Do You Believe In Miracles? Yes!

As the American hockey team concluded its improbable, even impossible, win over the Russians at the Winter Olympics in 1980 Al Michael’s now famous query became its capstone. 

Well, we too had to ask ourselves if we believed in miracles when we were challenged by the first client our firm ever had, Red Feather Properties at the Grand Canyon, to defeat a 2017 local town council decision to increase building heights to 65 feet. 

What’s the big deal say you? Well, the developer seeking the request employed over half of the town’s voters and 80% of the Town Council. We’ll save the story of the most unethical duchy in Arizona for another time. 

This time, for this assignment, we knew the odds were very long. A standard approach wouldn’t do. Typical messages and tactics wouldn’t get the job done. So we did something entirely different and ran a campaign based solely on psychology. Dozens of home made signs beautifully done by company interns challenged the conscience of each voter with catchy, unusual phrases about the legacy they wanted to leave for the Grand Canyon. 

The effort, combined with a few other tactics, resulted in a stunning reversal of the Town Council’s approval by a 56% to 44% vote. 

Sometimes it gets cold enough at the Grand Canyon to play hockey. But a bad developer’s plan was put on ice thanks to this miracle on November 7th. 

This is just one of the reasons people were talking about services during the last half of 2017, another sensational year for our talented and tenured team for not only public affairs but notable events, public relations, crisis communications and political consulting too.

Take a look. 

NAIL BITER: Sometimes we win in landslides.  Other times? Nail biters. For the better part of two years we have been working with Pinal Partnership and led a subsequent campaign committee to support a new roads and freeway plan throughout Pinal County. It culminated on November 7th when voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund the $640 million plan by . . . 900 votes out of nearly 50,000 cast. It was a wild ride. And while sometimes creativity carries the day, other times experience does. As was the case here. Tax elections are rarely easy. This was no exception. But we were able to peek around enough corners and make bold, critical decisions in the final stretch that enabled a win when the outcome was in doubt. Company staff and contractors Mike Scerbo, Mary Turner, Stephanie Nelson, Mandy McGee, Cepand Alizadeh, and many others including Colin Shipley at IWS, played key roles in the ultimate result. 

NO DOUBTER: And speaking of doubt, “no doubter” is a phrase Al Michaels, or Bob Brenly might use to describe a monstrous home run. And does anyone do it any better for the Diamondbacks than Paul Goldschmidt? Having helped previously launch Goldschmidt’s “Goldy’s Bowling Bash,” firm partner Jennifer Moser is currently working on the event’s second go around scheduled for February 22nd at Lucky Strike. Anchored by “America’s First Baseman,” it features numerous other sports stars and this year some of the players from many of the spring training teams in town will be on hand to raise money for Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Speaking of baseball, this past fall Jen Moser, with the help of Jennifer Parks-Sturgeon hit it out of the park when it came to Driving Out Domestic Violence. The annual two day event raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the charity and saw some of baseball’s biggest stars turn out including Zack Greinke serving as the Honorary Chair.

NO DOUBTER, PART II: When we created something called The Polo Party back in 2011 we thought it could be a big idea. After all, the 16th Hole of the Waste Management Open but with polo not golf sure sounded cool. Boy, we had no idea what we were getting into! What started out as a fun, entrepreneurial idea has morphed into serious business as producers and owners of the event. Now the most attended polo event in the United States the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships is one we think is the world’s most interesting too. Think Mardi Gras, spring training and the Kentucky Derby rolled into one. Supported by some of the state and country’s best brands, 2017 was an extraordinary one with teams from Seattle, Santa Barbara, St. Moritz and Monte Carlo joining the defending champions from Aspen Valley, the Arizona Polo Club, Polo Azteca, the Wales Polo Team and the best American polo player of all time. We threw in some Shakespeare, opera, star athletes, a fried chicken and champagne restaurant, the world’s best arm wrestler and a Scottsdale Maserati Sunday Brunch to join previous elements. The result? Over 13,000 in attendance and a 70% increase in ticket revenue and food and beverage from year to year. Mother chukker! That’s a reference to a period of play in polo, by the way. 

FROM GRIM REAPER TO GREAT HARVEST: The Brian Terry Foundation is a noble cause. Formed after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was tragically killed as a result of the botched Operation Fast & Furious during the Obama Administration, it raises funds for the families of fallen and struggling agents. We’ve done work off and on for the organization, including for their annual event that has featured bi-partisan speakers over the years including Gabrielle Giffords. But in 2017 we were not involved in forward planning. Yet, we got a call about two months out alerting us to the date that had been selected in Tucson. There were just a few problems. No featured speaker and modest ticket sales. The options were few. The time was short. But we were working at the time with Chris Bannon, brother to former Trump advisor Steve Bannon. It was an option the family wanted to pursue. Chris delivered. And while controversial the result was a sold out ballroom that raised critical funds for a critical cause. Media relations were interesting along the way but it was a case and lesson that certain journeys are worth the destination. Now, President Trump has been invited for 2018. 

CALLING 911: We get called when times are good, but a lot when times are tough. Unseating an incumbent in a procurement process is never easy, even when it’s a decrepit, delinquent responding AMR remnant in Scottsdale. An upstart company, Maricopa Ambulance, saw an opportunity. And we were happy to provide key strategic counsel in a place that’s always been home. After a year-long effort, Maricopa Ambulance was rightfully awarded the city’s emergency services contract in December.

CELEBRATE IT, DON’T DRINK IT: Guinness. It means good beer. And an unmatched world record. For Valley redeveloper and philanthropist Michael Pollack it meant the latter when his unique 3-D Advertising Museum was designated as the planet’s biggest by the Guinness Book of World Records. As always, firm Communications Director Jennifer Parks-Sturgeon did an enthusiastic and excellent job showcasing the achievement of one of Arizona’s most fascinating individuals.   

FIRE HOSES: The Scottsdale Firefighter’s Association uses them to keep person and property safe. And in September our help organizing the group’s annual event with Pete Tocco and personalities such as Shane Doan, Tom Hatten and the mom that launched Make-A-Wish resulted in a record haul for the night. In western Arizona there’s a hose of a different kind. It’s called the Colorado River and no entity in the state has bigger or better water rights to it than the Colorado River Indian Tribes. We’re proud to be providing key public affairs and public relations help to the Tribes and its Chairman Dennis Patch as they navigate extraordinary opportunities for itself and all of Arizona as part of Governor Ducey’s critical water talks, negotiations and legislation.

BERMUDA TRIANGLE: It exists somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. And in the Town of Paradise Valley. Just off Scottsdale Road and across from McCormick Ranch lies a small parcel that has befuddle its property owner and the Town Council as no proposal for it had even been approved. But then we got to assist a joint venture between well-known and well-regarded Cullum Homes and Geoff Edmunds. The result was a creative land use plan and communications effort that gained unanimous Town Council approval a couple of months back. 

THE APEX: Sometimes public policy debates are logical. Other times they are not. And such was the case for much of 2017 as a proposed motorsports project near Casa Grande employed just about every big firm and big name in the book, not to mention a bunch of questionable tactics in an attempt to squash a company client wanting to build the state’s first and best automotive country club in the City of Maricopa. The issues have been complex but ultimately good usually triumphs, as has been the case in this testy affair. We’re proud to have been a part of the Apex project team that has successfully stood up to the shenanigans, and will continue to do so, as is necessary. Hopefully, it won’t be and both projects can get on with good competition. 

FORE! Troon North is one of the great golfing communities in Arizona. So when its HOA was rightfully upset that a speculative developer was about to ruin the entrance to its community with a bad looking, timeshare-looking project we rolled into action with a plan that resulted in hundreds of emails to the Scottsdale City Council, solidifying the city’s support for denying the project’s scheme. Sometimes the shoe gets put on our other foot, this time with a nearly identical sounding client, True North. While many in Arizona’s Chinese community don’t like the company’s purchase of the moribund center for a new corporate headquarters, all while preserving key elements on and off-site, it’s been a pleasure to rightfully advocate for property rights on the new owner’s behalf. The company has handled the clamor with grace, thoughtfulness and dignity, an approach that emanates from the head of the company, an underappreciated member of the Arizona business and philanthropic community the state will surely be hearing more from in the years to come. 

QUICK HITS: SOHO Scottsdale is a cool new residential project near WestWorld in Scottsdale. And that’s why it was cool for us to introduce one of the Arizona Cardinals’ coolest cats, David Johnson, to anchor its Grand Opening Party. Speaking of sports it’s always a pleasure to successfully aid Suns co-owner and well-regarded developer Francis Najafi with public affairs needs, as was the case two months ago in Paradise Valley. We like firsts such as representing Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty, first in luxury home sales. Or Cullum Homes, again ranked the #1 Custom Home Builder by the Phoenix Business Journal. Or Barrett-Jackson, the incomparable collector car house and automotive experience. Or the top steakhouses in town, Steak 44 and Dominick’s (and soon their new Ocean 44), especially when people at our company like Jen Moser get to help organize events with and for Larry Fitzgerald at. And firsts apply to a new client too, Urban Air, opening its first Arizona site later this month in Ahwatukee. 

ENTREPRENEURS: Clients know you’re good when you’re willing to put up your own money to own and produce events. As we do with the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships. And as we will do for a third time, on Cinco de Mayo at Turf Paradise, for the Stella Artois Derby Dayclub. It’s the best Kentucky Derby party in Arizona and the only one with live racing, gambling and a polo party style of fun. This year will also see the debut of our Scottsdale Fahrenheit Festival: Arms, Legs & Kegs. It’s a unique combination of the world’s hottest race, America’s most lucrative arm wrestling competition and a new ale and cocktail experience on June 16th at WestWorld of Scottsdale. More details soon. Finally, we’re pleased to announce the realization of Fried & Fizzy, a new pop-up restaurant featuring fried chicken and champagne, incubated at the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships that will soon be a food truck venture of ours with M Culinary, the state’s top catering company. 

UTILITY PLAYERS: On a baseball team they can often be the most important, playing multiple positions and stepping up when the game is on the line. And that’s the role we have played for solar companies since 2013 as utility monopolies have sought to stop the trend of technology and history with highly questionable tactics and highly specious arguments. Arizona Public Service has remained in the news for some of these reasons, but at least reached a compromise with solar. Unfortunately, Tucson Electric Power seems to have taken over where APS left off. And so the fight continues, as it must, because TEP-like efforts to squash solar embarrass the state and intrude on the progress energy emancipation can mean for all. 

GOOD-BYES, HELLOS & HOW INTERESTINGS: While many successful results for clients were in the offing during the latter part of 2017 the season also meant we had to say good-bye to two valued friends, and great human beings. 

In August one of Arizona’s biggest smiles and well known developer Wil Cardon left Earth’s embrace to discover another above. We think of Wil often because to live like him is to be a life fulfilled. And we think of Michael Saucier often too. Over the past several years he wandered in and out of our orbit as a valued writer, thinker and all around good guy. He died of pancreatic cancer only one month after being diagnosed. Why do such things happen to such good and talented people? We do not know but interns that come through our doors in the month and years to come will know they are there because of the Michael Saucier Scholars & Intern Program we established. It’s a worthy recognition, and example, for those that enjoy our ingress and egress. 

The past many months also saw a bumper crop of interns assist perhaps the busiest time in our company’s history. Thank you to all, especially to Mary Turner and Diva Stevens who graduated from interns to join our staff full time. Meanwhile, the one and only Jennifer Parks-Sturgeon is set to have her first child, a boy, in the New Year. Mandy McGee has been an outstanding addition as our Director of Event Logistics, Mike Scerbo has maintained his reputation as the hardest working person in show business and Jennifer Moser not only enriches us with her reputation and class but her prowess as a queen at Pine Canyon, and elsewhere. Oh, and she just concluded yet another noble charitable endeavor as the Vice Chairwoman of the 2017 Arizona Heart Ball. 

So as 2017 concludes and 2018 debuts we’re glad the stock market is high and grateful that our stock is too after a run of days, months and years that has left clients well positioned and better off. It’s a testament to our team and its talents. Thank you to them and all our clients for being able to do what we do, and have such an interesting seat at so many tables. 

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