Submit Your Vote for The Best of Phoenix!

newtimes best of phoenix

Graphic via The New Times.

It’s that time of the year again to submit your independently owned favorites to The New Times BEST OF PHOENIX Reader’s Poll!

Vote  for your Local Favorites Here!

This is the 37th annual chance for Phoenicians to submit their favorite spots in the Valley to The New Times. Submit your favorite locale in dozens of shopping, dining, and entertainment categories ranging from Best Dive Bar to Best Place to Watch the Sunset. Voting closes on September 10, 2015 at 11:59pm.

Business winners will receive an award to show off in their business, publicity for the win, and the honor of being 2015’s Best of Phoenix.

Some independently owned winners from 2014 include Ingo’s Tasty Food for Best Hamburger, The Clever Koi for Best New School Cocktails, Changing Hands for Best Bookstore, and LFA’s event Devoured Food + Wine Classic won Best Culinary Festival (thanks again, Phoenix!).

Posted in Greater Phoenix | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to the LFA Tucson team, CJ!


We are pleased to expand the Local First Arizona team in Tucson by welcoming CJ Agbannawag as our Tucson Membership Coordinator. CJ will be working alongside the rest of the team to build up our programming in Tucson, including the business member program, the Localist program, and community engagement. Get to know CJ below, and make sure to say hi to him at the next Tucson event!

Tell us a bit about your background:

CJI call myself a “die-hard Tucsonan” but I can’t say that I am born and raised in Tucson. I was born in the lush green landscape of Salinas, California, just inland from Monterey Bay. My family and I moved to Tucson in 2001, so after enduring fourteen summers in Tucson, I like to consider myself a full fledged Tucsonan. I went to highschool at Salpointe Catholic High School, and then decided to attend the University of Arizona (Bear Down, Wildcats!). I started at the UofA as undecided. I could not find any program that truly fit what I was truly passionate about. I knew that I wanted to learn more about the environment and climate change, and more specifically the ways that we, as humans, could mitigate climate change. I was very lucky to learn about a new program at the University that was just starting called the Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Built Environments, in the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture (CAPLA). I am proud to say that I joined with only a handful of other students and that the program now has 100 plus students.

In the Sustainable Built Environments program, I studied with an emphasis on Sustainable Communities and Planning. One of the most influential things I did in my time at the UofA, was taking on an internship at Mayor Rothschild’s office, in Tucson. I found that the internship was so valuable that after completing the required semester for my degree, I stayed on for another semester. This is where I developed a passion for larger policy and community initiatives that ultimately make our community and environment a better place.

What drew you to Local First Arizona?

My friends and family can attest to the fact that I am very passionate about Tucson, and Arizona as a whole. I take any chance I get to tell my friend about new Tucson facts, snippets of history, or cool happenings and events. All through school, I just thoroughly enjoyed learning more about this amazing desert and city, and it was only a matter of time before I found out about Local First Arizona and all of the awesome programs they are part of. Local First Arizona was commonly spoken about in my classes and by my classmates as I learned about the importance that businesses and consumers have in issues of economic, social, and environmental sustainability. I learned more about Local First Arizona and the importance of the role that they play in supporting our local businesses, and the work they do to help transform Arizona’s economy. When the opportunity to work with Local First Arizona came up, I saw it as an opportunity for myself to help Tucson thrive and grow, so I jumped at the opportunity. As I tell my friends, Arizona is not just a dust bowl full of cactus and snakes. Arizona is a vibrant and diverse place, home to amazing cultures and communities. I am honored to be part of Local First Arizona’s efforts to promote and strengthen these communities, and to help them thrive.

What is your favorite local business and why?

For years now, my favorite store has always been Summit Hut. I am an avid outdoor sports enthusiast and Summit Hut has always been my go to store for gear and equipment. I went there to buy equipment for the first backpacking trip I ever took in high school and I remember how nice and helpful the staff was to me. I still go there today and learn tips and local trail knowledge from the awesome employees.

Tell us about one of your life’s passions:

My biggest passion in life is being outside. Any time that I can be outside is a good time! I love the desert that surrounds Tucson and I take any opportunity to go play in any of Tucson’s numerous National and State parks and forests. I decided to give back to the local outdoor community and joined the Southern Arizona Rescue Association; the volunteer Search and Rescue group that assists the Pima County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue Unit. But if I’m being honest, search and rescue is just another excuse to spend more time outside.

What makes you proud to be an Arizonan?

There’s a lot to be proud of in Arizona! In Tucson, I am very proud to be part of such a special and unique community. The history of the area, the unique communities, and the passion that Tucsonans have is something that I am proud to be part of. Arizona is such a diverse and beautiful place. In Tucson, one could go from tanning poolside, to an alpine forest on Mount Lemmon in less than an hour! This is a truly special place, and I am proud to be an Arizonan.

Follow CJ and the rest of the LFA Tucson team on Twitter at @LFATucson.

Posted in Tucson & Southern Arizona | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The fine art of local at Cafe A La C’art

This post guest written by LFA Intern Loran Shamis.

August2015MixerThe Tucson Museum of Art and Café a la C’art were the perfect duo for our August mixer.  Café a la C’art is the ideal spot to enjoy a house made pastry while sippin’ on some wine on their cool, canopy patio. This wonderful, hidden gem of downtown Tucson provided an extensive array of tasty treats to all those who attended the August Mixer.  Owner, Mark Jorbin demonstrated Café a la C’art’s ability to host and entertain great parties, so spread the word about their amazing catering service! All of our attendees were given complimentary passes to the Tucson Museum of Art and we had lots to announce about some great upcoming events!

GrapesToGlassThis September 12th Maynard’s Market is going above and beyond by hosting a fundraiser to support Local First Arizona! From 1-4 during the Second Saturday celebrations downtown, Maynard’s is hosting Grapes to Glass Art and Wine Festival in order to showcase local wine producers. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Local First Arizona Foundation.

Are you a vendor looking to purchase local food in wholesale volume? Or, are you producer seeking to sell in wholesale volume? The Farmer Chef Connection is the perfect place to make future business connections. This statewide conference is, for the first time, in Tucson this year. It’s an awesome opportunity for local producers and local vendors to network in a conference setting. This event will take place on Wednesday, September 16th from 12-5:30 PM at the Tucson Convention Center. Learn more and register for this one of a kind event!

Registration for our award-winning Downtown Tucson Small Wonders Maps is open. Receive an early bird discount by registering before August 31! Do not miss this great opportunity to be featured alongside great local businesses in the unique Tucson Small Wonders maps. Email Erika for the early bird code-

Want to find more ways to get involved in Local First AZ?  Member 101 Sessions are a great way to get started! Every month, we hold online educational sessions where you can discover how to get more involved with local movement. Learn more about our organization, membership opportunities and more! Session runs about 30-45 minutes. RSVP here for the next one!  Interested in learning more about the benefits of Sustaining Membership in Local First Arizona?  Find out more here.

Need to renew your membership? Renew online here. Please don’t forget to sign up for our newsletters. These are a great way to stay on top of great local happenings and important local business “news you can use”.

Our next mixer will be hosted by Vantage West Credit Union in Marana.  Due to limited capacity at this venue, all attendees MUST RSVP in advance.  Attendance for this event is capped and only listed RSVPs will be admitted.  Please RSVP here to attend.

Thank you to all the great businesses who attended –

A&E Recycled Granite, L.L.C.
A-1 Mattress Inc.
Acupuncture Pain Relief Center
America’s Mattress
Arizona Heritage Tours, LLC
Arizona Jewish Post
AZPM – Arizona Public Media
Barbara McNichol Editorial
Best Western Inn Suites
Breakout Studios
Brown Bear Studio
Burns Pest Elimination
Cady Ltd.
Casa de la Luz Hospice
Chilttepica ,Salsa
Community Renaissance
CSI Point of Sale Consulting
Custom Quarters LLC
Dependable Personnel, Inc.
Downtown Tucson Partnership
Envoy Mortgage
Fermata Media Group
Film Creations LTD
Flowers, Rieger & Associates
Green Valley Pecan
Intestinal Health Institute
IPA Family
JAZ Landscape Design & Consultation
Jennifer Mead Creative
Kat Black ACS
KXCI (Independent Media Partner)
Mama’s Hawaiian B-B-Cue (Sustaining Member)
Many Hands Artist Cooperative
Marion Integrative Wellness
Maynards Market + Kitchen (Sustaining Member)
McMichael LLC
Merit Foods
MJE Handyman Service
MJGrushka Consulting
Ms. Fix-It Home Solutions
Munger Chadwick
New York Life
Picture Rocks Cooling & Heating LLC
RBar Energy
Roadrunner Auto Glass and Window Tint
Sky’s Sunlight
Southwest Solutions
The Downtown Clifton Hotel (Host for our next great LOCALIST event)
TMAL Art League
Top Knot Farms
Tucson Coffee Roasters
Tucson Federal Credit Union
Tucson Museum of Art
Tucson Originals (Sustaining Member)
Tucson RV Storage
Western Sky Communications
Yellow Brick Coffee


Posted in Business Member Event Recap, Businesses, Local First Movement, Tucson & Southern Arizona | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Local Labor Day Events Across Arizona

think local buy local be local chalkboardLabor Day is September 7th!

A huge benefit of shopping and using local businesses is the larger increase in jobs when compared to chain stores. This helps to  create a larger working class and Labor Day is a celebration of those of us in the working class, so what better way to celebrate Labor Day than to support a local business?

Below are a number of local events and deals happening across the state.

Pick your area to see the events in your region:

Northern AZCentral AZ Phoenix AreaSouthern AZ

Northern Arizona

23Fossil Creek Creamery Farm Tour & Picnic Lunch
Beginning on Saturday, September 5th 2015 RSVP for a Farm Tour and Picnic Lunch at Fossil Creek Creamery for $10 an adult and $5 per child. The tour includes petting goats, pictures with llamas, and information about the farm. Lunch is served for an additional cost maxing at $12/person.

1Enjoy 20% Off at Scott’s’ Marketplace
All Arizona

Now until September 7th, enjoy 20% your purchase at online and local Scott’s Marketplace. Use the code “LaborDay15″ at checkout to redeem.

2National Barrel Horse Association – Labor Day in the Pines
Brought to you in the Town of Payson, Watch cowgirls from all over the State of Arizona as they compete against the clock.  This is an annual event that has come to Payson for the past 5 years.

Greater Phoenix Area


158916First Draft Book Bar All Day Happy Hour
Phoenix and Tempe

Celebrate Labor Day at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix and enjoy Happy Hour Prices all day at First Draft Book Bar! Both locations will be open: Tempe from 10am to 9pm, and Phoenix 9am to 9pm.

4658SanTan Company Labor Day Weekend Brews Cruise
On Sunday September 6th, 2015 SanTan Brewing Company will invade the streets of Old Town Scottsdale with their annual Labor Day Weekend Bathing Suit Brews Cruise. Grab your beach cruisers, tricycles or 10 speeds, don your best bathing suit, and cruise through some Scottsdale bars.

Hotel Valley HoSpend the Weekend at Hotel Valley Ho
Stay a weekend at Hotel Valley Ho and enjoy a DJ by the pool beginning on Saturday from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with DJ Adrian Michaels on Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The pool area is reserved for hotel registered guests only, so be sure to book your room. Enjoy brunch at ZuZu on Saturday or Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m with Bloody Mary + Mimosa Bar from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

1Enjoy 20% Off at Scott’s’ Marketplace
All Arizona

Now until September 7th, enjoy 20% your purchase at online and local Scott’s Marketplace. Use the code “LaborDay15″ at checkout to redeem.


UntitledPop-Up Charity Shop for Sunnyslope Youth
Opening Labor Day Week at the Scottsdale Waterfront will be truckloads of new Converse, Vans, Puma shoes for youth and adults. These shoes are being sold for $20 per pair to for Back-To-School. All proceeds to benefit Sunnyslope Youth Center Enrichment Programs. Full info here.

qc olive millLabor Day Grill at the Mill
Queen Creek
Join us for the Annual Labor Day Grill at the Mill at Queen Creek Olive Mill on Labor Day from 11AM-3PM. They will be serving up grilled gourmet goodies featuring Chicago Style Hot Dogs along with regular menu items. Enjoy the park like atmosphere out in the grove under the olive trees while sitting back and enjoying the music and great food, beer and wine!

Southern Arizona

HoCoFest Music Festival
Downtown Tucson

30-plus bands playing inside Hotel Congress’s Club Congress as well as outdoors on Labor Day weekend. HoCoFest starts on Friday Sept. 4 and goes through Sunday, Sept. 6. This party will also feature an eco-fair and BBQ. More info.

Localist Logo Red Heart State SquareMore Southern AZ Events coming soon!


Posted in Arizona, Businesses, Greater Phoenix, Local First Movement, Northern Arizona, Rural Arizona, Tucson & Southern Arizona | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Experience the Life of a Frontier Solider

FVSP1Fort Verde State Park offers visitors a rare glimpse into the unique life led by frontier soldiers. Established in 1865 as Camp Lincoln and later relocated and named Fort Verde in 1871, this military camp was specifically designed to protect local farmers during the Central Arizona Indian Wars period. This tumultuous time, when Arizona was still just a territory, was filled with land disputes, settler hostilities and malaria.  As a result, General Crook’s U.S. Army scouts and soldiers arrived and a new way of life began.

FVSP2Today, Fort Verde State Park is well known for having some of the best preserved buildings from the Indian Wars era. Covering just over 11 acres of beautiful Verde Valley land, visitors can experience three historic house museums, all furnished in the 1880’s period. The museums include the Commanding Officer’s Quarters, Surgeon’s Quarters and the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters, each of which is listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places. The welcome center itself also boasts interpretive exhibits and a wide collection of period artifacts from military life in the Verde Valley. History experts and novices alike will certainly stand in awe of the unique architectural expressions of the park, as buildings of this type are a rare and rapidly disappearing historic resource.

FVSP3Aside from being a history staple in the community, Fort Verde State Park has an extensive list of outdoor events held on park grounds year round. One of the most popular attractions is Fort Verde Days, held in October, where locals and guests can enjoy period reenactments, Dutch Oven cooking lessons, a vintage baseball game and more. Other notable festivities include Cornfest, Victorian Christmas, History of the Solider weekend, and candlelight tours. For more information on events through out the year check out Fort Verde State Park’s event calendar here.

FVSP4Located at 125 E. Hollamon in Camp Verde, Fort Verde State Park is now open seven days a week from 9AM-5PM. Park entrance fee is only $5 and includes access to museums and park grounds. For more information on Fort Verde State Park visit their website here or call (928) 567-3275. Do not miss the chance to see a special part of Arizona’s history and create your own adventure.

Posted in Arts and Culture, Exploring Arizona, LFA Member Spotlight, Northern Arizona, Rural Arizona | Leave a comment

Downtown Mesa Now Ripe for Exploring with Light Rail Extension


This post was written by Thomas Barr, Director of Member Engagement and Operations for Local First Arizona.

On Saturday, August 22nd, The City of Mesa, Valley Metro, and residents all throughout the valley celebrated the grand opening of the light rail extension to Downtown Mesa. This was a much anticipated extension that Downtown Mesa has been eagerly waiting to happen to contribute to it’s unique walkable streets, now fully accessible by light rail. A very exciting part of this event was that the extension was completed 7 months ahead of schedule! If you are familiar with downtown Mesa, you’ll know that it is home to local coffee shops, music stores, restaurants, museums, art, culture, and of course, a local brewery! All of which many people celebrated and visited at the event on Saturday.

IMG_20150822_123500I took advantage of the festivities and decided to bike down and experience the excitement first hand. Valley Metro added 4 new light rail stops leading through downtown Mesa, all which were developed very strategically and designed very well. At each stop on Saturday, there were themed activities including Discover Education, Discover Community, Discover Downtown Mesa and Discover Mesa’s History. The streets at each stop were filled with family activities, live music, food trucks, and many different vendors, showcasing the unique aspects of Mesa and all it has to offer.

IMG_20150822_132248I spent a lot of time as a teenager in downtown Mesa to see concerts at The Nile Theatre. It is thrilling to now see all the development that has happened and how the community is thriving. On Saturday, I visited several Local First Arizona businesses and was happy to see all of them packed with visitors. Businesses from Queen’s Pizzeria to Desert Eagle Brewing Company all offered daily specials and opened early to accommodate the festivities, truly showing that local businesses go the extra mile to provide great service and are unique pillars in our communities. I even spoke to someone that drove to the light rail stop at 19th Avenue and Bethany in Phoenix, parked his car, and rode the rail all the way down to Mesa to take part in the experience. He had nothing but great things to say about how convenient it was, and how nice all the people he was greeted by were at the businesses. Now that’s civic engagement!

Mesa Small Wondres MapDidn’t know about the event on Saturday? Weren’t aware there was even a light rail extension? No fear, Local First Arizona is here! Grab one of our Downtown Mesa Small Wonders Maps and visit anytime. Even better, take the light rail and see how our city is evolving, valley wide, into a walkable, local business focused, thriving economy, with culture, unique businesses, and experiences that involve everyone.

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A Heard Mentality

Heard MuseumImage via Heard Museum

If you haven’t been to the Heard Museum or it has been eons since the last time you went, then this is a great time to revisit this breathtaking gem in the heart of downtown/central Phoenix. The Heard Museum provides a breathtaking, beautiful glimpse into Arizona’s past and is jam-packed with artifacts with historical and contemporary information. The Heard Museum sets the standard for collaborating with Native people to present first-person voices. Partnerships with American Indian artists and tribal communities provide visitors with a distinctive perspective about the art and cultures of Native people, especially those from the Southwest.

Frida Kahlo Heard ExhibitImage via Heard Museum

The museum has also done an exceptional job of bringing innovative programs, world-class exhibits and entertaining festivals each year.  They will bring a rare glimpse into Frida Kahlo’s life through photographs beginning October 31 and the current exhibit Beautiful Games: American Indian Sport and Art runs through November 29th.

The Heard’s 12 exhibition galleries featuring an array of artists and art forms aren’t the only eye candy at this enchanting spot. The Heard’s courtyards and outdoor gardens, as well as the museum’s intensive gift shop inventory is a visual experience all its own. The museum shop includes a majority of pieces purchased directly from hundreds of artists, and only the finest in authentic American Indian jewelry, pottery, paintings, sculpture, Katsina dolls and weavings for sale. Many books relating to American Indian cultures and the Southwest are also available, including hard-to-find selections and publications by American Indian authors. To take in the both historic and modern art and culture, check out their website to plan your trip.

Written by Somlynn Rorie

Posted in Arts and Culture, Greater Phoenix, LFA Member Spotlight, Local First Movement | Leave a comment

Back to School, Back into the Community!

It’s that time of year again when you get to arm yourself with fresh pads of paper and crisp books. Getting your textbooks locally can be as simple as a phone call and swinging down to the shop to pick it up. Plus buying what you need from one of the local bookstores positively impacts our state through job creation and  increased revenue circulating back into the AZ economy more than chain stores.

Most of the universities and community colleges have started or are picking up this week so if you were waiting to see if you really need that textbook consider phoning some of the following local stores before browsing to ordering it online.

Independent Bookstores:

2564Antigone Books
Tucson | (520) 792-3715
Located in Tucson’s unique Fourth Avenue shopping district, Antigone Books is a 100% solar-powered bookstore with a huge selection.


9920Bonny Books
Mesa | 480-388-5514
A family owned bookstore.


bookmans logoBookmans
Phoenix, Tucson, & Flagstaff | Visit Their Website!
An Arizona institution for over 30 years, Bookmans Entertainment Exchange has built our reputation on the concept that “used” is not a dirty word.


602Changing Hands
Phoenix & Tempe | Visit Their Website!
100,000 new and used books in a store that is a work of art


159010Friends of the Phoenix Public Library
Phoenix | (602) 534-5208
Great Books. Great Prices. Great Causes.

4694Mostly Books
Tucson | (520) 571-0110
Your local independent bookstore in Tucson.

3710Student Book Center
Tempe  | (480) 966-6226
This shop goes to great lengths to ensure students are getting the lowest price.


Localist Logo Red Heart State SquareThe Poisoned Pen Bookstore
Scottsdale  | (480) 947-2974
It’s more than a bookstore, it’s an experience.



8839Thrifty Joe’s Books
Glendale | 602-547-2540
Thrifty Joe’s features more than 60,000 books, a large collection of vinyl records of all genres, and a vast array of CDs, DVDs, and video games.

Posted in Local First Movement | Leave a comment

Total Transit Driver Recognized as National “Driver of the Year”

Congratulations to this local business employee on his national recognition! 

Total Transit, Incimage00. is a locally owned business founded in 1984 and based out of Glendale. Total Transit is the parent company of Discount Cab, one of the largest cab companies in the United States, operating a fleet of more than 1,100 cabs. It’s even easier to connect with a driver now using the Total Transit App.

Choosing a local company made a difference in this driver’s life and continues to positively impact the Arizona economy. There are tons of choices out there in the LFA Directory to go local in every aspect of life- even hailing a cab!

Discount Cab driver Al Tracy has been recognized as the 2015 Taxicab Driver of the Year by the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA).

Tracy will receive his award at the TLPA national convention on Oct. 28 in Las Vegas. “I can’t wait to go,” Tracy said. “I was totally surprised when I got the news, because I didn’t even know I was nominated. When my supervisors called me into their office, I thought I was in trouble!”

Tracy was selected from a membership of hundreds of fleets across North America and around the world, according to the TLPA. Tracy considers himself a “people person” and strives to help his passengers as much as possible. This attribute, he says, is likely why he was nominated for the honor.

Tracy started driving for Discount Cab in September 2011. “I liked the fact that I could work at my own pace and call my own shots,” Tracy said. “I also enjoy being a driver adviser and teaching new drivers. I love when they come to me for help or advice.”

Friday and Saturday nights are busy and entertaining for Tracy, he recently said. “I’ve had two celebrities in my cab over the past few years. Last night I had [Phoenix Suns announcer] Tom Leander, which was cool because I recognized him from his voice as I’m a huge Suns fan. I also had [Matchbox 20 lead vocalist] Rob Thomas a few years back. His song came on the radio, and he was surprised to hear it. I asked if he was a fan of the group, and he said that he was Rob Thomas. I didn’t believe him, so he pulled out his driver’s license to prove it.”

Congrats to Al Tracy and Total Transit!

For more information on Total Transit, visit

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2015 Rural Policy Forum Inspires Collaboration Across Arizona

Earlier this month, about 200 individuals representing every county in Arizona descended on Clarkdale, Arizona, for the 9th Annual Arizona Rural Policy Forum. This annual forum offers a venue for connecting rural economic development professionals, nonprofits, community leaders, business owners, and other rural stakeholders who are interested in sustaining rural communities.

Welcome to Clarkdale

Photos of Jerome, AZ reclamation by Freeport McMoRan, begun 10/07.

Image via Town of Clarkdale

This year, we ventured north to the Verde Valley, specifically to the small town of Clarkdale, to host the 2015 Forum. Like many of Arizona’s rural towns, Clarkdale has its roots in mining. Founded in 1912 as the first planned model town to house workers from the copper mines in Jerome and their families, Clarkdale operated as a company smelter town until 1953. Today, only 10 squares miles in size with about 4,100 residents, Clarkdale honors its past with three museums: the acclaimed Arizona Copper Art Museum, the John Bell Museum at the Verde Canyon Railroad and the Clarkdale Historical Society and Museum. Clarkdale’s large historic district boasts many preserved and revitalized homes and buildings keeping the original spirit of Clarkdale alive.

Verde Valley Railroad

Rural Policy Forum attendees tour the Verde Valley aboard the Verde Valley Railroad.

Along with regular Forum sessions and speakers, we planned several events that allowed attendees the opportunity to experience Clarkdale and the Verde Valley for all it has to offer. Ahead of the conference, we planned a four-hour wilderness adventure aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad. “Clarkdale and Jerome were great to visit and explore, places I had never been before. The train ride was fantastic,” commented one attendee. 

Later that evening, we enjoyed a catered dinner at the acclaimed Copper Art Museum catered by several local businesses: Four Eight Wineworks, Main Street Cafe & Pizzeria, Su Casa, and Violette’s Fine Pastries. The food was delicious and guests enjoyed seeing the treasures hosted at the Copper Art Museum. The next night, guests enjoyed a special dinner at Blazin’ M Ranch. Guests chatted about the day’s earlier activities at the Forum, and enjoyed the smooth harmonies and rip-roarin’ comedy of the Blazin’ M Cowboys.

Forum attendees had a plethora of nice things to say about their experience in Clarkdale:

“Clarkdale is an inspiration, I met so many active and engaged people who are working and succeeding at making Clarkdale great.”

“Beautiful, [Clarkdale is a] new destination for quick family getaways.”

“A jewel – I’ve been here before but just driving through. Had time to really explore this time & really enjoyed it.”

Learning From Each Other

IMG_4246This year’s Rural Policy Forum consisted of 2 full days of workshops, speakers, breakout sessions, and more. Over 50 speakers from Arizona and several national leaders in rural economic development joined us in Clarkdale to share successes and best practices. One of the most inspiring things was witnessing attendees learning from fellow Arizonans, whether they were hearing form a scheduled speaker or talking one-on-one with each other during breaks.

Three large themes stood out during this year’s Forum:

1. New Ways to Think about Economic Development

ZOE_0021Throughout the Forum, we discussed non-traditional ideas that would lead to economic development opportunities for rural areas. One session featured speakers from different communities who have leveraged arts and culture to revitalize their towns. We discovered that supporting a thriving arts scene in any town has many benefits that lead to economic drivers, including retaining more young people, driving tourism, attracting higher wage jobs, and preserving older buildings. Additionally, we talked about how rural communities can use their assets to create unique events and tourism spots to encourage out-of-towners to spend tourism dollars in their towns.

Got completely inspired by the arts session!

2. Building Wealth and Identifying Funding Sources

IMG_4259Consistent funding is important for sustainable longevity in any community, and at the Rural Policy Forum we explored the ways rural communities can build wealth for themselves. We hosted a roundtable discussion with nearly all of the rural funders in Arizona so that rural nonprofits could find where the best fit is to apply for funding. We also talked about the transfer of wealth in rural communities and the steps they can take to keep those dollars circulating in their own towns. Through understanding these strategies, Arizona’s rural communities will thrive.

Always relevant timely & actionable advice, tips and resources that will benefit our nonprofit, retail & civic service interests.

3. Collaboration is Key

IMG_4256The common theme that tied everything together at the forum was collaboration. By working together, we can accomplish more and build prosperity for all of Arizona’s rural communities. Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig, also with the Verde River Institute, told an inspiring story of how towns, community groups, and Arizona State Parks came together to clean up the Verde River in an effort to clean up their local economy. This collaborative effort has led the Verde River to become a thriving outdoor recreational tourism attraction, injecting tourism dollars into the local economy and benefiting all communities involved.

Not liked – LOVED the theme of collaboration!

Overall, the 9th Annual Rural Policy Forum was a huge success. A special thanks to all of the attendees, speakers, the Town of Clarkdale, and all of our sponsors, especially the Marley Foundation and the Arizona Community Foundation, for their support of this important event. To stay updated on the latest events and news from the Arizona Rural Development Council, and to be the first to know about next year’s event, sign up for email updates by clicking here.

Posted in AZ Rural Development Council, Rural Arizona | Tagged , | Leave a comment