Director IT Business Consulting, Scottsdale Insurance Company
The Class 26 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s core program. The program informs, inspires and empowers leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community.
This is the toughest blog assignment I’ve had for Class 26. The sheer volume of content we were exposed to during the day alone makes for a tough summarization job. But it was more than going to a bunch of cool places and meeting interesting people, there was a thread of the Scottsdale story throughout the day. I’ll see if I can do it justice and try to tell that story.
The much hyped Buss Tour Day lived up to its billing. Hats off to David Valencia and Kelly Tope for putting together an action packed day that told a great story of the history of Scottsdale and who we are now.
Starting the day on top of the Waterfront Tower we listened to Joan Fudula, Scottsdale historian, telling us the early history of Scottsdale while we drank in a sweeping view bathed in the early day sun. While we were a little bit windblown and chilled – it was a perfect way to frame the day. Seeing the vision of modern Scottsdale while hearing about the vision of our early Scottsdalians wrote the first and last chapters of the day’s story. The rest of the story was written as we toured Old Town, the Talking Stick Resort, Liberty Wildlife, West World, DC Ranch, Los Cedros, Taliesin West, and Yelp. (Yes, we did this all in one day and on schedule – are you impressed with Kelly and David now?)
As we walked around Old Town and to the Little Red School House the roots of our city emerged literally below our feet. Agriculture was the foundation of Scottsdale starting with the Hohokam inhabitance of the valley and later Winfield Scott establishing an agricultural community. When visiting the Talking Stick resort I was struck at the juxtaposition of a gorgeous resort overlooking the desert and farm fields where a lone tractor working the field left a trail of dust lingering in the air. It perfectly symbolized how Native Americans once pushed inside arbitrary boundaries and hired as hands are now thriving by driving the tourism economy and sustaining the area’s appetite for luxury.
We saw modern Scottsdale foreshadowed in the stories about those who first created the city. Winfield Scott not only worked a ranch and recruited people to come live in Scottsdale; he also started a tradition of tourism by hosting people on his property so they could rejuvenate. Fast forward to today and you see that tradition sustained from early guest ranches, through mid century hotels such as the Hotel Valley Ho and Safari, then on to the resorts we all enjoy so much today. During the mid century Scottsdale’s personality of arts and fashion emerges. We saw pictures of a mid century fashion show put on in the dusty streets and heard about the early craft studio that is now surrounded by the Arts District.
Our visit to Taliesin West provided another reminder of how ingrained the arts are in our city’s personality. It was a privilege to learn from Arnold Roy, a man who may well have literally walked in the shoes of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Scottsdale’s identity is formed by just being “out West” and among the Sonoran desert. We saw how that thread of being the west’s most western town continues to drive our economy and form our personality at West World and Los Cedros. Of course our signature horse show is nothing short of the romantic and exclusive Arabian horse. And Los Cedros houses those horses alongside an accurate reproduction of a Moroccan throne room with imported tapestries, rugs, furnishings and architectural features fit for a king. How Scottsdale.
Today we value our Sonoran desert and nurture that resource. Liberty Wildlife exemplifies that passion. It provides an outlet for people to care for injured wildlife and helps out our feathered neighbors in this great place. I imagine there are a lot of Scottsdalians in the volunteer pool there. We heard too how DC Ranch supports the McDowell Sonoran Preserve knowing that it provides their version of beachfront property and that DC residents value their unique geography.
Somewhere in this whirlwind several people from the class shared their personal histories and ties to Scottsdale. What a nice treat to learn more about your friends while learning about the area.
Finally our last stop – the Yelp office. You could feel the energy in the office. The office was all about sales and the Yelp IPO was earlier that day. I was trying to figure out how that fits into our story. Then as we were sitting listening to the old-timer director of the office who has five years in with the company, which is almost as long as the company has been around, I got it. This is Scottsdale in the new economy. Scottsdale is supporting a thriving business with an entrepreneurial spirit, independence and rapid growth I’m sure Winfield Scott would have recognized.
There was so much more to this story and the bus tour day. But I hope you can see what we did. We saw a vibrant, modern city that is still in touch with its roots.