Economic Club of Phoenix speaker series kicks off

ECONOMIC MINDS: The Economic Club of Phoenix kicked off its speaker series Tuesday night at the law offices of Snell and Wilmer in downtown Phoenix with Dan Harkins, the owner and CEO of Harkins Theatres. (Photo by Lillian Reid)

ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business kicked off its Economic Club of Phoenix speaker series and celebrated its history Tuesday in downtown Phoenix.

The ECP is a speaker series that was started in 1985 by a group of prominent executives called the Dean’s Council of 100 and in conjunction with ASU’s College of Business.

The event, hosted by the Snell & Wilmer law firm at One Arizona Center, was crowded with business people from various companies and featured speakers Dan Harkins of Harkins Theaters and Fox Restaurant Concepts President Russell Owens.

“The Economic club of Phoenix is here to reach out to the community,” ECP Director of Development Erin Varga said.

The speaker series events are held at various Valley resorts and are open to guests for a $75 luncheon fee with excessive funds used to support student scholarships and faculty research at the W.P. Carey school.

The ECP consistently features an array of prominent local and national business CEO’s, presidents and chairman. Featuring the likes of Steve Forbes, Michael Dell, Craig Barrett and J.W. Marriott, the ECP has developed into the premiere forum for pioneering ideas on business and the economy.

“I walk away from every luncheon having learned something new that I can take to my clients,” said Rob Royal, ECP president and Attorney at Law for Tiffany & Bosco.

This years ECP speaker series will include Chris Cookson, president of Sony Pictures Technologies, Doug Parker, chairman and chief executive officer of US Airways, and Curtis Frasier, executive vice president of Americas Shell Gas & Power.

Arizona developed into a prime destination for business relocation because of its pleasant weather and attractive business climate where wages for key industry occupations average less than competitor markets, according to the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

“Arizona’s weather is a real factor in its economic growth,” marketing senior Josh Bowman said.  “With growth comes more growth.”

Russell Owens, president of Fox Restaurant Concepts, a group of boutique restaurants across the country, spoke about what it takes to synchronize culture and appeal with profitability.

“Phoenix is the second worst market for restaurants,” Owens said. “The secret for the restaurant business is art and science; the good restaurant knows how to combine both.”

Russell, formally the president of Pei Wei Asian Diner, successfully expanded his business from two restaurants to more than 155.

Harkins Theaters first opened in 1933 and will celebrate its 78th anniversary on Thursday. Dan Harkins spoke about the business’ longevity and keeping it alive even on the brink of bankruptcy.

“A theater is the only place where you can go and escape,” Harkins said. “Knowing that, we thrive during trying time because we are the most affordable form of entertainment; we focus on offering amenities that our customers appreciate.”

Reach the reporter at ealopez7@asu.edu

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