Considered the Oscars of the West Valley, the Best of the West Awards Dinner honored the area’s top leaders, investments and programs on Oct. 21 at State Farm Stadium.
WESTMARC recognized finalists in the categories of Economic Engine, Excellence in Innovation, Quality of Life Enhancement in the Community, and Quality of Life Enhancement in Education.
“The Best of the West Awards recognize outstanding contributions to the image, lifestyle and economy in the West Valley,” said Sintra Hoffman, WESTMARC president and chief executive officer said. “WESTMARC is proud to honor these outstanding individuals and organizations making a great impact in the West Valley.”
Hoffman acknowledged all nominees and those in attendance for their efforts, especially during the pandemic.
“We all know that last year was a really rough year for many of us, but I think you’ll agree that Arizona, and specifically the West Valley, came out much stronger than before,” Hoffman said.
“During the pandemic, we certainly galvanized. We have been a community that is very collaborative, but I think that came shining through this last year.”
The magic-themed evening kicked off the award presentation with the Economic Engine award, which recognizes individuals, organizations, businesses, facilities or programs that have created a significant economic outcome and job creation for the West Valley.
FLITE Goodyear Industrial was this year’s recipient for revitalizing and modernizing 196,823 square feet of office space and 805,169 square feet of industrial space as part of a multimillion-dollar renovation.
Runner-up was the Andersen Corp. for its intent to invest more than $105 million and create over 415 jobs in its first phase buildout of a manufacturing campus in Goodyear.
Excellence in Innovation
The Excellence in Innovation award recognizes those who have demonstrated an innovative concept to fulfill a need for the West Valley residents and preserve the area’s assets or resources.
Peoria Forward was presented the Excellence in Innovation award for its partnership between the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute at ASU and the city of Peoria designated to grow and scale the entrepreneurial ecosystem and accelerate economic development.
The project uses data-driven best practices that started with an in-depth 52 analysis of the West Valley entrepreneurial community. It took into account factors such as culture, access to capital, assets and diversity.
From that data, solutions were created to address gaps with diverse pathways and programs.
Runner-up was the city of Avondale’s NASCAR National Championship Watch Party for bringing three jumbotron screens to livestream the race with a drive-in experience.
Quality of Life Enhancement in the Community
The Quality of Life Community award recognizes those who have enhanced the quality of life for West Valley residents.
The Peoria Community Arts Project won for providing what the judging panel referred to as “colorful, inspiring and charming local artwork in places you least expect it.”
For instance, student artists turned metal utility boxes into public art. The panel said the project helped to make the city “a more beautiful place to live, work and visit.”
Runner-up is the Goodyear Recreation Center, which the judges said was “inspired, envisioned and designed by the community, for the community.
Quality of Life Enhancement
The Quality of Life Education award also recognizes those who have enhanced the quality of life for West Valley residents.
West-MEC Southwest Campus was this year’s winner for supporting the education of more than 200 students per year in future facing energy and environmental sustainability programs; the training of over 6,000 APS employees; and hosting on average over 250 hours of events per month of educators, entrepreneurs and civic organizations interested in creating similar programs — nationally and internationally.
The judges recognized West-MEC Southwest Campus as being a leader in “connecting students with industry to stimulate a future facing economy that celebrates sustainable local, regional and global connection shaping the West Valley into a better place to live, work and play.”
The runner-up was the West Valley Microsoft Datacenter Academy for its dedication to the professional career development of students.
Karla Morgan, senior project manager for the Salt River Project and WESTMARC issue committee member, was presented the President’s Choice award for serving as an example of extraordinary leadership by going above and beyond in her contribution to WESTMARC.
Morgan has been in economic development for more than 15 years in roles at the Arizona Department of Commerce, Arizona Commerce Authority and the town of Gilbert.
Grand Canyon University was presented the regional advancement award. According to WESTMARC’s official criteria, the Regional Advancements recipient must “strengthen and transform the West Valley’s position for economic growth.”
GCU President Brian Mueller accepted the award and said the university has made strides in its growth. He added the community can expect to see more from the Lopes in the years to come.
Inspiration in Leadership
To end the night, Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord was presented the Inspiration in Leadership award and was honored with a standing ovation.
Now serving in her final term as mayor, Lord said her goals are to attract new business and clean industries, enhance public safety services and to develop a sustainable downtown for Goodyear.
Former Buckeye mayor Jackie Meck congratulated his friend, adding that the “West Valley is better because of Mayor Georgia Lord.”
“Mayor Lord is such an inspiration and has been a champion for not only Goodyear but the entire West Valley,” added Neil Terry, WESTMARC board chair. “Her keen business sense has brought so much success to our region, and she truly loves and cares about her city. She is a proven leader and an amazing person.”
Moving forward, as the West Valley is officially home to over 1.7 million residents, in Lord’s words, “We are moving, we are booming in the West Valley, and we’re not stopping.”