Speakers Bio

Grand Canyon Brewery

John Peasley, Business Owner

In 2003 retired Navy veteran John Peasley returned to his childhood vacation area, Williams, Arizona. There, he purchased his first business White Horse Trading Post and Cruisers Route 66 Café cruisers66.com. Then, in 2007, Peasley decided to start brewing up his own liquid gold and founded the Grand Canyon Brewing Company. His goal was to create a brand that paid homage to the breathtaking landscape and the adventurous lifestyle of living in Williams, Arizona. With one of the few natural wonders of the world located right in his backyard, the Grand Canyon, he set his sights on capturing its majestic beauty through the Grand Canyon Brewing Company.

Today, the brand is called Grand Canyon Brewing + Distillery as production of beer and spirits continues to increase with the addition of ready to drink cocktails. We opened the doors of our third location In March 2022, transforming the original Page firehouse to brewhouse! 

Better Business Bureau

Marilyn Mott, Director of Community Outreach, Northern AZ

In her role for Better Business Bureau Serving Pacific Southwest and the Capital Access Manager for the Northern AZ Kiva Hub, Marilyn serves as the face of BBB and key liaison to the Northern Arizona communities in Apache, Coconino, Gila, Navajo and Yavapai counties. She provides valuable resources to the community through educational presentations, strategic partnerships and local initiatives. Helping launch the new Northern AZ Kiva Hub, Marilyn works to provide micro loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs unable to access traditional capital. She believes small businesses are the heartbeat of our community, and creating connections with people, supporting them, will help ensure we continue to thrive.

A Phoenix native, Marilyn fulfilled a lifelong dream and moved to Prescott in 2014. She and her husband dove headfirst into the local music scene, and also enjoy the beauty the area has to offer by kayaking, hiking, and supporting the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary, where they know the names of most of the animals in residence. On the weekends you can find her working at their CBD store in Prescott Valley, at church, on the side of a mountain somewhere, playing docent at the zoo for visiting family and friends, or behind a piano and microphone, on stage, performing.

Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity

Robert Garcia, Business Strategist on the Arizona OEO Workforce Team

Robert Garcia, an Arizona native, serves as a Business Strategist at the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity Workforce Team. Prior to this position, Robert worked in Neighborhood Services with the City of Phoenix, Global Security at Amazon, Nuclear Support Services at the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant, and Civil Affairs at the United States Marine Corps.

In addition to his work, Robert was appointed by the Arizona Governor’s Office to serve on the Arizona Civil rights board and the pre-9/11 MERF board, and appointed by the Mayor of Goodyear to serve on the City of Goodyear’s Board of Adjustment. In addition to Robert’s official appointments, he voluntarily serves with the Arizona Veterans Council, Honoring Americas Veterans, I Rise, SHRM Veterans at Work, West Valley Defense Alliance, and the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. Robert works in a supporting role for the Workforce Arizona Council and is an elected school board member at WEST-MEC.   

Robert successfully completed numerous military courses throughout his 22-year career, earned a graduate certificate in Public Management from Northern Arizona University, a bachelor’s Degree in business management, an undergraduate certificate in project management, and an associate’s degree in business, as well as multiple courses and school while in the United States Marine Corps.       

Marketing/Social Media Panel

Jackelyne Aguirre, Social Media Specialist

Jackelyne Aguirre is the Social Media Specialist for the City of Page. She is responsible for the social media posts you see on Visit Page Lake Powell, City of Page, and Lake Powell National Golf Course. She has lived in Page for 20 years and received a certificate for Digital Media Design from Dixie Applied Technical College in Saint George, Utah. She is Adobe Certified in Photoshop and has 8 years of experience using other Adobe programs. She has experience working on various projects for the city, ranging from designing flyers to creating visitor information guides.

Robert Knowlton, District Manager for Aramark Destinations

Robert Knowlton has lived in and around the Page area since 2010 starting his career at Wahweap Boat Rentals with Aramark.  I graduated from Southern Utah University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Resort Management.  Robert has a true passion for hospitality, guest service and business in general.  He loves the outdoors including, hiking, rafting, mountain biking.  He appreciates the culture, geology, and geography of this area of the country.

Arizona Commerce Authority Small Business

Robert Theobald, Small Business Ombudsman and Vice President of Small Business

Robert Theobald has over 20 years’ experience in Human Resource, Operations and Multi-unit Management. Throughout his career he has helped his teams succeed through training and development. Robert is experienced in Operations, Human Resources, and Training and Development. Robert team runs the ACA Small Business Bootcamp webinar and workshop series that brings expert education opportunities to small businesses across Arizona.  Robert enjoys international business and has worked or studied in Spain, Argentina, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Robert has worked in Big Box Retail, Small Box Retail, Specialty Retail, and with franchise business owners. He holds a B.A. Spanish from Brigham Young University and an MBA from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Serving as the Small Business Ombudsman and Vice President of Small Business Services for the Arizona Commerce Authority, Robert works diligently to help small businesses be successful throughout the state. Outside of his normal workday, Robert is a photographer/freelance journalist, having been published in various magazines and websites.

Encompass Human Resources

Joey Smith, PHR – Human Resources Director

Joey Smith is currently the HR Director at Encompass Health Services, A Program of Community Bridges, Inc.  where he has been since January 2022.  He has been an HR director for nearly 9 years in industries including behavioral health, public education and hospitality.  He is certified as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI).  He undergraduate degrees in psychology and criminal justice from Arizona State University and will be completing his master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology this April. 

Arizona Film & Digital Media

Matthew Earl Jones, Director of Arizona Film & Digital Media Program

Matthew Earl Jones is the Director of Arizona Commerce Authority’s Film & Digital Media Program. Jones has worked on both sides of the camera in film, television and commercials, as well as in the music industry. Matthew has more than 33 years of production experience in the Japanese, New York, Los Angeles, and Phoenix markets. Recent credits include: Line Producer on Indie Feature “Manifest Destiny Down” (Los Angeles), APOC (Arizona) on “Furious 7”, and Celebrity judge for Arizona Idol, FOX TV (Phoenix). He has also produced more than 50 national and international television commercials, including ones starring Queen Latifah, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ray Charles. Past clients include: Bandai America, Castrol, Chevrolet, Home Depot, Honda, Lipton, McDonald’s, Nissan, Nissin Foods, Nivea, PacBell Wireless, Porsche, Raytheon, Subaru, Suntory, Toyota, Yamaha, and Ziploc. Raised in New Canaan, Connecticut, Matthew graduated Dartmouth College and for the first years of his career worked in the fields of advertising for BBD&O advertising agency, and brand management for American Home Products Corporation in New York City. Matthew is the son of pioneering actor Robert Earl Jones and half-brother of legendary actor James Earl Jones.

Ramsay Wharton, Program Manager of Arizona Film & Digital Media Program

Ramsay Wharton is the Program Manager for the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Film & Digital Media Program. A veteran of the entertainment industry, she served the people of Hawaii for nearly 20 years as a broadcast television and radio journalist. Most recently, Ramsay was the Early Edition Anchor and Live Reporter for Hawaii’s CBS/NBC Emmy Award-winning morning news show, “Sunrise on Hawaii News Now.” She understands the dynamics of the film and creative industries and has had speaking and background roles on CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0” and “Lost.” Ramsay understands the world of media, communications, and business. Ramsay is a small business owner herself, the founding partner of the production company, Blue Wave Media Hawaii, LLC, which launched HawaiiOnTheMove.com, Hawaii’s Premiere Online Video Travel Magazine. She also operates Ramsay Wharton Productions, LLC which focuses on voice-over, publishing, and podcasting productions. Ramsay received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, and a Master of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism & Public Affairs from American University in Washington, D.C. When Ramsay moved to Arizona in December 2016 she brought with her a wealth of knowledge and a passion to grow the creative industries in the Grand Canyon State. She believes the captivating beauty of Arizona’s desert with diverse locations and climates is equally as alluring as the beauty of her former home in the islands.

Arizona Department of Revenue

J Daren Sweet, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Department of Revenue

J Daren Sweet has worked as an Outreach Coordinator for the Department of Revenue for almost 2 years. He currently teaches tax based classes for the department. Daren has worked for the state for almost 8 years holding positions with the Department of Emergency Military Affairs and with the Department of Economic Security. Prior to working for the state he spent 24 years in the Air Force. Daren is also a Grand Canyon University graduate. His goal is to fulfill the Arizona Department of Revenue’s mission; which is to serve Taxpayers!

Felecia Najera, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Department of Revenue

Felecia Najera is a Community Outreach Coordinator within the Arizona Department of Revenue’s Education and Compliance Division. She serves as one of the primary workshop facilitators for all virtual and in-person workshops offered by the Department. She also serves as the liaison between those in the marijuana industry and the Department. Felecia has a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies from Arizona State University.  Prior to joining the department, Felecia worked in retail customer service as well as event planning.

Local First Arizona

Kimber Lanning, Executive Director

Kimber Lanning is an entrepreneur, business leader and community development specialist who works to cultivate strong, self-reliant communities and inspire a higher quality of life for people across Arizona. Lanning is the founder and executive director of Local First Arizona Foundation, a statewide organization focused on creating a diverse and inclusive Arizona economy. LFAF is leading the nation in implementing systems and policies to ensure a level playing field for entrepreneurial endeavors and communities of all sizes.

LFAF programs include increasing healthy local food production and access, growing entrepreneurial development in underserved communities, and expanding rural community development – each of which plays a part in building sustainable and resilient local economies. Lanning is also the founder of Local First Arizona, the largest advocacy organization for independently owned businesses in North America.

Lanning has received national numerous awards for her diverse work and extensive leadership and speaks regularly around the country. Her work in promoting adaptive reuse in Phoenix’s urban core was recognized by the American Planning Association, who presented Lanning with the Distinguished Citizen Planner Award in 2013. She has also been named one of the “50 Most Influential Women in Arizona” (Arizona Business Magazine, 2011), was the recipient of the Athena Award by the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce in 2013, and was named Citizen Leader of the Year from the International Economic Development Council.

Jenna Rowell, Director of Rural Development

An Arizona native, Jenna now leads Rural Development for Local First Arizona. Local First is the largest coalition of locally owned businesses in North America and the federally designated Arizona Rural

Development Council. Jenna joined Local First in 2022 after a 25-year communications and community relations career in Arizona and Texas for the copper mining, aerospace, energy and utility industries. Her current role includes rural workforce development, community development, and the Arizona Economic Recovery Center, which helps rural communities, tribes and nonprofits compete for grants and supports successful implementation of the projects they fund. As the Rural Development Council, Local First also organizes Arizona’s annual Rural Policy Forum, held in a different rural community each year.

Jenna grew up in the rural community of Cottonwood, Ariz., where her family ran a local restaurant for several years, graduated from Northern Arizona University, and has an MBA from the University of Houston. Jenna completed the Tempe Leadership program and chaired the boards of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce and the Phoenix chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. She also received an Unsung Hero Award for her work with Junior Achievement in inner-city Houston schools.

Rafael Tapia, Director of Tribal Community Connections

Rafael F. Tapia, Jr., a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, is the Director of Tribal Community Connections at Local First Arizona. Rafael has over 20 years of economic, workforce and community development experience. Before joining Local First, he was the Vice President of Programs for Partnership with Native Americans, a national non-profit organization serving 60 reservations in 12 states. Services were administered through partnerships with approximately 1,000 community-based tribal partners impacting 250,000 Native American citizens in the Southwest and Northern Plains. Early in his career he dedicated over a decade to addictions and alcohol behavioral health, social, and residential treatment services.

Rafael is currently a Mentor in Residence at Native FORGE at the University of Arizona, an expansion project focused on Arizona Tribal economies and entrepreneurship initiatives. His experience includes serving as the senior advisor to the office of the chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Arizona Department of Commerce Tribal Liaison to the 22 Arizona Indian Tribes, business development consultant and small business owner. Rafael has an MBA from the University of Arizona and an Economic Develop Certificate from the University of Oklahoma.