The ACA executive management team consists of seasoned executives bringing together the best in economic development, management and communications. Each individual brings an unrivaled background, talent and skill set that, when combined, perfectly positions the ACA to usher in this new era of economic development — the passionate pursuit of business, the creation of jobs and the stimulation of the economy to benefit all of Arizona. The Arizona Commerce Authority’s executive team carries forth the ACA’s mission locally, nationally and globally.
ACA Executive Management Team
President & CEO
Sandra Watson brings more than 20 years of economic development leadership and experience to Arizona. She and her teams have successfully attracted to Arizona hundreds of companies that have invested billions of dollars in capital and created more than 75,000 quality jobs.
In her 17 years with the Arizona Department of Commerce, and now the Arizona Commerce Authority, Ms. Watson served in multiple positions with increasing responsibilities and results. She has led Business Development, Business Attraction, Workforce and Marketing. She has also served as Director of Innovation and Technology, and she continues to be a leading participant in these sectors.
Ms. Watson began her career in Canada and brings not only a wealth of knowledge on the regional, state and national levels but can execute effectively on an international scale.
Ms. Watson is a collaborative leader who excels in strategic thinking and relationship building. She worked tirelessly as a leader to implement the exciting new vision for the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), providing invaluable energy and stability during the transition from the Department of Commerce. Her leadership and strong relationships with Arizona’s Governor and legislators has resulted in consensus in creating the ACA as well as the establishment of its aggressive business plan the organization is currently executing.
Sandra Watson earned an Honors Bachelor of Commerce Degree, and she has completed the Global Leadership Certification Program at the Thunderbird School of Management. In addition to sitting on numerous regional and statewide Boards of Directors, Ms. Watson serves on the National State Science and Technology Institute Board.
In 2013, AzBusiness magazine recognized Ms. Watson as one of the “50 Most Influential Women in Airzona Business.” In 2012, the Phoenix Business Journal recognized Ms. Watson among the “Top 25 Women in Business.” In 2004, the Phoenix Business Journal also recognized Ms. Watson as an up-and-coming Arizona leader, with its “Forty Under 40” designation. Ms. Watson is also a two-time recipient of the Arizona Technology Council Chairman’s Award – 2004 and 2010.
Chief Operating Officer/General Counsel
Greg Linaman has worked as an attorney in the Phoenix area since 1999, practicing primarily in the areas of real estate finance, real estate development and general commercial law. In that capacity, Mr. Linaman assisted many Arizona entrepreneurs create business entities, obtain governmental approvals and entitlements, secure project financing and close deals. He successfully represented many of Arizona’s top developers and homebuilders in a wide variety of venues including trial court, planning and zoning commissions, city and town councils, county boards of supervisors and private transactions. He also served for four years as Vice President of Development for a Scottsdale multi-family developer, where he was responsible for financing, budgeting and managing several $20 to $40 million development projects.
Mr. Linaman’s experience has been tapped by other attorneys for continuing education as he has lectured on various real estate topics in Maricopa County. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration at the University of Arizona and graduated with honors from the Arizona State University College of Law in 1999.
Chief Financial Officer
Wayne Holder brings more than 21 years of experience in the field of finance and accounting, holding executive-level positions with both publicly and privately held companies. Mr. Holder has extensive experience in operational and financial controls, Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance, business modeling and investment decision making. Prior to joining the ACA, Mr. Holder was the Chief Financial Officer for Arizona Land Group, LLC, a privately held commercial real estate development company with operations in Arizona, California and Utah. He was responsible for the financial reporting, investment decision making policy, financial policy oversight and Information Technology for this multi-investor entity. Mr. Holder also oversaw debt structuring and tax and compliance reporting for both the parent company and its subsidiaries. Prior, Mr. Holder was the controller for the Arizona Division of Centex Homes. He managed the financial reporting and fiscal performance of a land acquisition and development asset base in excess of $450 million dollars. Prior career experience also includes all aspects of financial and day-to-day operations at Bermuda Run C.C. in Winston-Salem, NC and at Desert Highlands C.C. in Scottsdale.
Mr. Holder holds an MBA in Finance from the Keller Graduate School of Management, a Masters in Accounting and Financial Management from the Keller Graduate School of Management, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant in Arizona.
Senior Vice-President, Business Development
Brian Sherman has dedicated more than a decade of professional work to creating and building a support system for Arizona technology entrepreneurs in a variety of positions at a regional technology non-profit, a major research university and state and local government. His work is focused on technology-based economic development, including entrepreneurship, early stage capital formation, technology commercialization, and innovation in public policy and finance.
Mr. Sherman has an MBA from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
Senior Vice-President, Business Attraction
Kevin Sullivan brings more than 23 years’ experience to the Arizona Commerce Authority. He has spent his career leading and supporting high-performance sales teams primarily within the high technology industry. His experience with both startup (DirecTV, Accrue Software & Good Technology) and large, established global companies in Silicon Valley (SGI, Aspect Communications & Adobe) has provided a wide array of knowledge, which he utilizes to lead the ACA’s business attraction efforts.
Mr. Sullivan is a results-driven executive with solid operations management and leadership experience, facilitating strong cross-functional relationships across sales, marketing, finance and legal teams. He consistently builds, motivates and leads teams that have been recognized for their focus on client satisfaction and on the ability to achieve aggressive sales and financial objectives. Mr. Sullivan exhibits a strong record of increasing corporate productivity and achieving results.
Mr. Sullivan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Saint Mary’s College and Juris Doctor from Washburn University.
Senior Vice-President, Economic/Rural Development
Keith Watkins is a third generation Arizona native, bringing 25 years of experience in economic development and real estate to the Arizona Commerce Authority. He played a key role in the startup and formative years of GPEC, serving as its Vice President of Corporate Locations, as well as the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore. Mr. Watkins also served as the Economic Development and Aviation Director with the Town of Buckeye.
Mr. Watkins played a pivotal role in recruiting and retaining some of the Phoenix area’s most prominent employers. Among them: Vanguard Mutual Funds, Henkel (formerly the Dial Corp), Midwestern University, Wal-Mart Distribution Center, Wells Fargo Call Center, Bank of America Call Center, Avnet, Sumitomo Sitix, American Express and Charles Schwab, Catholic Healthcare West, Discover Card, Wells Cargo Trailers and St. Jude Medical. His real estate background includes land development and brokerage.
Mr. Watkins is a graduate of the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science degree in Regional Development.
Vice-President, Strategic Initiatives
Following 15 years of producing and managing award-winning television news, David Drennon joined the Arizona Department of Commerce in May 2005 to lead the agency’s communication and public outreach activities. Currently, as the Vice President for Strategic Initiatives for the Arizona Commerce Authority, he continues his efforts to promote the state of Arizona and its leadership in statewide business and economic development through targeted national and international missions marketing Arizona’s vibrant climate and global competitiveness.
Through his role and unique contacts across the state and nation, Mr. Drennon serves as a convener and connector for businesses and government. He has championed outreach efforts to Arizona’s rural communities through various workshops, listening sessions, community town halls and the annual Governor’s Statewide (previously Rural and Regional) Development Conference. Mr. Drennon has been a contributor to TechConnect magazine and served as interim-editor in 2006. In addition, he has provided countless articles for statewide and national newsletters and publications promoting economic development in Arizona.
Mr. Drennon’s broadcast career began in his hometown of Sacramento,California. He went on to successfully manage newsrooms in Santa Barbara,California and Phoenix, Arizona.
Mr. Drennon currently serves on the boards of Arizona Association for Economic Development, Arizona Autism United and Phoenix Theatre and is an active member of the Arizona Bioscience Roadmap Committee (PR & Communications).
Senior Vice-President, Communications & Marketing
Nicole McTheny has been in the public affairs, marketing and corporate communications industry for more than 16 years.
Throughout her career, she has anchored and reported for television news programs in major markets, covering in-depth, national-scale stories throughout the country, including the inauguration of President George W. Bush. In her years in corporate communications, Ms. McTheny has planned and executed public relations, marketing and corporate affairs programs for local and national clients, managed marketing and communications initiatives for a Virginia-based regional economic development agency, and served as the spokeswoman and media liaison for a major commercial real estate developer in Phoenix.
As public relations director for The Ellman Companies, Ms. McTheny positioned all corporate-level marketing, media and communications messages for high-profile projects located throughout North America and served as the company’s corporate spokeswoman. She brings broad economic development experience to the ACA, serving as the marketing communications director for the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance (HREDA) in Virginia, where she worked closely with the business attraction team, media and company stakeholders.
Ms. McTheny graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas State University, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications, emphasis in broadcast journalism.
Senior Vice-President, Strategic Planning/ Infrastructure
Marisa Walker began her professional career at the University of Arizona, where for more than a decade she held positions that advised the University’s Associate Vice President for Economic Development on Arizona-Mexico and NAFTA issues; analyzed border economic development opportunities and competitive advantages; and organized forums and symposiums on trilateral collaborations among academic institutions in Canada and Mexico in the areas of university research parks, agricultural biosciences and optical sciences-photonics. She has authored several reports on subjects including cross border economic integration and development; targeted industry assessments of Arizona’s Bioscience and Software Industries; and women entrepreneurship and business ownership in the state.
Ms. Walker also served as the Executive Director for the Arizona Governor’s CANAMEX Task Force where she was responsible for managing projects and priorities regarding transportation and telecommunication infrastructure; technology and process enhancements for cross border shipments; and international trade policy.
Currently, Ms. Walker leverages the relationship between economic development strategies and infrastructure assets/investments. Key areas include the CANAMEX Corridor, the recently designated 1-11, multimodal logistic centers, and Arizona’s international gateways – notably along the Arizona/Mexico border.