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My First 3 months

Wednesday, August 10, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Bridgette Blair
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By: Jennifer Graves, CEcD, Gilbert, AZ, 2016-2017 AAED President

As a graduate of The University of Arizona Regional Development program (Go CATS!) and having started my Economic Development career at the Greater Tucson Economic Council, it was fitting to step into the role of President at the Spring Conference in Tucson. As AAED enters its 42nd year, we continue to enhance our support of economic development throughout the state of Arizona.  We have made great strides in support AAED’s  mission and pillars, including an organization wide rebranding and strategic plan development, advancement in our focus on advocacy by investing in a voice at the legislature, and the creation of a professional development program focused on AZ specific issues.

One of the first orders of business when becoming President of AAED is to host the annual leadership retreat where Board members and the committee leadership gather to participate in team building activities, discuss and update the AAED strategic plan, and adopt the annual committee action plans and budget. At this year’s retreat in June, we enlisted the services of Jim Hayden and Board Developer ( to facilitate a leadership and organizational development session.  The central focus of this session was on DISC, a behavior assessment tool which centers on four different behavioral traits: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance. Each member of the leadership team took the DISC assessment prior to the retreat and then participated in a series of interactive exercises at the retreat designed to help us better understand each other and work together more effectively. Most of the AAED leadership is made up of a mix of traits, but the primary traits expressed are pretty evenly spread with the “influence” trait just slightly more represented: D = 18 percent, I = 32 percent, S = 20 percent, C = 14 percent.

Jim Hayden also led the team through his Coffee Stain Analysis and TOUCH Principles philosophies. The coffee stain analysis challenged us to analyze and reflect on AAED’s defects, or coffee stains, as a key factor in moving the organization forward and achieving our mission.  The TOUCH Principles is rooted in building, growing, and managing genuine business relationships and the session challenged each of us to build more meaningful relations not just with each other, but also with colleagues and partners associated with our work lives. Day two of the retreat focused on the committee action plans and adopting the budget for FY17. Our committees have great things in store for this next year and I encourage you to check out their action plans on the AAED website (click here). Each of the committees are focused on supporting one or more of AAED’s pillars, and I would like to encourage you to learn more about how you can get involved and receive the full benefit of membership in AAED.  Every committee has room at the table for more members. 

To further strengthen the organization, the Board of Directors approved the creation of three task forces for FY17 that will focus on creating a scholarship program, engaging young professionals and students, and revenue enhancement and committee alignment.  Mary Wolf Francis has volunteered to head up the scholarship task force which is charged with delivering possible annual funding strategies for a scholarship fund, with an appropriate fund amount, and creating a scholarship application and evaluation process. Shannon Simon will lead young professional/student engagement task force focused on identifying creative ways to engage with current young professionals in the economic development field, encouraging increased participation in AAED, and connecting with Arizona’s college and university programs that best align with Economic Development. Lastly, Kim Shapiro will tackle revenue enhancement and committee alignment. This task force will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of all association dues, fees and sponsorships and evaluate the mission and action plans of each AAED committee to identify duplication and/or opportunities for alignment. Based on the findings, recommendations will be presented to the Board for possible adoption. Each task force is just getting underway and could use your support! I encourage you to reach out to the chairs to learn more and volunteer your time.

This year I also intend to work with our leadership on increasing member engagement, with the goal of reaching out to the economic development related professionals in every AZ community to demonstrate the value of AAED to them. My first meaningful engagement in AAED came when Dan Henderson, now my boss, but then the Chair of the AZ Business Retention & Expansion Committee, called me while I was working in Flagstaff and invited me to join the committee. That one phone call ended up having a major impact in my life, and in part brought me to where I am today.  I know we can all have that same impact on others. I hope you will join me in supporting our members across the state by attending the many regional events we have planned this year like the Fall Forum, rural roundtables, educational symposiums, Academy classes, and luncheons. A complete list of all AAED events can be found on the website,

Thank you for making the first three months so rewarding and I am looking forward to continuing our work together. I hope to see you soon at an upcoming AAED event!

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