Business leaders honored by Arizona Hispanic Chamber for positive impact on community

Arizonans who have had a significant impact on economic development and social progress in the state were named winners of the annual 2020 Black & White Ball and Business Awards from the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (AHCC). 

Four individuals and one company were honored for their long service and contributions to Arizona and the Latino community at the chamber’s 62nd Business Awards last Friday. Cox Communications was the prime sponsor and presenter.  

This year, the event was held during the AHCC’s new virtual Leadership Conference to Address Diversity & Inclusion. Due to COVID-19, the Black & White Ball — the state’s longest running formal gala — had to be rescheduled to next year.  

“It is times like this, that our resilience is tested most. The event takes on new meaning this year as we hear firsthand how these exceptional individuals from our community are leading their organizations through these uncertain times, emerging stronger and more successful,” said Monica Villalobos, CEO and president of the chamber. 

The 2020 winners are:

Man of the Year Award David Adame, president and CEO of Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC), has helped build the nonprofit into one of the largest Hispanic community development corporations in the U.S. He has led its expansive growth in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. 

David Adame

CPLC, which was founded in 1969 to confront discrimination against Mexican-American students in Phoenix, today provides services to help almost 380,000 people access healthcare, affordable housing, a quality education, political representation, and more.

Adame, who was born and raised just south of downtown Phoenix, got his first professional start at CPLC as the director of economic development in 1985. Along the way, he also has crafted a career in business, including extensive experience in real estate and development projects. Among his former positions are vice president of Arizona operations for McCormack Baron & Salazar and senior deputy director of Fannie Mae’s Arizona Partnership Office. 

Over the decades, Adame has served on too many boards to mention, including the Greater Phoenix Economic Council; the AARP Foundation; the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders; the Arizona-Mexico Commission; the Maricopa

Community Colleges Foundation; Unidos US; and Community Reinvestment Fund USA. 

Adame is the recipient of numerous honors, as well, including the Individual Hero of Education Award by Maricopa Community Colleges and the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arizona Asian Chamber of Commerce.

Woman of the Year Maria Lacal is the first female chief nuclear officer at Arizona Public Service’s Palo Verde Generating Station, one of the world’s largest producers of carbon-free energy. Lacal, who was promoted to the position last year, is only the second woman in the U.S. to hold such a title.  

Maria Lacal

Lacal joined APS in 2007 as director of strategic projects. Today, she is responsible for all nuclear-related activities associated with the power plant, the nuclear assurance division, and employee concerns and safety culture programs.

Lacal’s long record of community service includes as chairman of the Academy Council for the National Academy for Nuclear Training; and member of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations Executive Advisory Group; the University of Arizona’s Eller School of Business National Board of Advisors; and U.S. Women in Nuclear Executive Advisory Council.

Entrepreneur of the Year Omar Alvarez’ desire to create economic opportunity coupled with his love of a particular torta shop in his family’s homeland of Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico, inspired him to go into the restaurant business in Arizona. Today, Alvarez operates popular and growing culinary concepts in the Phoenix metro area: Tortas Paquime, Paquime Street Food of Mexico and Pa’La Wood Fired Cooking.

Omar Alvarez

In 2002, Omar opened Tortas Paquime #1 with a few employees to bring a taste of Mexico to an emerging market. Today, TPQ Foods operates eight locations with 3 distinct concepts and a central commissary, which employ more than 100 employees.

Through it all, Alvarez said he focuses on three principles: hard work, collaboration and quality. Among his restaurant musts? A professional staff, top customer service, spotless dining areas and consistency in a “mom and pop” environment. 

Alvarez’ also supports multiple local non-profit organizations and hosts annual holiday parties to provide food, gifts and toys to children and families; sponsors local school events; and provides scholarships to students. 

Legacy Award Sharon Harper is the longtime chairman, CEO and co-founder of Plaza Companies, overseeing all facets of operations, including the ownership, development, leasing or management of nearly 12 million square feet of Arizona medical office properties, senior living facilities and bioscience/biotechnology centers.

Sharon Harper

With Harper at the helm, Plaza Companies has emerged as an industry leader, setting a national standard of excellence for an impressive lineup of award-winning facilities.

In addition to her business acumen, Harper has decades of community service in Arizona. To name just a few of her current and former positions: vice chairman of Trustees of ASU; trustee of McCain Institute for International Leadership; trustee of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust; board member of TGen; past chair of Greater Phoenix Economic Council and Greater Phoenix Leadership; and chair of the Banner Health Foundation.

Among her many accolades are NAIOP’s 2019 Award of Excellence; 2019 Leader of the Year in Public Policy for the Economy; 2019 Inés Pascal Award for Generous Service by Brophy College Preparatory Academy: 2019 Induction into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame; and 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from Phoenix Theatre.

Corporation of the Year Award The American Automobile Association in the Grand Canyon region also was recognized for its community involvement under Regional Vice President Tiger Lapira. 

In his role, Lapira has been the executive sponsor for the Business Resource Group, E.X.C.E.L (Excellence in Cultural Engagement & Leadership), and the Grand Canyon Region is host to the Business Resource Group, Unidos.

AHCC helping businesses grow 

Founded in 1948, the AZHCC has been playing an important role in the state’s business community for over 70 years by promoting economic development, entrepreneurship, and representing the interests of the state’s more than 125,000 Hispanic-owned businesses and more than 2 million Hispanic consumers statewide.

Along with workshops, seminars, public forums and business networking activities, the chamber operates Arizona’s only federally funded Minority Business Development Agency Center, which provides access to contracts and capital for mid-sized companies in the state. 

The AZHCC also operates the NABEDC center serving American Indian, Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiians in Arizona, Utah and Nevada.

For more information, go to AHCC

Victoria Harker

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