Highly Developed: Getting Started in ‘Building Arizona’

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Alison Bailin Batz   College Times

 

Phoenix is one of the country’s fastest-growing cities. As such, the demand for skilled economic development experts — both as it relates to commercial and residential real estate — has never been higher. Here’s a look at how some of the most respected leaders in the fields of building, real estate and economic development got their starts:

“I traded in Missouri snow for Arizona sunshine and enrolled at ASU, majoring in civil engineering with a concentration in construction. It was a natural fit as my dad owned a construction company growing up. During school, I undertook five internships which eventually led me to Chasse Building Team. I began with Chasse in 2008 as one of its first 15 employees. Perseverance, responsible building practices and teamwork kept us alive, and allowed us to thrive in one of the hardest decades for the CRE industry. Today, we are more than 135 team members strong and proudly working on some of the biggest development projects in Arizona.”

Fred Bueler, Chasse Building Team

“Before I was in middle school, I lived in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and even California. As a result of seeing so varied landscapes at such a young age, real estate and land always fascinated me. So much so, I chose to study urban and regional planning in college at the University of Illinois before getting inspired to go into real estate law. I earned my law degree from George Washington University, adding the East Coast to my growing list of ‘hometowns’ before beginning to practice in Ohio. If I have learned anything, it is that you have to go with bumps, twists and cracks in the road — there will always be some, if not many. But you can’t be scared to take on a new experience or challenge, ever. I made my way to Arizona in 2005 and have been proud to help ensure responsible building and development ever since.”

Andrew Gleason, Quarles & Brady LLP Real Estate Practice Group

“My road to leadership as it relates to economic development and construction in the Valley truly began when my wife, Cindy, and I moved from Chandler to Maricopa in 2005 to start a family. After settling into our home, I quickly joined the neighborhood’s homeowners’ association, where I served for several years, including six as its president. Eager to dive deeper into public service, I was appointed to Maricopa’s first Board of Adjustments Commission in 2011 and served as its vice chairman. I was elected mayor in 2012, re-elected in 2014 and again in 2016, and I am serving in my third term. Maricopa, like many cities across the country, is in an era of unprecedented opportunity. We are seeing aggressive home construction and increasing home values. Large national retailers are finding a welcoming community as they open new locations in Maricopa. Today, I firmly committed to prudent decision making to ensure that the city continues to flourish for centuries to come.”

Christian Price, Maricopa mayor

“After a 26-year banking stint in Colorado and countless business trips to Phoenix, I finally made the jump to the desert. (I was) already feeling a connection to the city, the community and the people in the mid-2000s. Within months, when I was just getting my feet wet in learning how to help developers and construction professionals in Arizona, my own house burned down. Undeterred—although without a home for more than six months — I persevered (and learned a thing or two about building in Arizona in the process during the ultimate first-person experience). So much so, I became Washington Federal’s first Arizona regional president in 2014 with an eye to helping home builders as well as commercial real estate teams continue to build Arizona post-recession.”

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Mike Brown, Washington Federal

“I studied civil engineering at Cornell University. Solar energy — and how to effectively use it to help lower homes’ carbon footprint as well as monthly bills — was a topic of study, and immediately fascinating. Given it was the 1970s, however, the concept was still in its infancy. It was so new that I spent the next 20 years leading the charge for other technologies, including computers, cable television and wireless internet. By the mid-2000s, solar technology was finally gaining steam. Inspired, I pivoted and started selling and installing solar systems, then connected with one of the largest producers of solar technology, Centrosolar, whose complete U.S. operations were based in Scottsdale. By 2014, Centrosolar colleague Chris Wood and I began developing Sunny Energy. We partnered with long-time solar contractors Terry Rials and Jacob Stainbrook, and the rest is history.”

Claudia Johnstone

Joe Cunningham, Sunny Energy CT

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