to shepherd new generations into the construction and CRE world (including her two sons).
As a leader, Schmidt seeks to be attentive and malleable, “I believe in being fair, listening and compromising,” she says. “There is always a way to make anything work. Dealing with our employees, trade partners and customers is not always black and white.”
Her leadership, in addition to her ability to foster lasting relationships with clients, helped SDB experience a successful 2022, leading into 2023. “It’s been a year and half in the making, but watching all of the hard work come together as our team builds cleanrooms for a large client in the West Valley has been truly incredible,” Schmidt says. “We have the best people and I couldn’t be more proud of all their hard work and dedication. SDB is blessed to have all the amazing people we do.”
Government relations associate // Dominium
As the government relations associate at Dominium, one of the largest affordable housing developers in the country, Shambrook is forming partnerships with congressional, legislative, municipal leaders and community advocates to find creative bridges to connect critical community and neighborhood leaders to the effort of building attainable housing.
Executive managing director // Western Wealth Communities
Staciokas was hired as executive managing director for Western Wealth Communities at the start of COVID-19, when the company began its aggressive growth strategy. The women-led company has nearly 400 employees and more than 50 properties (14,370 units) spread in three states and five metro areas.
Senior managing director // Trammell Crow Company
Thuringer has responsibility for the Development and Investment Group for Trammell Crow Company and High Street Residential, TCC’s residential subsidiary, in the state of Arizona. With more than 30 years in the real estate industry, she has been part of more than 10 million square feet of development projects with a market value approaching $2 billion.