A Note from Kimber
As we face incredibly challenging social issues such as inequality, economic hardship, and depleted resources across the United States, Local First Arizona is leading the nation in innovative conversations about building community wealth.
A surprising and hopeful outlook is awakening thanks in part to our work, which has been addressing these issues over the past twelve years with a diverse array of programs and initiatives. The Local First Arizona Foundation, the sister organization to Local First Arizona, has implemented robust strategies to build better and more inclusive economies, including increasing access to healthy food, entrepreneurial training in under-served communities, and rural economic development. All together, we are helping Arizonans to build prosperity for themselves and each other, creating a resilient Arizona we are proud to call home.
The outcomes of our work over the last year are outlined in our 2015 Annual Impact Report. I hope you enjoy reading about our many successes, and I’d like to highlight a few of them which have developed far beyond our optimistic goals. After another year of incredible growth, the Local First Arizona and Foundation teams now include 22 staff members with offices in Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff and Cottonwood. Additionally, our Boards of Directors have grown to include 28 community leaders from the state and our Rural Advisory Board represents all 15 counties. I am incredibly thankful for their innovative and engaging leadership across a broad spectrum of new programs. We are positioned now more than ever to tackle local economy issues in every community across Arizona.
Our Healthy Local Foods initiatives grew tremendously this year. We re-launched the Good Food Finder AZ website, which has already registered over 700 statewide local food producers, and our foods focused newsletter The Locavore has garnered over 2,300 subscribers in its first year of production. Both growers and connoisseurs of healthy local foods alike are using our resources regularly, making Local First Arizona the key hub of information exchange we set out to be. We also hosted several significant food events, including the Farmer+Chef Connection, the Food and Farm Finance Forum, Savor Southern Arizona, and the award-winning Devoured Culinary Classic. These events seek to create a healthy local food system in Arizona that is at once educational, economically practical, accessible, and fun. Moving forward, our objective will be to ensure that our food initiatives are diverse and inclusive of all Arizonans, many of whom struggle each day to access any food, much less healthy food. In 2016 we are planning several strategies to address some of these challenges and have outstanding partners committed to help us reach our goals.
The Fuerza Local Business Accelerator Program, under the umbrella of the Local First Arizona Foundation, aims to develop more entrepreneurs in under-served, Spanish-preferred communities. To date, there are 44 graduates of the program who have reached incredible milestones including 27 first time checking accounts, 56 new jobs created, and $875,000 in new business generated since the program launched two years ago. In 2016 we will increase the size of the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator Program to double the number of micro-entrepreneurs we reach annually.
As in past years, Local First Arizona works at the local level, but is always fully engaged in the national conversation around building strong local economies. I was fortunate this year to speak at the International Economic Development Conference in Anchorage, Alaska, as well as the Rooting Opportunity: Doing Economic Development Differently Conference in Washington, D.C. Both events hosted a diverse array of professionals and luminaries in the community wealth building movement, positioning Local First Arizona as a national leader in this area. To build on this reputation, we were honored to host an international conference in Phoenix this year focused on local wealth and community-building solutions for the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). Over 600 people from across the globe descended on downtown Phoenix to experience Arizona through our eyes and witness the work that Local First Arizona has been able to accomplish. To showcase successful programs across the state, we took conference attendees on tours of urban food production farms and facilities, our incredible downtown Phoenix small business community, the urban laboratory Arcosanti and the thriving, rural Old Town Cottonwood that is home to Arizona’s best wine tasting rooms.
This is only a snapshot of the tremendous year that Local First Arizona had in 2015. I encourage you to spend some time browsing through our Annual Impact Report to understand the full scope of our community pride and wealth building initiatives. Special thanks to our nearly 2,800 business coalition members, 1,000 individual Localist members, 85 sustaining and legacy members, and countless donors and supporters, all of whom work every day to build a better Arizona and contribute so much to advancing our mission. Arizona is stronger because of you.
Founder & Director, Local First Arizona