First Arizona Living Economy Forum Unites Tucson in a Vision for Greater Prosperity

This post guest written by LFA Economic Development Intern, Adonis Trujillo

On September 11th, just off the banks of the Santa Cruz River, over 100 community members gathered to share ideas about what’s working in Arizona. Leaders from industries ranging from fashion to tech, academia and nonprofits met with community members to have a discussion about local businesses and our community’s economy at the first ever Arizona Living Economy Forum.

One of the main themes of the event was: When individuals think the word economy, they need to think ownership. “As a society, Tucson has the power to come together and create a healthy, sustainable and distinct environment”. These ideas were emphasized in the opening ceremonies kicked off by Gina Murphy-Darling of Mrs. Green’s World and by the Mayor of Tucson, Mr. Jonathan Rothschild. The introduction and welcoming addresses transitioned to the keynote speaker Dr. Maribel Alvarez. Dr. Alvarez spoke to the experiences she had working with entrepreneurs in the community as she organizes one of the premier events in Tucson, Tucson Meet Yourself.

The event continued with several breakout panels that offered community members the opportunity to learn directly from local business owners and leaders in the community. The panels included:

  • A lively discussion of Food Soil and Nature and investing in nature based local economies with Todd Hanley of Maynards Market & Kitchen, Kara Jones of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona,  Chester Phillips of the ASUA Compost Cats and Jason Tankersley with The Fairfax Companies.

  • A thoughtful discussion of Shared Ownership and Community Capital that looked at alternative ownership models including Cooperatives, employee stock ownership plans, and direct community investment with Howard N. Stewart of AGM Container Controls, Chris Squires of Ten 55 Brewing and Kelly Watters of Food Conspiracy Co-op.

  • A provoking discussion on Innovation for Good and how inexpensive “Fast Fashion” as the norm is hurting us environmentally and economically with Alok Appaduri of Fed By Threads,  Kerstin Block of Buffalo Exchange, Charlette Padilla of University of Arizona Norton School and Jennifer Radler of PopCycle Shop.

  • A heartfelt discussion of Health and Soul on how innovative approaches using heartmath, kindness and mindfulness creates whole community health with Leslie Langbert of the University of Arizona Center for Compassion Studies, Susan Swan of Cottonwood Tucson, and Shelley Whitlatch of El Rio Community Health Center.

  • An inspiring discussion titled Opportunity for All on how local businesses and institutions are creating avenues of economic empowerment for refugees, disadvantaged youth and other underserved populations with  Barbara Eiswerth of Iskashitaa Refugee Network, Sahra Hirsi  of Arizona Language and Transportation Services LLC, Dora Martinez and Jesus “Tito” Romero  of Flowers and Bullets and Abby Rosen of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona Caridad Community Kitchen Program.

  • A rousing presentation on Localism and Localism Policies by Local First Arizona Founder and Executive Director, Kimber Lanning.

Each session discussed topics that were relevant to Southern Arizona and offered ideas on how to succeed in local markets. Many speakers brought up examples of how their model incorporates sustainability and environmental responsibility.

Discussions gave the audience an overview of the different industries across Arizona and the impacts each plays on our economy. The audience then had opportunities to engage in conversations and think critically about the ramifications of working primarily with businesses that don’t have connections to the Arizona community. The event concluded with a one of a kind cocktail reception. Food was provided by the YW café. Wines and beers provided by Flying Leap Vineyards, Food Conspiracy Co-op and Ten55 Brewing.  Many attendees walked away from the discussions with a new understanding of the importance of local and a responsibility to place.

The Arizona Living Economy Forum is a joint initiative between Local First Arizona, Mrs. Green’s World and the YWCA of Southern Arizona.  For more information on the Arizona Living Economy Forum and to be notified of upcoming events, please follow Arizona Living Economy on Facebook.