Four Arizona Legislators Recognized as Champions of Innovation

The Partnership for Economic Innovation (PEI), a passionate collective of business and community leaders dedicated to accelerating Arizona’s economic opportunities, announced the winners of its inaugural Arizona Champions of Innovation Awards. Senator Christine Marsh, Senator T.J. Shope, Representative Justin Willmeth, and Representative Marcelino Quiñonez were recognized for their outstanding leadership and contributions to promoting innovation and strategic economic growth in Arizona.

“Each legislator that we are recognizing this year has made a significant impact on the lives of Arizonans, and we are proud to honor them with this award,” said John Graham, Chairman and CEO of Sunbelt Holdings and President of the Board for the Partnership for Economic Innovation. “We hope that their achievements will inspire others to follow in their footsteps and work towards creating a more innovative and prosperous Arizona.”

Winners of the AZ Champions of Innovation Awards were selected by a committee of PEI board members based on the criteria that each awardee demonstrated an understanding of Arizona’s innovation economy; showcased their commitment to growing innovation in Arizona; championed support for building world-class education institutions in Arizona; and demonstrated leadership for driving industry-led solutions that address challenges faced by Arizona businesses.

One example highlighted by PEI board members in the selection process was that for several years, some of these legislators have supported and approved a budget appropriation through the Arizona Commerce Authority to advance applied research in targeted industries. Through applied research, researchers and startups that want to validate and commercialize emerging technologies can more quickly get their innovative products to market and begin impacting lives.

“These legislators’ support of an innovation friendly environment and budget priorities is setting Arizona up for success that will make a significant impact on our quality of life for years to come,” said Wes Gullett, Director of Operations for the WearTech and Blockchain Applied Research Centers. “Their shared value of improving the economy through local Arizona businesses will create an ecosystem that supports the development of new ideas and technologies and helps entrepreneurs turn their visions into realities.”

The Partnership for Economic Innovation’s board of directors consists of some of the state’s most prominent business and policy leaders, including John Graham, President and CEO of Sunbelt Holdings; Chris Camacho, President and CEO of Greater Phoenix Economic Council; Chris Zaharis, Executive Vice President of Empire Southwest; Neil Giuliano, President and CEO of Greater Phoenix Leadership; Brad Jannenga, Founder and Executive Chairman of Chassi; Darcy Renfro, Vice Chancellor, Community, Government Relations, and Economic Development, Maricopa County Community College District; Paul Luna, President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation; Grace O’Sullivan, Vice President, Corporate Engagement and Strategic Partnerships, Arizona State University; and David Rousseau, President of Salt River Project. For more information about PEI and its work, visit