Paving The Way: A 2019 Halftime Report

Paving The Way:

A 2019 Halftime Report

For the past four years firm partner Jason Rose has been producing a musical. The World Premiere of Americano! is scheduled for January 31st, 2020 at The Phoenix Theatre Company for a 4-week run to help anchor its 100th Anniversary. Americano! is the true story of a DREAMER, brought here by his parents from Mexico when he was 2 years old. Inspired by the events of 9/11 his own dream was to become a Marine. But it was dashed as he attempted to enlist on his 18th birthday, learning for the first time he was undocumented. But despite his hopes being shattered, he found a way to serve the only country he has ever known in other, meaningful ways. The first song of Americano! is called “Pave The Way.” It has a double meaning leading off the show, just as we now invoke the phrase’s double meaning too. When not producing musicals we like to think we pave the way for public relations, public affairs, crisis communications, event and election clients with groundbreaking ideas that allow companies and causes to innovate and prosper. 

The first half of 2019 suggests as much. We’re grateful to all that place their trust in us and that the first six months of the year are among our most successful since the firm was launched in 1996. 

Here are a few of our highlights:


Another thing we like to do in our spare time is spawn and produce cool new events. Many are familiar with The Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships which will return for its ninth year on November 2nd at WestWorld of Scottsdale. And yes, world famous polo player and Ralph Lauren model will be back! In May we concluded our fourth year with the Scottsdale Polo Party’s sister event, The Bulleit Bourbon Derby DayClub. 

It took place on the backstretch of long-time client Turf Paradise, the Valley’s only live horse racing track. It was our best year yet at what undoubtedly is the best Kentucky Derby party in Arizona. 


Sometimes we get hired at the beginning of projects to help them go as smoothly as possible. Other times when the proverbial you know what hits the fan. Such was the case earlier this year for a modest expansion of the Paradise Valley Medical Plaza at Scottsdale Road and Jackrabbit. There, neighbors mobilized to contest the property’s plans. Then we got a call. The result several months later after working with the community, elected officials, project owners and attorneys? A win-win for all, as exemplified by THIS opinion piece in the Paradise Valley Independent.


Now let’s go to the other extreme. Republic Services is the largest publicly traded company in Phoenix. It has been a privilege to represent them over the years. This time we got the call about a matter in the City of Phoenix. There, like everywhere in the United States, the economics of recycling programs have been upended due to major policy changes in China, which previously purchased a substantial portion of recycling products. Republic Services handles Phoenix’s recycling programs. As part of a terrific internal and external Republic Services team we were able to help craft a strategy and solution with Phoenix officials that resulted in another win-win. The recycling program, for now, has been saved in a way that makes sense for both parties. The result stands in marked contrast to the situation in other cities where the debate has been cantankerous and the results upending of a program many citizens want. While there is more work to be done in Phoenix, initial success suggests more progress on the horizon. 


We do a lot of work in Scottsdale including the past two re-election campaigns for Mayor Jim Lane. Consequently we decided to jump into the fray as the City Council decided to put a $319 million bond package involving 58 new capital projects throughout the city on the November 5th ballot.

City voters have not passed a meaningful bond package for nearly two decades and even then only 6 of the 9 questions passed. Can the campaign committee we are honored to be consulting for interrupt this history? We certainly hope and are working towards just that with what may be the most diverse campaign committee ever assembled in the city. It is also being backed by some of the best and biggest names in Scottsdale including Honor Health, The Thunderbirds, Barrett-Jackson, Scottsdale Charros, Nationwide and Bob Parsons. The Steering Committee is a bi-partisan, passionate, boisterous group that disagrees on much, but not on the need to improve and repair the community’s infrastructure. Traditional and untraditional methods are and will be deployed to give the measures every chance for success. 


Speaking of elections we survived a consultant beauty contest that has us assisting the emerging campaign to allow medical marijuana to become recreational, as it is in a number of other states. It has been fascinating to date and promises to be even more so as the campaign analyzes the lessons learned from a previous effort’s defeat in 2016, and makes the new proposal more palatable to state voters in 2020. 


Our company is fortunate to sit at some fascinating tables. Among the most interesting today is that of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, the holder of the state’s largest first priority Colorado River water rights. As the state continues to face drought concerns the Tribes are among the most important stakeholders in Arizona to effect positive solutions. 

During the first part of this year we undertook substantial media relations on behalf of tribal leadership as it participated in the state’s Drought Contingency Plan. But it was in January that one of our favorite and most fascinating efforts culminated. Then, after working with tribal leaders an election campaign we assisted in order to seek internal approval from all tribal members on water matters was approved by a nearly 2:1 vote. 


While many Arizonans are away now at cooler confines firm partner Jennifer Moser has continued to lead firm marketing efforts for Ocean 44, still the hottest restaurant in the city with the best, and coolest, seafood around. 


When Maricopa Ambulance successfully fought for the right to provide 911 service in Maricopa County they sought our company out for strategic advice with their first municipal target: Scottsdale. Awarded the contract after shenanigans by Rural/Metro’s decrepit inheritor AMR, Maricopa Ambulance’s good work has led to other recent contract awards in Glendale, Litchfield Park and Goodyear? As one of the Knights Templar said at the end of Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade, but in this case our decision to align with Maricopa Ambulance: “You chose wisely.”


While we represent a good number of developers, we pride ourselves on making that which they propose better with special features or appropriate concessions. And that’s why we have no problem opposing developers interested in neither. 

Such was the case in far North Scottsdale where a gentleman, enthralled by the area’s beautiful landscape, bought 27 acres to build just nine new homes. It truly was and is #ScottsdaleAtItsBest. Then along came a speculative developer next door hoping to triple density and intrude on our client’s more sensitive vision. Over the course of a year the case was forcefully made against the request, The City Council responded and the result was a withdrawal of the attempt. 


As we mentioned above we are often brought into projects to provide a different perspective or creativity that might not otherwise be at the table. Such is the case with a plan to redevelop a slew of apartments on Camelback Road abutting the Indian Bend Wash. If you are not from this place you might not realize both how amazing the wash is, and how underutilized too. Especially for tourism. That might all change thanks to the receptiveness and ingenuity of a redevelopment willing to listen and be creative. The proposed “Gentry On The Green” would be the Valley’s first bicycle-centric community and establish its place on the Greenbelt as a new hub for bicycle tourism. 


One of the best new things to open in Phoenix Metro during the first half of 2019 is the new Apex Motor Club in Maricopa, just south of Ahwatukee. Think country club, but for cars not golf. And it is off to a roaring start with some of the biggest names and most avid motorsports enthusiasts in Arizona joining as members. Like the track itself, it’s been a long, strange public relations and public affairs trip to get to their Grand Opening a couple of months ago. But what a rewarding and fun one it has been. 


Jennifer Moser has taken over future Hall of Fame football player Larry Fitzgerald’s charitable endeavors including his always sold-out soiree at Dominick’s Steakhouse in August and the next month at Dominick’s long-time client, the Scottsdale Firefighter’s Association, will be holding its 19th Annual charity dinner that we help organize. While terrific speakers have been honored and graced the event in previous years, people are particularly excited for this one to enjoy Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson and Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Misty Hyman. And last but certainly not least it was a blast to help Vestar Development, which owns The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City, to create and execute a major media effort to showcase its revitalization there. It involved Utah Jazz star player and NBA slam-dunk champion Donovan Mitchell. Closer to home you may soon be learning about another groundbreaking initiative we just helped Vestar with. But more on that in our next report. 


Many of us are sports fans here at the firm. So it’s always great to see one that is best in class. Like the greatest arm wrestler in the world, Travis Bagent. He’s never been defeated left handed and rarely is right handed.

 That’s just crazy. And crazy fun was the Bagent-anchored Arizona Arm Wrestling Championships held last month at Talking Stick Resort, a multi-year polo sponsor but our first time working directly for one of the Valley’s signature properties.


Proposing, negotiating and finalizing improvements to sports facilities can be tricky business. Just look at the recent rancor over the Phoenix Suns-related improvements at Talking Stick Resort. And while a final agreement to secure a long-term agreement between the City of Scottsdale, San Francisco Giants and Scottsdale Charros wasn’t a walk in the park, it did result in a relatively quiet, collaborative achievement to well serve the community for many years to come. It was a privilege to represent the Scottsdale Charros over the past year during the deliberations, a group that has run spring training in the city for decades. 


Another first-time client arrived the first part of the year, thanks to Moser. That was Cancer Treatment Centers of America which asked for our help to showcase their new facilities in certain parts of the city. Moser was assisted by the company’s Director of Event Logistics, Mandy McGee and usual public affairs aficionado Mary Turner who helped pinch-hit during the arrival of McGee’s newborn.


Last year one of the state’s most renowned developers, DMB, had a project defeated in the Kierland area. Rather than run back the same approach project partners called us, for a more unorthodoxed re-entry. It worked. We like happy clients. 


It was a Sunday afternoon. Some of us were watching our kids at a baseball tournament. Others just enjoying the day. And then we got a call from a Sunrise Preschools executive about biting incidents that were being widely reported by Valley media and spiraling on social media. So we rolled into action helping our new client make quick decisions and responses to the situation in Maricopa. Crisis communications is rarely easy, and this time was no exception. But when a client is not afraid to be humble, pro-active and forthcoming good outcomes for all usually occur. As was the case here. 


Firm communcations czar Jennifer Parks-Sturgeon celebrated her first child’s first birthday . . . Everyone at the company was pleased to welcome long-time Phoenix Business Journal reporter Mike Sunnucks onto the team this spring. Mike, as he was known for at the Journal, writes quick, thinks quicker and is an absolute pleasure to have in the office, especially for happy hours . . . Mike Scerbo remains the hardest working man in the public relations business surely wracking up the most miles of any practioner throughout the state . . .

While the teamwork and humor in our office remains among the best it has ever been we were sad to say good-bye a few months back to Cepand Alizadeh. But for good reason. He became the new Community Relations Director for new Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, a candidate we enthusiastically supported . . .

As always, a shout-out to long-time client and the top custom home builder in the state, Cullum Homes, this time for being awarded the NATION’s top home builder and taking on a new frontier, at Desert Mountain . . . Celebrity Fight Night was again a star-studded affair with Moser leading our company’s efforts to assist it along with Parks-Strugeon, Turner and our bevy of interns . . . McGee welcomed her second child, Easton, to this world on May 1st. . . . Parks-Sturgeon continues to work her magic for notable PR clients such as Mountainside Fitness, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty, James Beard Foundation, Gateway Academy (take a look at these media stories for them! Fashion Show ; Music Program), Pollack Real Estate Investments, My Sister’s Closet and so many others. There’s only one Parks-Sturgeon, whose hyphenated name should really be relentless. At least we now have Sunnucks to both boost her, and keep her in check. 

As you can see, we are fortunate to get involved with clients that offer the marketplace a lot of variety. Always have. And probably always will. But sometimes it’s the smaller projects that can provide the most rewarding work. 

Take our ongoing PR help for the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in far northeast Scottsdale. There the Mother Theresa-like Linda Searles provides a last refuge for the state’s injured animals on its last legs. She and they provide critical assistance that make all the difference for Arizona’s furry and prickly friends . . . And just last month we were contacted by one of the state’s newest charities, but one that may emerge among its most important. Founded by former Goldwater Institute CEO Dary Olsen it seeks to literally save too many children falling through the cracks of Arizona and the country’s foster care system. Because of our creative DNA, Olsen called us to assist with a compelling video outlining the organization’s mission. While we will save the result for a future report we already believe it to be one of the best things we have ever created. 

And if it paves the way for the reform Olsen is pursuing well that would be some of the best music anyone could hear in 2019. And beyond.



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