AZ Rural Policy Forum Fosters Collaboration Among Rural Communities

CAM00047This year’s Rural Policy Forum, held August 7-8 in Globe-Miami, brought together rural community leaders and representatives in an important discussion on how to empower rural Arizona. The Forum welcomed nearly 220 attendees and almost 50 speakers, representing every county in Arizona.

Getting to Know Globe-Miami

dream manor inn

The Bullion Plaza Cultural Center is a great example of adaptive reuse.

Globe-Miami was a gracious host for this year’s event, holding the main festivities and breakout sessions in the beautiful Bullion Plaza Cultural Center. The Forum provided a unique opportunity for attendees to get to know the town and community through a few elective events. The night before the conference, about 80 of the attendees joined up for the Bawdy Broad Street Tour Historic Downtown Globe. The group got a taste of what it was like in the early 1900s when the town was home to over 50 saloons and gambling houses and 150 “working women!” After day one of the forum, attendees could also spend the evening enjoying a 3-course dinner at the Dream Manor Inn, overlooking the historic mining community.

“Globe-Miami was an excellent host city! Loved the facilities, the Historic Downtown Globe Walk, the Dream Manor Inn, and Bullion Plaza,” said one attendee about her experience in Globe-Miami. “I will definitely be returning to Globe-Miami!” said another. 94% of feedback survey respondents reported that they enjoyed their time in globe and that their experience was above average.

Tackling the Issues

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Attendees enjoy a presentation at the Rural Policy Forum.

There were breakout sessions and discussions on practically every major issue facing Arizona’s rural communities. Tourism was a popular topic, with sessions discussing Arizona’s emerging agri-tourism industry, how to exceed customer expectations to drive tourism and new dollars, and trade and tourism with Mexico. Some sessions focused on funding opportunities, including crowd funding and grant writing, while others focused on education from K-12 to community colleges to STEM programming.

I was very impressed with the caliber of speakers and relevancy of the topics,” said one attendee. “They were all well-spoken and professional, and offered great examples for idea generating in our own communities.”

With over 40 different speakers and a variety of breakout sessions, there was a workshop for everyone. 100% of feedback survey respondents said that they found the content of the sessions relevant to their professional needs, and 93% of respondents said that they learned new information that will help them and their organization in the future.

Learning From Each Other


Local First Arizona and AZ Rural Development Council Director Kimber Lanning speaks to attendees of the Rural Policy Forum.

Throughout the event, collaboration was a major theme. Many rural communities face the same issues, whether its attracting Arizona tourists, job creation, or retention of young people. The Arizona Rural Policy Forum allows individuals facing similar issues to come together to collectively work on solutions to empower Arizona’s rural communities. 

“It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel when we can come together and learn from one another,” said Local First Arizona Foundation and Arizona Rural Development Council Director Kimber Lanning. “I was impressed with the level of dialogue and the ideas that came out of many of the sessions at this year’s Forum. I think we’ll be seeing some incredible actions happening in Arizona’s rural communities across the state.

96% of feedback survey respondents said that they enjoyed the overall theme of collaboration at the forum, and 95% of respondents said that networking at the Rural Policy Forum was helpful and that they met individuals that will be valuable to them in the future.

Whether you attended the event or not, presentations from the 8th Annual Rural Policy Forum are available for download by clicking here. Be sure to follow the Arizona Rural Development Council on Facebook for the latest updates on rural Arizona issues! We look forward to seeing you all at next year’s Rural Policy Forum!

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LFA Members Make Phoenix’s Top 10 Family-Owned Businesses List


Bashas’ Family of Stores was ranked yet again as this year’s largest family-owned business.

The Phoenix Business Journal recently published their annual Top 10 Family-Owned Businesses list for this year, listing out the top locally owned businesses in order of the number of local employees. We weren’t surprised to see that many on the list are proud members of Local First Arizona! Here’s where they placed on the list and the number of Arizonans they employ:

1. Bashas’ Family of Stores: 4,450
3. Harkins Theatres: 1,309
6. Hensley Beverage Company: 800
9. Total Transit Inc.: 407
10. Hickman’s Family Farms: 340

Combined, these five locally owned businesses are responsible for over 7,000 local jobs across Arizona. It is important to remember that job creation can come from right inside Arizona’s own borders. When we support Arizona’s homegrown businesses and create more demand for their goods and services, they will hire local Arizonans to further meet those needs! It goes to show that local job creation rests right in our hands.

Click here to visit the Local First Arizona directory to find local businesses near you!

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LaneTerralever empowers employees to impact local economy

Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee Campaign Development  LaneTerralever

Localist BlueLaneTerralever has taken its commitment to helping drive growth in the local economy to a new level. The advertising and digital strategy giant, with clients such as the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee and Arizona Lottery, recently gifted Localist cards to each of its 120 employees. The corporate gift is an effort to help its employees familiarize themselves with local businesses and to empower employees to impact the downtown core with their collective spending.

The recent merger of E.B. Lane and Terralever, both Arizona-based companies, created LaneTerralever earlier this year and relocated all employees into the Lane campus in downtown Phoenix. The result moved a large group of workers from Tempe to Phoenix, many of whom were not familiar with the local business community in the area. The Localist cards were seen as an ideal way to not only embed LaneTerralever employees into the fabric of downtown Phoenix, but also to help them actively contribute to a vibrant, thriving city by supporting the creative entrepreneurs around them. “As residents of this fantastic state, we are proud of our community and accept it as our responsibility to support our fellow businesses said Chris Johnson, LaneTerralever President of LaneTerralever. “Enrolling all of our employees in the Localist Program gives us an amazing opportunity to build connections with the local community, provide our team with VIP access to their services, and ultimately support the tremendous businesses that call Arizona home,” he said. The company distributed the Localists cards at their recent quarterly meeting held at Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix.

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LaneTerralever quarterly meeting at Heard Museum

The corporate purchase of Localist cards is the first of its kind for Local First Arizona’s newest membership program aimed at helping individuals get unique experiences at locally owned businesses. “It shows that LaneTerralever understands the importance of not only supporting locally owned businesses, but they also understand that getting to know the people who run these businesses, engaging with them, is key to helping the economy grow,” said Kimber Lanning, Executive Director of Local First Arizona. “Creating positive relationships with the people you do business with will ultimately create more business for everyone. The impact will be very noticeable and we hope more businesses commit to make the same impact Lane Terralever has.”

The Localist Membership of Local First Arizona is $20 per year and is open to anyone who wants to connect with their local business community. Localists get unique, behind the scenes opportunities, along with discounts and specials at locally owned businesses state wide. Past Localist opportunities have included exclusive early-bird access to Devoured Food + Wine tickets, private chef demos and menu tastings, tours of distilleries, brewing facilities, shopping & dining tours, and even special access to meet the elephants at the Phoenix Zoo. Those interested in corporate gifts of Localists cards can contact Margaree Bigler, Localist Program Director at For an up to date list of Localist activities, bookmark the Localist calendar of events and sign up for the Local First Arizona’s newsletter.

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How Artist Annabel Sclippa is turning Trauma into Beauty

 This is a Northern Arizona member spotlight for Annabel Sclippa Fine Art in Cottonwood

belle w borderAnnabel Sclippa reflects fondly on the days she would sit and watch her grandfather paint. “He captured the beaches, boats, houses and landscapes of New England in a way that was more beautiful to me than the world I observed immediately in front of me,” she writes. It was her grandfather’s passionate watercolor paintings that first inspired her to travel to China, France, Africa, New York, Colorado, and Arizona.

Growing up in different cultures and landscapes as an emancipated minor afforded Annabel with many opportunities and experiences, but along the way there have also been challenges, including a severe spinal cord injury sustained at the age of 17, which left her paralyzed. And later on, in her 30s – 40s, a series of life saving surgeries leading to a year and half of illness; finally arriving at a fulfilling journey of renewal, healing and transformation.

Wheel Head by Annabel Sclippa

“Wheel Head” by Annabel Sclippa, Watercolor

Prior to becoming a full-time flourishing artist, Annabel first became well known in the Verde Valley as the proprietor of the highly successful bed and breakfast, The Annabel Inn. Popular among visitors, The Annabel Inn received consecutive Readers’ Choice Awards for Best B&B in the Verde Valley until it’s closing in 2012 as Annabel underwent her life saving surgeries. After her recovery, she began painting and completed her first 20 pieces within three months. “Finally an epiphany struck me that to heal, I must paint and find that sense of freedom that I saw expressed through my grandfather.”

Mostly self-taught, Annabel has taken classes in oil painting from Robert Venosa and Martina Hoffman in Visionary Art as well as watercolor from Sandra Lothrop of Martha’s Vineyard. Artistic talent is engrained deeply Sclippa’s roots. Her mother is a color therapist since the 1980′s, her grandfather, Nembhard Nottinham Culin, was an architect and artist, whose paintings of “houseboats in the Orient, Cafes in Paris, Canals of Venice set in me a desire for travel.” Roots reaching even further back to her great uncle, Steward Culin working as curator for the Brooklyn Museum for 25 years.


“Pole Star” by Annabel Sclippa, Watercolor

Annabel expresses her tremendous journey of struggle, triumph, beauty and feminism into each work she creates. In April of 2013, Sclippa debuted her ‘The Lady as Landscape series’ at The Manheim Gallery, which she described as, “A personal reflection of life-saving surgeries, paralysis, and healing, as shown through a process of transformation of trauma into beauty.”

More recently, Sclippa has shown at Schoolhouse Restaurant in Cottonwood, RooPho Gallery in Roosevelt Row, and even internationally in Costa Rica’s Casa Redonda Bed & Breakfast.

View Annabel’s artwork on her website, Annabel Sclippa Fine Art. Sales of original pieces can be made directly from the artist. You can also follow her on Facebook page to find out about upcoming exhibitions and artwork series releases.


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Pinetop-Lakeside and Local First Arizona Present Series of Small Business Workshops

pinetop lakesideThe Pinetop-Lakeside Chamber of Commerce and the Ad and Promotions Committee for the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside will host Local First Arizona Director Kimber Lanning for a series of small business workshops. Kimber Lanning will present two workshops on September 4 and 5, 2014, titled “How to Leverage Your Localness” and “Social Media Strategies for Small Businesses.” In “How to Leverage Your Localness,” Lanning will discuss the tools that local businesses can use to best market and promote themselves to a local and regional audience. In “Social Media Strategies for Small Businesses,” Lanning will cover the basics and best strategies of using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as a promotional tool not only for businesses but for tourism as well.

pinetop_8“These seminars will help Pinetop-Lakeside’s local business owners gain valuable skills that will promote entrepreneurial success and help build a sustainable local economy and drive tourism,” said Lanning. “The social media and marketing skills that will be offered in these workshops will help local businesses attract customers from all over the state, which will ensure business growth and job creation for the Pinetop-Lakeside region.”

Kimber Lanning is the founder and Director of Local First Arizona, a statewide non-profit organization working to strengthen communities and local economies through growing, supporting, and celebrating locally owned businesses throughout the state of Arizona. She will be presenting these workshops based on her previous work in the Pinetop-Lakeside community, and on her background as an entrepreneur, economic development specialist and founder of Local First Arizona. Each workshop is open to the public, and the Pinetop-Lakeside business community is invited to attend.

More information on attending these seminars:

  • When: On September 4th at 6:00pm, Kimber Lanning will present “How to Leverage your Localness.” On Sept 5th at 8:30am she will present “Social Media Strategies for Small Businesses.” Each seminar will be approximately 1.5-2 hours in length.
  • Where: Both workshops will be held at The Gathering Place at 4756 Buck Springs Rd, Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona 85935.
  • Additional Information: Seminar registration is $10 per person per workshop (cash or check only). Call the Chamber of Commerce office to reserve a space at 928-367-4290. Refreshments will be served. More information about these workshops can be found at
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Caduceus Cellars: Locals Going Local

caduceus logo(2)We received this letter from Brian Sullivan, Tasting Room Manager of Caduceus Cellars, about his local food journey:

It was such a great snapshot of the kind of local partnerships we aim to build, that I had to share it for the rest of the state to see.

The event Brian mentions, the Arizona Farmer+Chef Connection is currently accepting registrations for its fifth iteration on October 6th, at the Desert Botanical Garden. For tickets and more information, please visit

I moved to AZ in 1993, and founded a cafe in Jerome. During the café’s 16-year run, I found it to be very difficult to find some ingredients here that I was used finding quite easily in other, more food-aware cities that I had been used to. Thankfully, as time has gone by, things have progressed in Arizona. Interesting, cutting edge restaurants have proliferated.  In addition, a wine industry arose to compliment the food.

caduceus_tastingroom2After I sold the café, I became involved in the growing Arizona wine industry, when I took on the management of my friend Maynard Keenan’s Caduceus Cellars tasting room in Jerome.  For the tasting room, I was not interested in the wine related merchandise that could be had out of any number of national catalogs.  I wanted products that were more meaningful.

photo 4 copyMy first sight of what turned out to be the tip of an iceberg of local food products was Hayden Flour Mills.  Maynard had sent me there to pick up the flour with which he wanted to make dried pasta for sale at the tasting room. There I learned about the resurrection of White Sonoran Wheat. From there I found myself re-investigating the books and articles of local author Gary Nabhan, like Coming Home to Eat.

photo 5By this point I knew that I wanted to fill my tasting room with local products, which, of course, would be the perfect complement to our own local wines.

Finding them was a time-consuming project.  I searched, and after many dead ends, found a wonderful home baker to supply our biscotti, a bakery for breadsticks, croissants, and chocolates, Native Seeds/Searchfor seeds and various other producers.  But finding local product was slow going – especially since here in Jerome we are a hundred and more miles away from the major metropolitan areas.

photo 1I don’t remember exactly how, but I came across a notice of the 2013 Arizona Farmer+Chef ConnectionImmediately, I knew I had to go.  It was there that I found the submerged portion of the aforementioned iceberg; a mother load of producers, whom I’m not sure I would have found on my own.

But there at the event, under one roof, were a plethora of products whose existence I had only suspected until then.  What a fun ride it was that day, discovering that behind each of these local products, were local people transforming their dreams into reality – and realizing that I could help their dream along while bringing to fruition my own vision for the tasting room in Jerome.  A win/win situation!

photo 3 copySome of the suppliers I found at the 2013 farmer chef connection are Mano y Metate Moles, Black Mesa Ranch, Rising Hy Specialty Sauces, Ramona Farms, Flor de Mayo, Grassfed Beef Crisps and Wei of ChocolateI hope local producers are teaming up with Local First Arizona and Edible Phoenix for this year’s event. Because I will be there, and I’m hoping to discover and meet many more of you!

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LFA Business Members, Board Member, Finalists in ATHENA Awards

LFA Director Kimber Lanning was the 2013 ATHENA Award winner for the public sector.

LFA Director Kimber Lanning (left) was the 2013 ATHENA Award winner for the public sector.

Every year, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce hosts the ATHENA Awards, a ceremony to “honor Valley Businesswomen for their excellence in business and leadership, exemplary community service and their support and mentorship of other women. The women honored are very deserving finalists who not only excel in their careers, but make an incredible mark on the community where they live.

We were proud to see many Local First Arizona business members (and a board member!) were honored as finalists for this prestigious award. Congratulations to these amazing women, and thanks for what you do for our community:

In 2013, Local First Arizona Director Kimber Lanning was the ATHENA Award winner for the Public Sector Award! You can watch her moving acceptance speech by clicking below:

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You can learn more about the ATHENA Awards and register for the awards event by visiting the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s website.

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The Student Book Center Offers Local Alternative for ASU Students

This Local First Arizona member spotlight is on the Student Book Center:

Student Book CenterFor those of us who are ASU alumni, you may recall your first experience at the Student Book Center. Freshman year: trolling the rows of books, searching for those required reads for your first set of classes and then the weight of having to haul them back to Manzanita or one of the Palo Verde dorms. Since 1967, this little gem has been the local, independent, family-owned bookstore serving Arizona State University. Their staff continues to provide a personal touch in conducting business and strives to keep their customers satisfied. It’s one of few the local bookstores that is heavily invested and goes to great lengths to ensure students are getting the lowest prices with a wide selection of used textbooks.

The Student Book Center also offers ASU merchandise, from apparel to spirit items, which are on trend and unique to their store. Additionally, their Greek life items are hand chosen based on what members want. If you’re heading back to school or sending your kids off to college for the first time, remember you have a choice when purchasing your text books and collegiate items – keep your dollars in Arizona by supporting family businesses such as the Student Book Center that have played a crucial role in building our community and providing a unique college experience for 47 years.

Click here to find out more about the Student Book Center. You can click here to read past member spotlights. You can also search our local business directory to find 2,500 local businesses across Arizona. 

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Southern AZ August Mixer Recap: Connecting Tucson, One Local Business At A Time

This LFA Event Recap was guest written by LFA Intern, Matt Poulton.

14768126337_e94b171b40_zThis month’s Local First Arizona (LFA) member mixer was held at Connect Coworking. Connect is located in the heart of historic downtown Tucson, on the southeast corner of Fifth Ave. and Congress. This new business is helping to usher in a new era of innovation for Tucson, providing next-generation, modernized collaborative workspaces for entrepreneurs, small businesses and freelance writers. Their amazing spaces promote open communication between users and help cultivate the creative process. The workspaces come with a variety of extra shared amenities such as kitchen with a bar, multiple sound-proof meeting spaces of various sizes and an outdoor patio with a ping pong table when you need to take a break. Workspaces can be rented by the hour, day or month, making it easy for business owners to be flexible with their budgets by not getting roped into any long-term leasing contract. Connect truly does “connect” people and businesses, in order to create a better, smarter community.

Over sixty local businesses showed up to network and support each other and the LFA mission. Yet again, we’re so thankful for the numerous gift donations from many attending businesses for the monthly mixer raffle. Last month’s mixer raffle was the biggest there had ever been, only to be trumped by this mixer! These kind gestures only help to build our momentum and increase the quality of the experience at our mixers. In addition to the successful raffle, The Chef Police catered the event, providing exceptional customer service and flavor. The food was something many “connected” with (multiple times)!

14768013839_d0e56c616b_zErika Mitnik-White, the Southern Arizona Membership Coordinator, and Margaree Bigler, Localist Program Director, delivered excellent speeches addressing LFA’s mission and why it’s so important. They also promoted the Localist Program which provides individuals an opportunity to participate with LFA by supporting local businesses through many different exclusive and exciting experiences! Interested in hosting a Localist event at your business?  Sign up here.

Erika and Margaree also mentioned upcoming events such as:

  • Certified Local Fall Fest November 8th in Downtown Phoenix. This is a great venue to showcase your amazing local business. Only a few spots are left, you can sign up here.
  • Member Webinar on Practical Procurement: Doing Business with the Public Sector, Wednesday, August 20th, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Find more details and register here. 
  • Tucson Lunch and Learn Seminar – September 17th, 12:00 P.M. to 1:00 P.M.: How to Build a Bike-Friendly Business with Kylie Walzak, the Program Manger for Living Streets Alliance (LSA) It will be hosted at Bookmans Entertainment Exchange.  Register here.

Please join us at our next LFA member mixer, which will be held at on September 3rd at HomeStyle Galleries east location, which is the largest premier consignment shop in Southern Arizona. Their vast collection of art and other home accessories and additions has really separated them from the rest of the competition. HomeStyle Galleries is located at side 1010 S. Wilmot Rd., Tucson, AZ 85711. RSVP here.

Again, thank you to everyone who was in attendance and for continuing to make these mixers an amazing experience!

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Merit Foods – three generations of local food distribution in Southern Arizona

meritlogoAt Local First AZ we do a lot to highlight local restaurants and local food. A big piece of the local food puzzle is connecting our local restaurants to local food distributors. As the bigger nationwide foodservice distributors continue to merge and occupy a larger share of the market, the availability of independent choices for local restaurants continues to shrink. Additionally, large global food distributors have very little interest in working with local food producers. Luckily there are still a few local options. This month’s member spotlight highlights Merit Foods, a third generation local food distributor run by the Sadowsky family.

The Sadowsky family has over fifty years of experience in the food service industry. Irving Sadowsky, alongside his son Mort, started Ace Poultry in 1960 in Tucson, Arizona. They raised, processed, and delivered fresh poultry to restaurants throughout Tucson. Mort applied his expertise and established Merit Foods. Years later, the company was passed down to his son Matt Sadowsky, when he purchased it in 1998. The family tradition of outstanding service and creating personal relationships with customers, is something Matt has carried on. The team at Merit Foods is comprised of some of the most experienced food service professionals in the market. In fact, many have worked for Matt’s father and grandfather.

Merit Foods2Matt’s brother, Mike Sadowsky, also works in the business and says that they love being part of the Tucson business community. “Tucson has been our family’s home since 1941. Along with being a beautiful community with wonderful diversity, it has a vibrant host of restaurants for every taste. It truly is a national food destination,” says Mike. “The new trends are exciting and always keep us learning about our customers’ needs for new and different products. We are excited and proud to contribute to such a unique atmosphere that is Tucson.”  Local restaurants appreciate the attention to service that Merit provides.  “Everyone at Merit has really supported Baja Cafe and have tried to help us succeed in every way,” comments Gerard Meurer, co-owner of Baja Cafe.  “It means a lot to us.”
When Mike heard about Local First Arizona, Merit Foods1he felt it was a natural fit for Merit to be a member. “We always try to use local businesses, because not only are they our friends, family and neighbors but more of the money stays in our community. This in turn helps the community and all industries grow. When people purchase from non-local businesses all the profits go out of the state and in some cases out of the country. Many of the establishments we service are local and it is incredibly rewarding to create a close partnership that contributes to their success.”

Merit Foods will be hosting their 1st Annual Customer Appreciation Show on August 27th at The Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel. All restaurants are welcome to attend.  For more information about the event please contact

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