In closing minutes of the 2014 BALLE conference in Oakland, BALLE Local Economy Fellow and Board Member Kimber Lanning took the stage with her Local First Arizona (LFA) colleagues to welcome Localists to Phoenix, Arizona, for next year's gathering.
"How many of you are thinking, 'why Phoenix??'" Kimber, who is LFA's Founder and Executive Director, acknowledges.
Aside from the likelihood of retired relatives living there, Arizona has rapidly shifting demographics (60% of people under 25 are people of color), is #1 state projected for growth, and Phoenix is the 1st city in the nation for new business creation. Kimber cites these, among other impressive stats:
And Local First Arizona has positioned itself to work with these forces.
With nearly 2,500 local business members, LFA is the largest independent business coalition of its kind in the United States. They work in every corner of the state to create, advance, and take advantage of the multitude of opportunities for economic development, community building, and place making.
"You may not know that [LFA is] the only local business coalition that is the federally-designated Rural Development Council for the state. We are the first to have an entire Spanish language initiative for the Buy Local movement, Fuerza Local."
We at BALLE just got word that Kimber will receive the Citizen Leadership Award by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) in October to recognize the key leadership role she and her organization plays in economic development in Arizona. Such an award signifies the escalating profile of the Localist movement, and its inclusion alongside larger-scale economic development practices. Lanning will be recognized for the award at the 2014 IEDC Annual Conference in October.
But the honor hardly means "mission accomplished" for Lanning, who, with LFA, is eager to showcase her hometown for the 2015 BALLE Conference, taking place June 10-12.
"We are at a crossroads in Arizona. We need your brain power," says Kimber to the conference attendees. "It's really important that you come visit Arizona and help us."