Silver Fern Companies of Phoenix AZ team and field staff


Silver Fern Companies is a full-service real estate consulting firm servicing the Valley’s leading land developers and homebuilders. Our comprehensive scope of development services offers you continuity throughout a project’s entire lifecycle. Our approach to project management is that we take ownership of the end result and mitigate the risk for the client. We start with the zoning process and deliver finished residential lots to landowners. Our entitlement and construction management personnel specialize in land development from small infill multi-family to large-scale master planned communities.


Our services include: – Due Diligence – Entitlement, Engineering Coordination – Dry Utility Design Coordination – Project Estimation & Value Engineering – Construction Management – Project Closeout – Property Inspections


Working with Silver Fern Companies allows an owner to gain an experienced land development team, removing the need to hire staff to complete a project. With Silver Fern’s combined 70 years’ experience in the Arizona land development industry we have the experience and foresight to identify and mitigate problems before they arise. From project conception through the design phase to final finished lots, we act as a direct extension of the owner, navigating the critical path to a successful on-time on-budget project delivery.


Stephen Ochoa, Principal of Silver Fern Companies and Otago Development

Stephen met John in the summer of 1998 while working as a grading contractor on a project John was managing. By that September, Stephen had joined the firm and has been an asset ever since. John’s mentoring and “tough older brother” type of affection led to a strong, enduring 20-year partnership, which Stephen credits in preparing him for this new role. “I am fortunate to have met John, as he helped mold me into the person I am today. From my first day on the job, we created a friendship, which turned into a mentorship and ended in a business partnership. I am blessed that I was able to share John’s last days with him. Fortini will be forever missed.” As Silver Fern Companies’ new leader, Stephen brings hands-on construction experience and strong oversight in providing cost-effective solutions to clients. His passion for demolition and construction started during his time spent in the United States Marine Corps. Stephen enlisted right out of high school and served with 1st Marine Combat Engineer Battalion stationed at Camp Pendleton, San Clemente, California. During his time, he served in “Operation Restore Hope” which allowed him to see a different kind of life in Mogadishu, Somalia. He credits the Marines for providing him the skillset to be an effective and dedicated leader. Prior to his Principal role for Silver Fern Companies and Otago Development, Stephen served in a variety of positions within the firms, including Vice President, Director of Construction and Project Manager. Today, Stephen focuses on business operations while overseeing all aspects of current and future projects. His solid, industry-honed experience ensures clients receive the best knowledge and foresight — ensuring projects are designed and constructed seamlessly.

John Nagel, Senior Vice President

John Nagel Silver Fern Land Development Manager

As Senior Vice President, John brings more than 20+ years of land development experience, including a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies and Urban Planning from The University of Iowa. He uses his extensive knowledge in managing land development projects, budgeting, scheduling and contracting to work closely with clientele and Silver Fern Companies’ leadership team to ensure on-time and on-budget deliveries. John is adept at problem-solving and coordinating efforts between engineers, architects, municipalities and contractors to successfully complete every project. In John’s role as Senior Vice President, he is responsible for overseeing the growth of the team to ensure top performance while achieving desired results and finding efficient and effective solutions that create value for the organization and our clientele. John is also responsible for formulating, administering and maintaining land development budgets from due diligence through completion and overseeing the team’s growth while driving results consistent with the Company’s values, vision and culture. Before joining our team, John worked for several years developing land for a national homebuilder here in the valley.


Jason Meyers, Director of Forward Planning

Jason brings over 20 years of experience as Director of Forward Planning to Silver Fern Companies.  He holds a BS degree in Geology with a Hydrogeology Emphasis from Northern Arizona University. Prior to joining Silver Fern Companies, Jason worked for Taylor Woodrow Homes, Taylor Morrison Homes, and Associated Asset Management (AAM).  His history involves bringing projects from concept to completion on Master Plan Communities to infill sites.  Jason currently directs and oversees the company’s Entitlements and Land Planning responsibilities.  His extensive construction knowledge and experience is an asset in the aspect of entitlements, which include zoning, land planning, platting, engineering and dry utility coordination.  Jason works diligently to maneuver through the many obstacles when entitling a project.  He collaborates with governing agencies, utility companies, contractors, consultants and our clients to ensure the success of a project.


Austin Brown, Project Manager

Austin joined Silver Fern Companies in 2018 and is involved in many project-related aspects of our business, including preparation of comprehensive bid packages, overseeing daily activities as it relates to the field, project reporting, managing schedules, reviewing proposals and budgets and preparing bid comparisons relating to scope. Austin also manages critical path timelines to ensure on time deliverables to the municipalities. Prior to joining our company Austin gained valuable experience working as a heavy equipment operator.

Michael Harlan, Project Manager

Bringing over 20 years of land development consulting experience, Mike joined our team in 2024. His career began in 2003 with Hancock/Meritage Homes, where he quickly rose from offsite superintendent to Director of Land Development, overseeing eight projects with 3000+ lots. He later managed 11 projects as Land Development Senior Manager at DR Horton’s Urban Living Series. Mike’s expertise also includes smaller-scale projects, consulting on townhome developments and managing single-family projects at K. Hovnanian Homes. His specialties cover grading, utilities, streets, amenities, playgrounds, and water treatment.

Ryan Beard, Assistant Project Manager

Ryan joined Silver Fern in August 2021. As Assistant Project Manager, he is responsible for reporting directly to the Project Manager and assists with monthly draws and billing, as well as any other accounting tasks required. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Finance, Ryan has the knowledge and understanding of accounting principles with exceptional organizational skills to assist in managing projects efficiently. As Assistant Project Manager, Ryan reviews construction drawings, property reports, proposals and plan submittals, as well as assisting the Directors of Land Development with the coordination of daily construction activities.

Jason Elich, Project Superintendent

Jason Elich is a seasoned professional in the construction industry with a wealth of experience and a passion for excellence. Hailing from the scenic landscapes of Arizona and spending the last 25 years mastering his craft in the dynamic environment of Colorado, Jason brings a unique perspective to his role as a project superintendent. With a diverse background that includes stints at renowned firms such as Spectrum Builders, FNF Construction, and MnH Flooring, he has honed his skills and expertise in various facets of the field. Beyond his professional endeavors, Jason finds solace and excitement in the thrills of snowboarding, skateboarding, and the discipline of weightlifting. Dedicated, driven, and always seeking new challenges, Jason Elich is a true embodiment of the spirit of innovation and progress in the construction world.

Alex Escobar, Assistant Project Manager

Joining our team in April 2024, Alex brings a diverse background and a drive for success. Graduating with a mechanical engineering degree and a background in physics from New Mexico State University, where he also captained a Division One football program, Alex embodies the qualities of a promising professional. Transitioning from the solar industry, he is poised to make a significant impact within the company and the development industry at large.

Morgan Busby, Project Coordinator

Morgan Busby, Project Coordinator

Graduating from Central Washington University with a Bachelors in Spanish and a minor in Latin American Studies, Morgan brings enthusiasm and a love for learning in her day to day work at Silver Fern Companies and Otago Development. She found her interest for construction and land development while helping a restaurant through their tenant improvements. Morgan provides direct support to the Director of Land Development and Project Managers through contract coordination, permitting and homebuilder closeout packages.


Medina Barut, Accounting Director

As Construction Accounting Director, Medina brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the financial side of construction projects. With a strong focus on precision and efficiency, Medina oversees financial aspects of projects, ensuring seamless draw processes, adherence to budgets, and timely lien waiver releases from inception to completion. Medina and her team are entrusted with the responsibility of developing and maintaining project budgets, assuring that expenditures align with financial plans and goals for maximum client satisfaction while minimizing legal risks and providing smooth project transition.


Zahra Layani, Operations Manager

Zahra Layani Silver Fern Office Manager

As Operations Manager, Zahra fosters a culture of continuous improvement. With a passion for optimizing processes and solving complex operational challenges, and bringing her 20+ years of international experience, Zahra oversees strategic planning, budgeting, HR, invoicing, quality control, compliance and policies and procedures. Since joining in late 2012 Zahra has seamlessly worked to ensure a smoothly run and efficient business for both our internal team and multifaceted clients.


John Fortini Silver Fern President

John Robert Fortini passed away Thursday, February 21, 2019, after a courageous battle with prostate cancer. He fought for almost seven years despite his doctors’ initial shorter prognosis. John always found a way to beat the odds. Read more about John’s legacy and his impact on our firm, our clients and the community.