Cheap Shots 04-19-1989

Open wide, Phoenix. Here comes another dose of reality. A major cheerleader behind the splashy, optimistic ad in the April 24 FORTUNE that portrays our city as a vibrant business "hub of the Southwest" has taken a nasty spill. Valley real-estater BILL BLISS couldn't make his payments for the SUN VALLEY road to nowhere, so his WHITE TANK PARTNERS filed bankruptcy papers late last month on its huge tract of more than 4,100 acres. The reason? Bliss and other landowners in the empty 48,000-acre development west of the White Tank Mountains and north of Buckeye (and only five hours from L.A.) still are paying off bonds to build the beautiful parkway that cuts through it. In Bliss' case, that means about $600,000 a year, and he ain't got it. "There's no money out there," he tells us. "The banks, they're all in trouble, and nobody can lend any money." Outside investment is the key, he adds. (Our readers in Japan and Saudi Arabia, please take note.)

Last November, even before the BARRON'S doom-and-gloom story, Bliss helped create the million-dollar Greater Phoenix Image Campaign (funded in part by recently bankrupt CHARLES KEATING) that produced the ad on page 46 of the latest Fortune. (Turn to page 165 in the same issue for a look at the "unlimited opportunity" in Sun Valley.) The personable Bliss, who has other irons in the fire, remains optimistic. He does have two million bucks sunk into this deal and he does see the irony (he and his firm put $8,500 into the Fortune Phoenix ad), but he says it just means that shoring up the Phoenix image is needed more now than ever. "There's not a lot of public confidence out there," he says, "and I think that's got to be re-instilled and it's got to come from within." But it's a waste of time, argues JONATHAN LAING, who penned last December's Phoenix- is-bust story for Barron's. "They can keep running those ads and looking at Chapter 11's mounting," he says, adding, "Send my love to all the people in Maricopa County. Tell 'em Wall Street's voting with its feet now." . . .

What does TERRY GODDARD's personal life have to do with Phoenix's staggering economy? Glad you asked. Former Goddard companion TRISH JOHNSON was canned as Keating's chief flack only four days before the semi-mogul flopped into bankruptcy court last week. But business is good for current mayoral companion BROOKE NEWELL. She transplanted here from New York City as a "career-transition consultant," i.e., someone who helps ease the pain of layoffs by bringing in counselors and job-finders. The firm she works for, MAINSTREAM ACCESS INC., set up a Phoenix office last year, and she's already helped ARIZONA PUBLIC SERVICE and R&G publisher PHOENIX NEWSPAPERS INC. through their "reductions in force." "Professionally," Newell tells us, "it's a challenging and exciting market. . . . And, of course, I'm here with Terry."

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Ward Harkavy
Contact: Ward Harkavy