Local First Arizona Expands Community Development Work in Tucson with New Programs and Partnerships

Contact: Mike Peel, Local First Arizona, (520) 261-0824, [email protected]

Local First Arizona Expands Community Development Work in Tucson with New Programs and Partnerships

Tucson, Arizona (March 22, 2018) - Local First Arizona is expanding its community development work in Tucson with the introduction of new programs and partnerships. This strategy is in line with Local First Arizona’s mission of strengthening local economies that are inclusive to all individuals, businesses, and communities.

Local First Arizona founded its Tucson office and hired its first full-time staff person in Tucson in 2010. Today, the southern Arizona team has grown to five full- and part-time employees serving 500 business members in the region.

“The addition of these new programs in southern Arizona is the natural next step for Local First Arizona here in this region,” said Mike Peel, Southern Arizona Director for Local First Arizona. “In order to truly create a climate for our business members and all southern Arizona residents to thrive and find prosperity, we’ve identified key programs and partnerships that will enrich our communities and build opportunity for all.”

Embracing sustainability as a means to business success

Several of Local First Arizona’s new initiatives embrace sustainability as a means to help businesses save money and resources as well as help Tucson plan for the future. The Southern Arizona Localism and Sustainability Alliance (SALSA) is a new initiative with Local First Arizona, Mrs. Green’s World, LeadLocal, YWCA and other southern Arizona community partners. SALSA is comprised of a signature event and training series for growing prosperity in the Tucson community, bringing together visionary leaders from around Arizona to find what is working locally, and sharing tools and resources to engage and grow a more united and prosperous community. More information on SALSA can be found here.

Sustainable Communities Accessing Lending and Expertise Upon Performance (SCALE UP) is another new program centered on sustainability that will emphasize local energy, water, and transportation conservation, as well as train businesses to apply concepts and practices of evaluation, benchmarking, and implementation of the appropriate upgrades for their business facilities. The pilot program will involve 10-12 locally owned businesses participating in weekly workshops. These workshops will educate businesses on general sustainability planning topics, energy efficiency techniques, and the basics of developing a sustainability plan. More details about how businesses can take part in the pilot program will be announced in the coming months. More information on SCALE UP can be found here.

“Economic sustainability and environmental sustainability go hand in hand, so an important strategy for Local First Arizona is to embrace programs and practices focused on sustainability as a whole,” said Peel.

Continuing to showcase Tucson’s unique local foods culture

With Tucson’s designation as a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy in 2015, the city’s focus on local foods has become even more robust. Local First Arizona is increasing its role in supporting Tucson’s local foods culture with a new collaboration with Tucson Originals Restaurants, an alliance of independently owned local restaurants, purveyors and partners working together to raise awareness of the rich and vibrant culinary community in Tucson. Together they are combining forces to build demand for locally grown foods and local restaurants, and to showcase restaurants and southern Arizona chefs and food/beverage artisans through innovative events such as SAVOR, Taste of Tucson, and the newly resurrected Oktoberfest slated for the fall of 2018. More information on Tucson Originals can be found here.

"This collaborative partnership between Local First Arizona and Tucson Originals Restaurants is an excellent fit for growing the efforts of both organizations and strengthening the local economy in Tucson through larger local food community events and increased local restaurant members," said Peel. "By working together, we can be more effective in strengthening our local restaurants and food culture."

Empowering underserved business owners to find self-reliance and create jobs in their communities

Local First Arizona is also bringing the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator to South Tucson in partnership with YWCA of Southern Arizona. The Fuerza Local Business Accelerator Program is a six-month training program offered at no cost to underserved Hispanic business owners. During the program, entrepreneurs learn some of the fundamentals to launch or develop their business, creating a firm foundation for their goals. Lessons on accounting, social media, marketing, and many others are taught completely in Spanish by industry professionals and experts, giving students the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the industry. More than 180 business owners have already completed the program since its launch in Phoenix in 2014, and combined have generated more than $8.1 million in gross sales and successfully borrowed more than $1.1 million. More information on the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator can be found here.

“With increased access to capital and education about how to create a competitive and innovative small business, we are seeing increased job creation, more resilient businesses and small business owners who are clear leaders in the community. We are proud to be bringing this program to the Tucson community with the YWCA of Southern Arizona, and our first cohort is already receiving instruction and generating more interest in the program,” said Peel.

A Stronger Commitment to the Community

These new developments and programs mean that Local First Arizona is committed to the Tucson community more than ever.

“People may know Local First Arizona firstly as a ‘Buy Local’ coalition, but we are so much more than that,” said Peel. “Local First Arizona is creating an Arizona economy that is sustainable, resilient, and celebratory of diverse cultures. While a vibrant local business community is critical to the success of any community, we must also focus on local foods, sustainability, and diversity to build opportunity for all from the ground up.”

More information on becoming a member of Local First Arizona or taking part in any of these initiatives can be found at localfirstaz.com.

About Local First Arizona

Founded in 2003, Local First Arizona (LFA) is a community and economic development organization working to strengthen local economies. LFA educates consumers about the interconnectedness of the economy, trains small businesses to be more effective and more competitive, helps larger Arizona businesses and institutions tell their story as champions of Arizona, and creates programs and events that make it fun and easy to discover local businesses and buy local. Visit www.localfirstaz.com for more information and a directory of more than 3,000 locally owned businesses. More information is available at localfirstaz.com.