The Arizona Association for Economic Development (AAED) is proud to announce the organization’s second mentorship program participants after a successful inaugural launch in 2021. The year-long program, aimed at supporting early-career economic development professionals, pairs young professionals with experienced practitioners from around the state.
Last year’s pilot program was the first to come out of AAED’s Young Professionals Affinity Group, which was formed in 2020 with the goal of creating more programming to support AAED’s early-career members. “Economic development is truly a team sport,” said Carrie Kelly, Executive Director, AAED. “With our mentorship program, we are trying to create that professional development team for our early-career professionals. The relationships they develop over the next year will positively impact their entire careers.”
This year’s mentees are Jaime Lyn Gonzales, Business Development Manager, City of Avondale; Desirae Mayo, Economic Development Specialist, City of Scottsdale; Bianca Hernandez, Sales Manager, Phoenix Convention Center; and Ashley Mazariegos, Economic Development Analyst, City of Buckeye.
Mentors for 2022 are Ken Chapa, Economic Development and Tourism Director, City of Avondale; Richard Wilkie, Economic Development Director, City of Casa Grande; Mike Czechowski, Economic Initiatives Project Manager, City of Tucson; and Thomas Doyle, Economic Development Manager, City of El Mirage.
The Young Professionals Affinity Group is chaired by David Zynda with the Pima Association of Governments (PAG) and the mentorship program is led by Heath Vescovi-Chiordi, Economic Development Director, Pima County. Heath has been a member of AAED since 2016 and has been a consummate advocate for students and early-career professionals.
“As a heavily-mentored individual myself, I quickly realized the immense value of mentorship and what it can do for young and early-career professionals,” Vescovi-Chiordi said. “I truly believe, I would not be where I am today without that mentorship experience. Now, especially in my new capacity, I believe in mentorship in economic development more than ever, which is why we are trying to make that opportunity available to anyone who seeks it in the organization.”
In addition to mentorship from experienced economic development professionals, AAED members who participate as mentees will also get to take advantage of complimentary professional development courses at AAED’s Academy of Arizona, a certificate program that leads to the Arizona Economic Development Professional certification (AZED Pro).
Mentors in the inaugural program were Suzie Boyles, AZED Pro, Economic Development Director at the City of Buckeye; Victor Gonzalez, CEcD, Economic Development Director at the Town of Sahuarita; Kevin Gullette, CEcD, Vice President of Business Development at the Arizona Commerce Authority; Karla Moran, AZED Pro, Principal, Economic Development at SRP; and Nicole Snyder, AZED Pro, Healthcare Business Development and Marketing Leader at orcutt | winslow.
Inaugural mentees were Melissa Steele, Economic Development Specialist, City of Globe; Jessica Bryson, Finance Administrator/Director, Verde Valley Sanctuary; Damian Dorame, AZED Pro, Economic Development/CMO Project Coordinator, City of Douglas; Jorge Hernandez, Senior Consultant, Deloitte; and Andrea Caicedo, Assistant to the City Manager, Town of Marana.
The Arizona Association for Economic Development was originally formed as the Arizona Association for Industrial Development (AAID) in 1974 by a small group of economic development professionals and business leaders dedicated to expanding the industrial and economic base of Arizona. This group came together to discuss issues affecting Arizona’s economic development, to promote economic development in the State of Arizona through an interchange of information and educational opportunities among its members, to act as a liaison with outside groups having the same objectives, to influence legislation affecting economic development and to continually improve working relationships among its diverse membership. On Nov. 8,1991, the membership of AAID voted to change the organization’s name to Arizona Association for Economic Development (AAED) to better reflect its broader mission.