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Local First Movement Gains Pivotal Seat at the Traditional Economic Development Table
International Economic Development Council Names LFAZ Director Kimber Lanning Citizen Leader of the Year
Local First Arizona Director Kimber Lanning has been named the recipient of the 2014 Citizen Leadership Award from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). The annual award recognizes a community leader who has endeavored to further the profession of economic development and has played a key role in economic development in his or her community.
“This award is a milestone in a changing economy, one that is now recognizing the work of Local First Arizona and other Local First initiatives as a viable part of economic development.” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. “Kimber can proudly accept this award on behalf of everyone working to create sustainable, resilient, diverse, and vibrant local economies in their own communities.”
Lanning’s background is entrepreneurial, having owned three arts-related businesses over the past 27 years. Her work in the arts and culture community provided the platform for Lanning to launch Local First Arizona (LFA) in 2003. “I founded Local First Arizona for two reasons,” said Lanning. “First, I saw too many bright young people leaving Arizona for other cities like Austin and Portland. I wanted to inspire others to stay in Phoenix to help build a world class city. Second, I thought the massive subsidies being given to national chain stores were a raw deal for local communities, and I wanted to see Phoenix return to a climate where businesses, particularly retail and restaurants, had to pay their own way.”
Making an impact on the local economy
Lanning’s leadership has transformed Arizona’s local economy in a drastic way. LFA is now the largest locally owned business coalition in North America with over 2,500 business members, large and small. The online business directory she and her team created gets searched uniquely 48,000 times per month on average and they have amassed nearly 70,000 social media followers. She has 13 full-time staff members in offices in Phoenix, Tucson, and Cottonwood working tirelessly to help citizens, business leaders and policy makers to understand the connections between local ownership and widespread prosperity. It is clear that the message is being heard, as the local business community reported sales were up 8.1% in 2013, which is significantly higher than the national average retail sales (local and national chains combined) of 4.2%.
“The movement to diversify our economy isn’t about baristas, shop keepers, or servers,” Lanning explains, “but about the ecosystem of businesses that support independent ownership. Accountants, graphic designers, web developers, attorneys–they all prosper when diverse, independently owned Arizona businesses are thriving. That ecosystem is lost when local business ownership is scarce.”
Using “sense of place” as a tool for economic development
Lanning is quick to site a Knight Foundation study which recently showed “connection to place” as the single-most leading indicator in places that have prosperity. “We need to be sure that people living here feel connected to this place, and locally owned businesses play an important role in that connection. Communities with a strong sense of place are highly successful in attracting the very kinds of high tech workers that our high level economic development teams seek to bring here to Arizona.
“Through Local First Arizona, Kimber continues to create a sense of pride within our communities and showcase the vibrant cities in our region, which helps our organization in attracting businesses to the region,” said Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “It comes as no surprise to see an outstanding community leader from Arizona selected as the IEDC Citizen Leader of the Year.”
Policy and programatic successes
As Director of Local First Arizona, Lanning has overseen many policy changes that have fostered local economic development. She has worked on streamlining the adaptive reuse program at the City of Phoenix, which has enabled more businesses to open up in older building stock that only just recently blighted the city. This policy work has been pivotal in jumpstarting downtown Phoenix’s revitalization and recently landed Lanning the Distinguished Citizen Planner Award from the Arizona Chapter of the American Planning Association last year.
Additionally, Lanning and her team have worked diligently on government procurement policies that would enable more Arizona companies to compete, keeping more dollars and jobs flowing through the local economy. Local First Arizona has also seen many programmatic successes that have directly contributed to economic development. LFA was the first local business organization in the country to implement a Spanish language initiative, called Fuerza Local, a business accelerator program which works to encourage low-income Latinos to think entrepreneurially to create a pathway to prosperity for themselves and their families.
Furthermore, LFA’s efforts extended far beyond Arizona’s urban areas when LFA acquired the Arizona Rural Development Council (AZRDC) in May of 2013. Today, Lanning regularly travels across the state to work with rural stakeholders to help find creative solutions for building resilient and diverse economies for the state that include increasing in-state tourism. She also leads the annual Rural Policy Forum, a gathering of rural economic development professionals, nonprofits, community leaders, business owners, and stakeholders who are interested in sustaining rural communities.
Taking a broad approach towards economic development
“The successes of Local First Arizona over the last decade have underscored the broad range of strategies that Arizona needs to pursue for sustainable economic development,” said Lanning. “Through supporting entrepreneurs and locally owned enterprises—both large and small—we are maximizing the ecosystem of a healthy economy that builds widespread prosperity and supports more jobs. Local First Arizona is creating healthy local economies across the state that will in turn draw further economic development opportunities.”
Lanning emphasizes that a healthy Arizona economy needs to be diverse, resilient, and thriving. “To get there,” she says, “We need to invest in our own talent and develop policies that enable our business community to thrive.”
Lanning will accept the Citizen Leadership Award at the IEDC Annual Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, on Monday, October 21. Lanning is the second from Arizona to be recognized with the IEDC Citizen Leadership Award. Last year’s award recipient was Sharon Harper of Phoenix, a founding board member of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and co-founder of the real estate firm Plaza Companies.
The education and performance venue, named after Phoenix-born jazz drummer Lewis Nash, is owned and operated by the non-profit Jazz in Arizona, familiarly known as Jazz in AZ. Board vice president Jeff Libman became involved with the organization as soon as he learned about plans for The Nash.
“The places I lived before are Chicago and New York City and then here,” says Libman, “and this place needed a jazz club — and bad.” He points out the wide range of musical experiences available at The Nash. “If this is going to be the one jazz club in Phoenix, we want everybody to have something they can appreciate here.” Libman adds, “And then, of course, we want to reach the people who said, ‘Hey, I had no idea that I like jazz…but I like this, and I discovered it here.’”
The Nash offers concerts through the summer on Friday and Saturday nights on the Contemporary and Mainstream Jazz series, as well as the occasional special event. Says Libman, “We wanted to say, ‘we’re open to different interpretations of jazz,’ because this ‘what is jazz?’ conversation is still going on in very interesting ways.”
He continues, “There does need to be some kind of boundary…we have a mission. This was supposed to be a jazz oasis in the desert…so one of the questions I ask about something that’s on the border is ‘Is this jazz-inspired? Does it have improvisation? Does it have swing? Are some of the musicians…jazz musicians who sometimes do other things, and this is their different side project?’” Libman smiles. “I think we get into trouble as an organization if we get too snooty or too particular about what [jazz] is.”
At Arizona State University Libman teaches jazz guitar and Jazz Lab, directs the Jazz Repertory Band, and coaches combos. He’ll complete his PhD this fall while maintaining an active performance schedule, playing on his own and in a contemporary jazz group called Running From Bears and regularly hosting jam sessions at The Nash.
The venue includes three back rooms for break-out sessions and workshops, as well as a recording booth. A tiny lobby leads into the open seating and stage area, where a curtain serves as the simple backdrop. The Nash’s gallery-lit walls carry themed art installations rotating every few months, and the sounds of downtown are faintly audible.
In its default table-seating configuration, The Nash holds 75, although without tables it can hold an audience of 120, allowing some groups to play without amplification. “If your jazz club gets too big it starts to feel like a concert hall; it’s not as intimate any more. So there’s a sweet spot of size,” says Libman. Without an elevated stage, the piano can be easily moved and the audience enjoys close proximity to the performers. “One of the reasons is sometimes we have a big band in here,” Libman adds, “and sometimes we have a big big band in here, and there’s somebody in the audience sitting here” — he pulls forward a chair in the front row– “and there’s a baritone sax player sitting here” — he gestures a few feet away. “So this allows us the flexibility.”
“If you want this visceral thing about being there and feeling connected with it more than perfect sight-lines, then this is the kind of room for you,” says Libman. “And I like that. There are trade-offs with everything.”
The Nash offers year-round private and group lessons, jam sessions every Saturday, and a wealth of affordable educational opportunities including workshops for all skill levels and instruments. Recent multi-week workshops featured “Singing Standards” — learning repertoire from the Great American Songbook — and “Playing on Changes,” a four-week introduction to improvising over chord changes.
Saxophonist Adam Roberts teaches “Electronics for Horn Players” on August 2 and the notation software workshop “Finale for Jazz Musicians” on August 9. Not every participant needs to be a performer; Libman himself led an “exposure” session on music history, appreciation, and listening.
The Nash’s 200 performances each year include the Catch a Rising Star series, which presents talented young artists and sometimes helps launch careers. First Fridays mean special free shows. “To be on the street is very powerful,” says Libman, “because this is a burgeoning arts district — we have 1500 people come in and out of the door on a First Friday.”
Libman particularly appreciates The Nash’s attraction for young listeners. “[It’s] one of the few places that I can think of where people who are under 21 years old are like, ‘We’re gonna go to jazz shows regularly.’”
The venue often welcomes all ages, but also holds a BYOB certificate, which allows patrons to bring a limited amount of alcohol for a small corkage fee, an arrangement which may change next year. “But we won’t do anything that makes it so you can’t be under 21 and come here on a regular bases,” Libman assures me. “There are some compromises we’re unwilling to make.”
“We feel like this whole artistic energy in Phoenix is starting to coalesce and grow,” he says, “and we just want to get in and be a part of that.”
If you go:
Visit: The Nash
Address: 110 E. Roosevelt St.
For more: thenash.org – 602-795-0464
David Krietor has served as CEO of the newly-formed Downtown Phoenix, Inc. (“DPI”) since April 8, 2013. In that time, he has begun work with community stakeholders to develop the downtown we want. “Your Downtown” shares his thoughts and DPI’s progress with the downtown community and beyond. Read the other chats here.
On Monday, July 14 the Downtown Phoenix Partnership (DPP) Board of Directors approved a contract to consolidate its administrative and financial management with Downtown Phoenix, Inc. (DPI). The DPP Board will remain in place to develop and oversee the program of work and budget for the property owners within the Enhanced Municipal Services District (EMSD) bounded by the Union Pacific tracks south of Jackson, 7th Street, Fillmore, and 3rd Avenue. All staffing will consolidate under DPI.
The contractual alignment of DPP and DPI creates administrative efficiencies and, for the first time, coordinates the strong and well managed activities within the EMSD with our broader emerging downtown. Concurrent with this effort, a team of community leaders and property owners in the Roosevelt Row and Evans Churchill neighborhoods is evaluating the potential to create a second EMSD that could also have an affiliation with DPI.
As part of its approval of the consolidation, the DPP Board asked DPI to establish a more structured relationship with Phoenix Community Alliance (PCA) as our membership affiliate or move forward with a direct membership effort under the DPI umbrella. There was very strong recognition among DPP Board members that the broader and more inclusive our membership base, the more effective we will be in advocating for our downtown. PCA has a long successful history working in central Phoenix and it has been DPI’s preference to structure our membership through PCA.
In addition to our work with DPP, we have been very engaged in advancing our event and marketing activities. The DPP Board approved additional funding for these activities creating for the first time an event promotion fund. Downtown Phoenix is quickly becoming the live music capital of Arizona and this fund should help us accelerate our efforts. So many other good things are happening in and around our downtown to promote as well.
We have also established a strong working partnership with the Downtown Phoenix Community Development Corporation (CDC). With financial support from Local Initiatives Service Corporation (LISC), a partnership has been established with the City of Phoenix, Maricopa County, and Phoenix Industrial Development Authority to begin major community and neighborhood based redevelopment efforts in the west side of downtown.
It is difficult not to be enthusiastic about the future of our downtown. We have strong business leadership, emerging partnerships with neighborhood and community groups, and a city government that is actively engaged in our organization. I am very excited about our formalized relationship with DPP which bodes well for a more collaborative approach to defining our future.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
Local First AZ to Celebrate Independents Week June 29 – July 6 with Events, Discounts, Contests, and More
In recognition of National Independents Week, Local First Arizona (LFA) will honor locally owned and independent businesses across the state from Sunday, June 29, through Sunday, July 6. The nationwide Independents Week campaign, coordinated by the American Independent Business Alliance and also known as “Indie Week,” takes place during the week of Independence Day with the purpose of enlightening consumers to the importance of supporting local businesses.
This year, Local First Arizona is hosting a series of events in the Phoenix Area to celebrate Independents Week. The first event was Phoenix Independents Bowl on Sunday, June 22, at Let It Roll Bowl and Entertainment at 8925 N 12th St, in Phoenix. This bowling tournament brought together local bands, independent businesses and fans of Arizona’s local scene in a battle to determine the best bowlers in Phoenix.
On Wednesday, July 2, Local First Arizona is hosting a special Downtown Dinner with Pizza People Pub and the Phoenix Art Museum. The event starts at Pizza People Pub, where attendees will sample delicious food. Attendees will get to meet the owners and hear from special guest Phill Weddle, one of the architects behind the Hance Park redevelopment efforts. Next, attendees will head to the Phoenix Art Museum for a special tour of the Hollywood Costume Exhibit, featuring over 100 costumes from Hollywood films over the past century. Cost to attend is $20 per person, which includes food at Pizza People Pub and entry to the Hollywood Costume Exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. Registration is open to the first 100 people.
Local First Arizona will also be holding their second annual Indie Week Pub Crawl on Thursday, July 3. Attendees will be visiting locally owned pubs around Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row. Pub crawlers will visit several bars where they’ll enjoy drink specials and local trivia for fun prizes. More details to come on the LFA website and Facebook page.
Modified Arts’ upcoming gallery show will feature local artists Douglas Towne, Jeremy Rowe, and James Angel, who will be displaying works related to the history of Phoenix and Phoenix’s local business community. The show can be viewed during July’s First Friday on Friday, July 4, from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The gallery show opens on Friday, June 20, at 6:00 p.m.
In addition to these events, there are other ways to participate in Independents Week and celebrate local businesses, including the return of the Golden Coupon (good for 20% off at participating Local First member businesses), contests, and more. Individuals are encouraged to check http://localfirstaz.com/independents-week/ for updates as they are made available.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
ARIZONA SUPER BOWL HOST COMMITTEE LAUNCHES COMMUNITY CAMPAIGN
Host Committee partners with NFL Foundation to distribute $2 million to Arizona nonprofits
Today the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee announces its community campaign for Super Bowl XLIX. In addition to creating direct economic impact for Arizona, investing in the community and local nonprofits is paramount to the Host Committee’s mission to leave a positive lasting legacy from Super Bowl XLIX. The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee is partnering with the National Football League (NFL) Foundation to distribute more than $2 million to Arizona nonprofits leading up to Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, 2015.
With the launch of the “In the Community” web page, www.azsuperbowl.com/community, local nonprofits are encouraged to visit the site to learn about the Host Committee’s giving mission and focus areas. The legacy grants will focus on distributing dollars to local nonprofits that submit proposals with a key focus in education and youth health and wellness programs. The application will be available online June 23 until July 11.
The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee has also partnered with the Arizona Community Foundation to provide the administration to distribute the foundation dollars. Their expertise in the nonprofit sector as well as the synergies in the foundation focus areas will be a tremendous asset to the Host Committee.
The NFL Foundation annually donates $1 million towards Super Bowl legacy programs and is matched by local private and public donations.
“Giving back to the local nonprofit community is a tremendous opportunity that will allow us to leave Arizona in a better place as a result of Super Bowl XLIX. We appreciate the local business leaders and corporations support to make this investment possible and look forward to the many legacy projects that will be funded leading up to the Big Game,” said David Rousseau, Chairman, Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee.
The “In the Community” web page also features current community outreach events that the Host Committee has participated in throughout Arizona ranging from tree planting events to literacy fairs and football clinics. In addition, there is a donation page for the public to join the movement to leave a lasting legacy in Arizona by donating online and becoming an active philanthropist.
Photos courtesy of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee.