Arizona Rural Development Council 

Local First Arizona Foundation is the Rural Development Council for the state of Arizona, which hosts the annual Rural Policy Forum. The Rural Development Council works to create new models of community and economic development that tie together small businesses, historic downtown main streets, tourism strategies, and community planning. The Rural Advisory Board consists of representatives from all 15 counties that work to develop quality topics and a diverse array of speakers for the Rural Policy Forum each year.

Rural Policy Forum 

The Annual Arizona Rural Policy Forum offers a venue for connecting rural economic development professionals, nonprofits, community leaders, business owners, and other rural stakeholders who are interested in sustaining rural communities. This year’s 9th Annual Arizona Rural Policy Forum convened 225 representatives from every Arizona county to participate in two and a half days of workshops, speakers, breakout sessions, tours and more. Over 50 speakers from Arizona and 3 national leaders in rural economic development joined us in Clarkdale to share successes and best practices. 

Arizona’s rural communities tend to be somewhat remote and can feel isolated from each other, so the Rural Policy Forum brings those communities together to discuss similar issues that each community faces. Rural Policy Forum attendees work collectively to find solutions and celebrate successes that are driving development and prosperity in rural areas. 

Becoming more sustainable: A ‘Toward Zero Waste’ plan was implemented and 77.5 lbs of waste was diverted from landfills 

The Rural Policy Forum provides a venue for democratic deliberation, information gathering, and resource gathering for rural communities across the state of Arizona that don’t really have access to this kind of information.
— Alexandria Wright, Yavapai College

Workshops & Rural Community Profiles

In order to give local businesses the tools they need to be competitive, the Local First Arizona Foundation conducts workshop and outreach initiatives for rural communities across the state focused on a variety of topics, including food entrepreneurship, marketing and communications, business best practices, branding strategies and more. 


Held in the fall in beautiful and historic Ajo, key players representing the food system from all over Arizona educated over 40 attendees on everything from organic agriculture implementation to farmers market 101 and small business best practices to incorporating youth into farming and gardening programs. 


LFAF is working currently on a business retention and expansion plan for Superior and has facilitated a number of community workshops and dozens of key stakeholder interviews in order to deliver a plan in March 2016 that will outline strategies for reducing economic leakage and building economic opportunity for residents of Superior.


LFAF is helping Safford with its economic development strategy and that, in part, includes becoming a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) community. In partnership with the Sci-Tech Festival, LFAF developed Science Happens Here, which is a game for kids grade 3 through 8 that includes collecting trading cards with science experiments on them. The kids then visit the locally owned businesses to collect the cards, each of which contains one example of science relating to that business. For example, the bakery has the science of yeast, the cafe has the science of caffeine, the clothing store has the science of dyes, and so on. There are 12 cards to collect and a new website with fun prizes for the kids who conduct the science experiments. The goal here is twofold: to help kids start to think about all the science that really happens in the world and to get excited about simple experiments; and to get the local business community more involved with STEM education. 

Greenlee County

LFAF is working with members of Greenlee County's Tourism Council to develop a plan to bring new visitors to the region to create economic opportunities. Tourism in Greenlee will bring increased awareness and new dollars into the region.


LFAF worked with the Downtown Prescott Business Alliance to bring together 30+ Prescott businesses for a workshop on How to Pitch the Media. The group was encouraged to think like a team to drive tourism, and media expert Tony Felice of TFPR shared inside perspective on the stories that gain traction.


LFAF worked with the Downtown Prescott Business Alliance to bring together 30+ Prescott businesses for a workshop on How to Pitch the Media. The group was encouraged to think like a team to drive tourism, and media expert Tony Felice of TFPR shared inside perspective on the stories that gain traction.

Rural Community Profiles 

LFAF is working on community profiles and videos that highlight the unique destinations we have in rural communities statewide. 


Our WeekendZona initiative curates one-of-a-kind excursions to different parts of Arizona to showcase the great towns and culture that this state has to offer. Encouraging tourism within Arizona’s borders to rural areas keeps those tourism dollars circulating in the statewide economy and supporting local jobs, as well as celebrates those specific communities’ sense of place. 

Sonoita & Patagonia Trip 

26 people traveled with us to Sonoita and Patagonia for a wine weekend getaway that included tours of Callaghan Vineyards and Dos Cabezas Wine Works where attendees learned first hand how to splice varietals and maneuver grape crushing equipment as well as witnessed the bottling process. These semi-curated getaways offer educational, behind-the-scenes looks into leading industries across the state, while offering plenty of time to relax and have a look around. 

Drink Local WeekendZona Sweepstakes 

Local First Arizona has partnered with Hensley Beverage Company to launch a “Drink Local” campaign and sweepstakes that will be featured in more than 200 grocery stores across Arizona. Participants can enter to win one of several staycation packages to rural Arizona towns including Bisbee, Pinetop-Lakeside, and Cottonwood. The campaign will promote these communities as tourism destinations and encourage tourism within Arizona’s borders. 

Arizona Rural Development Council | Leadership 

The Arizona Rural Development Council is led by an Advisory Council, which consists of one person from each county plus one Mayor. 

2015 Advisory Council

  • Julie Brooks, Chamber Director, Wickenburg 
  • Evelyn Casuga, Central Arizona College, Casa Grande 
  • Karalea Cox, Common Sense Facilitation, Eagar 
  • Levi Esquerra, NAU Tribal Economic Development 
  • David Gomez, Greenlee County Supervisor 
  • Victor Gonzalez, Sahuarita School District 
  • Jestin Johnson, City Manager, Bisbee 
  • Gary Kellogg (Chair), CEO, Partnership for Economic Development, Lake Havasu 
  • Linda O’Dell, Superintendent of Schools, Globe-Miami 
  • Casey Rooney, Economic Development Director, City of Cottonwood 
  • Danny Smith, Graham County Supervisor 
  • Doug Von Gausig, Mayor of Clarkdale 
  • Paul Watson, Navajo County Director of Economic Development 
  • Kevin Wilkins, Economic Development Administrator, Yuma 
  • DL Wilson, La Paz County Supervisor