Skip to content



8:00am - Check-in, Breakfast & Networking

9:00am - Welcome - Randy Gibb, Ph.D. , Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Grand Canyon University

9:04am - Opening remarks - Jon Howard, Partner, Quarles; WESTMARC Board Chair

9:07am - WESTMARC Welcome - Sintra Hoffman, President & CEO, WESTMARC

9:10am - Keynote Speaker - Roland Stephen, Ph.D. , Executive Director, Center for Innovation Strategy and Policy, SRI

9:40am - Ted Talk #1 & #2

  • State Initiatives and Investments - Brian Sherman, Chief Innovation Officer, Arizona Commerce Authority
  • New Economies Initiative - Zachary Holman, Ph.D. , Vice Dean, Research and Innovation, Arizona State University

10:15am - Break

10:25am - Ted Talk #3 - Push vs. Pull Innovation - Luciano Oviedo, Ph.D. , Economic Recovery Corps Fellow, International Economic Development Council & WESTMARC

10:40am - Ted Talk #4 - Small Business Big Impact - Eduardo Borquez, Ph.D. , Director of Business and Entrepreneur Engagement, Better Business Bureau - Pacific Southwest

10:55am - Panel #1 - Collaboration in Action

  • Moderator: Ken Chapa, Economic Development Director, City of Avondale
  • Jenny Poon, Founder & CEO, HUUB
  • Andre Whittington, Executive Director, Growth Partners Arizona
  • Kimber Lanning, CEO, Local First Arizona

11:15am - Award Presentation - Mike Hoover, Economic Development Assistant Director, City of Surprise; WESTMARC Economic Development Committee Co-Chair

11:20am Break

11:25am - Panel #2 - Entrepreneurial Success Stories

  • Moderator: Brian Sandusky, Ph.D. , Economic Development Project Manager, City of Surprise
  • Jasmine Bhatti, CEO, Navi Nurses
  • Aziz Bohra, Ph.D. , Periodontics Dentist, West Valley Periodontics
  • Nick Hool, Ph.D. , Founder & CEO, Hoolest Performance Technologies

11:55am - Call to Action - Sintra Hoffman, President & CEO, WESTMARC

12:00pm - Adjourn



Keynote Speaker

Roland Stephen, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Center for Innovation Strategy and Policy




Roland Stephen, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Innovation Strategy and Policy (CISP). He has 25 years of leadership experience in science and technology program management, policy analysis, program design, and program evaluation. His work is focused on agencies, policies, and practices that improve the economic and social impact of technology, innovation, and skilled workforce initiatives.

Recent projects include serving as the PI for a multi-year program in support of the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) at NSF; collaborating with the Polish National Center for Research and Development to develop new R&D program management processes and technology prize competitions; implementing a multi-year project on new metrics for innovation programs at the U.S. Department of Commerce; and developing a novel, skills-based definition of the energy engineering workforce for the Department of Energy. Overall, his work focuses on investments at the frontier between technological change, innovation, workforce, and economic growth.

Prior to joining SRI, he served as an Associate Professor at North Carolina State University, where he helped build the Institute for Emerging Issues, a policy institute analyzing and facilitating technology-based economic development. Projects included aligning higher education institutions around state economic development goals and accelerating the growth of technology-intensive businesses.

Dr. Stephen received a doctorate degree in International and Comparative Political Economy from UCLA and a bachelor’s degree in History and Economics from Cambridge University (UK).




Brian Sherman

Chief Innovation Officer

Arizona Commerce Authority



Brian Sherman serves as the Chief Innovation Officer of the Arizona Commerce Authority. Mr. Sherman approaches economic development as a social entrepreneur, startup evangelist and bureaucracy hacker. He believes human-inspired, market-leveraged, data-driven entrepreneurship can create a better world.

His work is focused on public sector strategy, technology-based economic development, entrepreneurship, early-stage capital formation and technology commercialization, as well as innovation in public policy, strategy and finance.

Mr. Sherman is a 20+ year public service veteran serving in executive positions at the Arizona Technology Council, Arizona State University, the Town of Gilbert, the State of Arizona and on the founding team of the Arizona Commerce Authority.

Mr. Sherman has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography/Geographic Information Systems and an MBA from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.


Zachary Holman, Ph.D.

Vice Dean, Research and Innovation

Arizona State University



Zachary Holman is an Associate Professor in the School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering at Arizona State University, as well as the Director of Faculty Entrepreneurship within the Fulton Schools of Engineering. He received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota for his work on plasma-synthesized silicon and germanium nanocrystals, after which he spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher developing high-efficiency silicon solar cells at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. His research group at ASU focuses on new materials, processes, and device designs for high-efficiency silicon solar cells and silicon-based tandem solar cells. He has been named a Moore Inventor Fellow, Trustees of ASU Professor, Fulton Entrepreneurial Professor, and Joseph C. Palais Distinguished Faculty Scholar. He is the co-founder of two solar start-up companies (Sunflex Solar and Beyond Silicon) and an advanced materials start-up company (Swift Coat).


Luciano Oviedo

ERC Fellow




If “knowledge is power” then “learning is strength.” Luciano C. Oviedo believes learning how to learn is the next competitive advantage. On the one hand, he is a technology startup advisor, mentor and entrepreneur, including co-founding LearnHaus, a Techstars backed startup building agentic AI SaaS for education and learning. He developed his technology strategy practice at Intel Corporation where he completed a strategy residency specializing in emerging technologies.

On the other hand, he performs social innovation action research intersecting impact, strategy and emerging technologies. He contributed to the Strategic Management Society special conference at UC-Berkeley and open strategy workshops in Europe and the USA as well as visiting researcher at Oxford, Arizona State University and the Santa Fe Institute.

He earned his bachelors and masters from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is completing his doctorate at Warwick Business School (UK), specializing in technology strategy for social impact of emerging technologies.

He actively promotes STEM/STEAM by volunteering on nonprofit boards, local/national STEM competitions and professional associations such as the IEEE, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and American Indian Science & Engineering Society.


Eduardo Borquez, Ph.D.

Director of Business & Entrepreneur Engagement

Better Business Bureau - Serving the Pacific Southwest



Eduardo Borquez brings over 20 years of diverse experience in corporate management, strategic consulting, and higher education to his role as the new Director of Business and Entrepreneur Engagement at BBB. Throughout his career, Eduardo has been dedicated to helping individuals, teams, and organizations achieve their goals by leveraging their unique strengths and capabilities.

With a background spanning various industries including retail, hospitality, healthcare, and education, Eduardo possesses a wealth of expertise in business start-up, strategic planning, project management, and leadership development. He has held leadership positions at renowned organizations such as Jack In The Box, The GAP, H&R Block, and 7-Eleven, where he led initiatives to drive business growth and enhance operational efficiency.

In addition to his corporate experience, Eduardo has made significant contributions to the field of education. As a former Professor at Grand Canyon University, he inspired and mentored students in management, strategy, and entrepreneurship. Eduardo also spearheaded the New Business Development Center (NBDC), supporting aspiring entrepreneurs and promoting sustainable economic development in the Phoenix area.

Eduardo holds an MBA from Grand Canyon University, a Bachelor's degree in Business, with a minor in Marketing from Western International University, and PhD (c) in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. He is a certified Situational Leadership Manager & Consultant and has completed certifications at Harvard Law School in Contract Law.

Beyond his professional endeavors, Eduardo is deeply involved in various organizations and community initiatives, serving on multiple boards and mentoring programs. He is passionate about giving back to his community and empowering others to achieve their full potential.

With a commitment to excellence and a passion for driving positive change, Eduardo continues to make a meaningful impact in both the business world and the community at large as he takes on his new role at BBB.


Ken Chapa

Economic Development Director

City of Avondale



With over 20 years of industry experience, Ken Chapa is a seasoned Economic Development professional. He has led successful programs in multiple communities throughout the country. Highly regarded for his strategic planning and business development skills, Chapa has worked alongside many well-known brands including: General Motors, Bridgestone North America, Haas Automation, Las Vegas Raiders, Amazon, Kroger, Barclaycard, Levi’s, and Google to assist in their relocation and/or expansion needs. Now leading the charge as Director of Economic Development and Tourism for the City of Avondale, Ken’s focus on recruitment, retention and creative marketing have allowed him to attract major players to the Southwest Valley while also championing the small business community that is the heart of Avondale.

Ken’s contributions to the Economic Development industry were recognized in 2022 as he was the proud recipient of the Economic Developer of the Year Award, given by the Arizona Association of Economic Development. In 2023, Ken and his team became the 72nd organization, worldwide, to become an Accredited Economic Development Organization (AEDO) per the International Economic Development Council.


Jenny Poon

Founder and CEO




Jenny Poon is a serial entrepreneur and founder of economic development technology company HUUB and Arizona's first and most recognized coworking space CO+HOOTS. Together both organizations have created tens of thousands of jobs and increased economic mobility for families everywhere.

As the daughter of Vietnamese refugees and a self-made entrepreneur, she speaks, writes and advocates daily to for safer entrepreneur ecosystems for women and people of color. She currently is CEO of HUUB, a data-driven digital platform and workflow management system for governments to streamline delivery of small business support services. Before HUUB, Jenny founded the first coworking space in Phoenix, AZ. Which she grew to 2 locations, created thousands of jobs, serving more than 1000 entrepreneurs monthly. Her over a decade of experience in supporting entrepreneurs through CO+HOOTS and her experience as a daughter of small business owners, is what drives her work with HUUB and equity building today.

She contributes regularly to Kauffman Foundation, Business Journals, National Women's Business Council and Arizona Republic/USA Today. She currently serves as an appointed member of the National Women's Business Council, a federal bi-partisan council that provides policy recommendations to the President, the U.S. Congress, and to the SBA on issues of importance to women business owners and entrepreneurs.


Andre Whittington

Executive Director

Growth Partners Arizona



Andre T. Whittington is an award-winning executive and organizational strategist with over 14 years of experience in public and non-profit sectors. He is an Army Veteran who served both domestically and internationally. Prior to joining Growth Partners Arizona, Andre served as the Associate Director for Our Village United, Inc. in Atlanta, GA. During his tenure he assisted in building national small business programs that ensured BIPOC business owners received the necessary training to help scale their business and ensure they were capital ready. He also spent over 10 years working for a Fortune 50 where he was responsible for leading national learning & development teams, developing performance management strategies, and implementing organizational development initiatives that directly impacted a workforce of over 30K employees.


Kimber Lanning


Local First Arizona



Kimber Lanning is the founder and CEO of Local First Arizona, a nonprofit organization committed to building equitable systems for Arizona’s local businesses and communities that create a vibrant, inclusive, and resilient Arizona economy. Lanning is an entrepreneur, business leader, and community development specialist who works to cultivate strong, self-reliant communities and inspire a higher quality of life for people across Arizona. Lanning’s passions, which are seen throughout her work, include fostering cultural diversity and inclusion, economic resilience, and responsible growth for Arizona.

Lanning has grown Local First Arizona into a widely respected organization that is leading the nation in implementing systems and policies to ensure a level playing field for entrepreneurial endeavors of all sizes.  With nearly 3,500 business members and three statewide offices, Lanning leads a team of 40 who work on a diverse array of programs ranging from healthy local food access, entrepreneurial development in underserved communities, and rural community development, each of which plays a part in building sustainable and resilient local economies.


Brian Sandusky, Ph.D.

Economic Development Project Manager

City of Surprise



Brian Sandusky, PhD is an experienced higher education executive, workforce and economic development professional and management consultant with a strong business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit.

As a higher education executive and faculty member with over 25 years of experience, Brian has a successful track record of leading innovation and organizational change and achieving net tuition revenue and expense budgets within tuition dependent, complex higher education institutions throughout the US and in international markets. Most recently, Brian served for a combined 10 years as system wide Vice President and as Chief Enrollment Officer with faculty status at Ottawa University in Surprise, Arizona. In partnership with the City of Surprise, Ottawa University launched a new residential campus in 2017 with no enrollments or revenues. Today, the Surprise campus represents the largest and fastest growing operating unit within Ottawa University’s system with over 900 student enrollments. The campus is in the heart of Surprise City Center and embedded within 240-acres of the Surprise Civic & Recreation Campus. The residential campus has proven to be a major contributor to the growth and economic development in the City of Surprise.

Brian currently serves in the Economic Development Department at the City of Surprise as Project Manager at the AZ TechCelerator. The AZ TechCelerator and Business Innovation Center was a first-of-its-kind in the Greater Phoenix West Valley and is designed to help entrepreneurs start and grow their business in the fast-growing City of Surprise. The AZ TechCelerator is a 58,800 square foot, four-building business innovation campus that supports entrepreneurs with mentoring, coaching, training, and development programs, as well as providing quality conference meeting rooms and affordable private office space opportunities for entrepreneurs. Brian is leading and executing a new strategic plan that will serve multiple constituents of business minded students, community members, aspiring entrepreneurs, and business owners. A significant part of the new plan will include partnerships with industry and educational institutions such as Ottawa University contributing to workforce development in the vibrant community of Surprise.

Originally from Michigan, Brian enjoys the Arizona outdoors, including an occasional round of golf, as well as spending time with his family in Surprise.


Jasmine Bhatti


Navi Nurses



Jasmine graduated from GCU college of nursing, and has been in practice for 13 years, most recently at Mayo Clinic. She left practice two years ago to build a rapidly growing startup in Arizona: Navi Nurses. Parallel to this work, she is a PhD candidate at Arizona State University where she is researching her new model of transitional care. Her model is showing promising ways to decrease nurse burnout while simultaneously reducing hospital readmissions. Her passion is rooted in helping nurses once again find joy in their work, while also allowing people to access the support they need to achieve the highest quality of life possible.


Aziz Bohra, Ph.D.

Periodontics Dentist

West Valley Periodontics



Introducing Aziz Bohra,  graduate of University of Louisville's periodontal residency program, Aziz has dedicated his career to advancing the treatment of periodontal disease.

Since establishing his private practice in Phoenix back in 2002, Aziz has been at the forefront of cutting-edge dental techniques. In 2022, Aziz's passion for innovation led him to establish Perioview, a company that enhanced dental endoscopy technology and has brought these upgraded tools to the market, further elevating the standard of care in periodontal treatment.


Nicholas Hool, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO

Hoolest Performance Technologies, Inc.



Nicholas Hool grew up playing competitive golf with dreams of playing on the PGA tour. He had a promising career and several offers to play collegiate golf, but in his last two years of high school performance he developed a debilitating form of performance anxiety. Hool decided not to pursue competitive golf but instead go to school to study the stress response in high performance individuals with the goal of developing a drug-free solution that could solve his problem.

Hool received his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at ASU under a world renowned consumer neuromodulation expert. During his program, Hool was exposed to a variety of neuromodulation technologies and discovered vagus nerve stimulation, the fastest way to calm the nervous system. At the time, the technology was clinically proven but had a poor user experience. So Hool developed the VeRelief vagus nerve stimulation tool, a powerful and easy to use device for accelerated stress and anxiety relief.



** Clickable embedded links in PDF **


** Clickable embedded links in PDF **

** Clickable embedded links in PDF **


** Clickable embedded links in PDF **


** Clickable embedded links in PDF **


** Clickable embedded links in PDF **

Description: Whether you are an existing or aspiring business owner, we want to help ensure your success. Check out our Small Business page to learn more about existing resources, workshops, and more!
Entrepreneurship Outreach Network
Description: The Entrepreneurship Outreach Network is a collaboration between the Buckeye Public Library System, Buckeye Economic Development and ASU Entrepreneurship & Innovation that support entrepreneurs and small business owners. The program provides current and aspiring small business owners with access to continuing education in entrepreneurship, mentors, service providers, networking and other community-based resources.
Description: Get free access to LinkedIn Learning when you sign up for a Buckeye Library card. Get access to hundreds of business courses including Marketing, Finance, Entrepreneurship and more!

Thank you to our Sponsors!

Scroll To Top