It’s been a little more than a year since Cheryl Lombard took over as Valley Partnership’s president and CEO.
In her role, Lombard is responsible for leading and managing Valley Partnership, including developing and executing strategies, and managing the association’s resources, expertise and leadership initiatives.
AZRE sat down with Lombard to talk about her challenges and the impact she hopes Valley Partnership has on Arizona.
AZRE: What is the most challenging issue you face on a day-to-day basis in representing Valley Partnership to the community?
Cheryl Lombard: Valley Partnership has a very diverse group of partners that all support the real estate development industry. So focus, focus, focus is the challenge.
To accomplish this, the first thing Valley Partnership had to do was to frame how we are going to advocate for responsible development across the Valley. In late 2015, our strategic plan was approved; for the next 3 years we are going to create strategic alliances, partnerships and forums for education, discussion and cooperation within the industry; ensure the consistent administration of taxes, fees and regulations across jurisdictions; and ensure economic vitality tools such as secure water supplies, a well-educated workforce and funding for infrastructure, including transportation.
Then we had to develop a work plan for 2016 on how we are going to do these things. This year we are proud to support Proposition 123 in the May Special Election that will add $3.5 billion to Arizona schools in the next 10 years. This is key for our economic growth, including a well-educated workforce. We are also working to bring together diverse leaders to discuss what comes next for education. I have also been fortunate to be appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey to the Arizona Water Augmentation Council. This group will determine how we plan our water future and why the real estate development industry is key in urban areas in terms of water reuse and recharge. Finally, working with key cities, Valley Partnership wants to use existing tools such as community facilities districts to help pay for needed infrastructure to grow our economy.
AZRE: At the state legislative level, what issues are most concerning at this time in regard to CRE? And how is VP monitoring those?
CL: One issue is the complexity of the Arizona Property Tax system. Many experts have told me, and I now understand why, that Arizona has the most complicated property tax system in the United States. How can we be the most competitive state for economic development when only a few people completely understand this system? More importantly, one small change causes a shift in taxes to others, impacts our schools and our general fund. We must fix this so we can deal with how to pay for infrastructure for schools, roads, water and other necessary functions of government.
We monitor this through our collaboration with other industry groups such as Arizona Multihousing Association, NAIOP, Arizona Tax Research Association, Greater Phoenix Leadership and the Arizona Chamber.
AZRE: Is VP going to openly support political candidates? If so, who & why?
CL: Valley Partnership’s Political Action Committee – VPAC – was most recently active in the Tempe city elections. VPAC makes contributions to candidates that support responsible development and as the election process moves forward in 2016 and 2017, we anticipate engaging with candidates that meet that mission. It should be a very busy next couple of years – these next election cycles for our Legislature and key cities determine our future economic decisions for the next decade.
AZRE: At the end of the day, what do you want the community to think about VP? What are your most proud moments in your position thus far?
CL: Valley Partnership is about responsible development and for almost 30 years we have been advocating for that. As our economy returns to our new normal cycle, Valley Partnership is the one-stop shop for elected and appointed officials to work together with the leaders in the Valley real estate development industry, as well as other interest groups to find solutions. In my first year as President of Valley Partnership, we had the opportunity to successfully demonstrate this with development fees in Tempe and Avondale, and water policy in Chandler. However, our biggest success this year in being the honest broker is our work with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Arizona Game & Fish, mining interests, homebuilders, Arizona State Land Department and others to develop a plan of action to prevent the listing of the Sonoran Desert Tortoise as an endangered species. This alone allowed responsible growth to occur across the Valley while ensuring the vitality of this beloved creature.
AZRE: If you only had one superpower and could use it to help VP, what would it be and how would you use it?
CL: That I can be in more than one place at a time. There is a lot going on in the Valley right now. I hate to miss any of it.