Tucson Skyline

Local First Arizona and the Local First Arizona Foundation are working to expand their presence throughout the state, and the Greater Tucson Metro Area,  with a variety of programs, events and services.

The Local First Arizona team in Tucson has been working on many new events, programs, and services for the community we are excited to expand. Local First Arizona is focused on strengthening the local economy by making it more diverse and inclusive. 

The Local First Arizona Foundation (the nonprofit sister organization to Local First Arizona) is focused on community and economic development throughout the state in order to build self-sufficient, healthy and prosperous communities. 

Local First is creating a movement that has proven results across a wide variety of metrics, including youth retention, job creation and economic gains. Rather than changing the system with top-down decisions, local leaders are changing it through resourcefulness and collaboration who are often innovating out of necessity. We know that those who are most deeply impacted by the inequities of our current economy have been creating solutions for decades in their own communities to be resilient and we seek to support and strengthen such efforts for both local economic and environmental sustainability. 

These are our four areas of focus in the Tucson region: 

Membership and Placemaking Events. LFA has many services for its member network that support, promote and advocate for a strong local business community and raise public awareness of the economic and cultural benefits provided by strong local economies. Local businesses contribute to a sustainable economy for Arizona and build vibrant communities we are proud to call home. LFA showcases what it means to live local and take actions to positively impact our community through special events, partnerships and resources. 

The Local First Arizona Roadshow is a new placemaking event series that raises public awareness of the economic and cultural benefits provided by strong local economies. We are revamping our member gatherings to bring local businesses and the community together in a fun and interactive setting. The Tucson team hears regular requests to take our events around Tucson and the surrounding region. Our member gatherings have traditionally been hosted at a single anchor business, but we realized that many of the spaces where we were hosting these gatherings could be spotlighting a hub of unique local businesses as a placemaking approach instead. According to the Project for Public Spaces, placemaking capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being. The main goal for Roadshow events is to expose the community to many different aspects of local and our areas as an organization such as: 

“Buy Local,” “Bank Local,” “Eat Local,” “Drink Local, “Make Local” and “Green Local.”

Each of these monthly Roadshow events on the first Wednesday of the month will be open to the public and will have new themes, live music, raffle drawings for those in attendance, fun activities for all ages to participate in, a local beer and wine garden, local food, local business corners for members to engage in business-to-business conversations and more. We are kicking off this new monthly event series in midtown Tucson from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, in the plaza where Dedicated Gluten Free Bakery and Unscrewed Theater are located at 4500 E. Speedway Blvd.  

SCALE UP (Sustainable Communities Accessing Lending and Expertise Upon Performance) Program. Recently recognized with the 2019 TEP Go Green Business Development Partner Award, this new program that has been launched by Local First Arizona Foundation and other community partners in Tucson focuses on making it easier for local businesses to save energy and money by implementing sustainable practices. SCALE UP emphasizes local energy, water, waste and transportation conservation, and trains businesses to apply concepts and practices of benchmarking, evaluation and implementation of upgrades for their business facilities, coupled with financial and other incentives. Participating businesses that complete the program are able to finance new projects through a new community conservation revolving loan fund, in partnership with Community Investment Corporation. Other partners include Tucson 2030 District and Physicians For Social Responsibility. 

Fuerza Local Business Accelerator Program. This six-month program is designed to teach underserved micro-entrepreneurs important basics for financial literacy and business development. The Tucson efforts for the statewide program are led by Paul Mendoza and Hector Treto of Vib’n and supported by Local First Arizona Legacy Partner Sonoran Glass School where the program is held on a weekly basis. Participants attend weekly classes on a variety of topics including marketing, business planning and cash flow management. Participants also gain critically important financial literacy through participating in a lending circle, which requires them to make on-time payments every month they are in the program. These payments are reported to Experian, building a credit history for the small business owner, often for the first time. Their savings is then matched by a scholarship from the Local First Arizona Foundation. Each graduate is offered the opportunity to access credit at fair market rates through several partnering financial institutions in lieu of any previous credit history. 

Advocacy and Education. Together, with the Historic Fourth Avenue Coalition, LFA engages with developers on future projects for local business benefits, develops training for interested community members and groups and pursues funding opportunities for the coalition efforts to expand and address community-wide issues such as affordable housing, fair wages, employee ownership, access to healthy food and environmental sustainability, as well as other community equity goals. From their shared office on Fourth Avenue, the coalition and LFA’s Tucson team will continue collaborating and building upon their successful efforts, such as the first Community Benefits Agreement accomplished in Tucson and Arizona due to the efforts of this multi-stakeholder community coalition. 

The Local First Tucson team is excited to connect with the community about all of these areas and encourages ideas and connections in the future within each of these focus areas for the Tucson region. 

For more information about any of the areas, contact Michael Peel, Southern Arizona director, at mike@localfirstaz.com or 975-0145. This is a regular series of columns from Local First Arizona on local sustainable economy issues. Get involved as a member or volunteer of LFA by signing up atlocalfirstaz.com