convention

National leaders of localist movement gather in Phoenix

Phoenix, home to the largest local business association in the world, has no shortage of progressive-minded entrepreneurs. But this week the city will welcome about 700 more.

The 2015 BALLE Conference—the world’s largest gathering of local business owners—will convene in downtown Phoenix from June 10-12. Its attendees will exchange ideas about human-scale economies, community capital, shared ownership, civic-minded innovation and other concepts important to the localist movement.

BALLE (pronounced “bolly”) stands for the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. It’s a nonprofit that works to identify and connect pioneering leaders, spread solutions and attract investment toward local economies. Its website describes the annual conference as a “national forum for visionary local economy connectors who are making a difference in their communities.”

One such “visionary connector” is Kimber Lanning, the founder and executive director of Local First Arizona, the aforementioned largest local business association in the world. Lanning, whose grassroots organization counts more than 2,600 local business members and 1,000 individual members, is board secretary of BALLE and played a large role in bringing its 2015 conference to Phoenix.

“Phoenix is a hub for independent entrepreneurship and innovation, and we’re proud to be hosting the international BALLE Conference,” Lanning said. “The BALLE Conference offers a truly transformational experience with speakers and new economy leaders from around the world who will share best practices for supporting strong, resilient and diverse economies.”

Lanning is one of more than 70 localist-movement leaders who will speak at this week’s conference, which will utilize Orpheum Theatre, Arizona State University’s downtown campus, the A.E. England Building and Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

Other featured speakers include Matt Stinchcomb, the executive director of the peer-to-peer e-commerce website Etsy; Ramón León, the founder, president and CEO of the Latino Economic Development Center; David Levine, co-founder and CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council; and Tyler Norris, vice president of Total Health Partnerships at Kaiser Permanente.

The theme of the 2015 BALLE Conference is “What’s Working Locally.”

Devita Davison, the co-director of FoodLab Detroit, will talk about how communities can benefit from empowering low-income entrepreneurs of color, and St. Louis-born hip-hop artist T-Dubb-O will discuss his evolution from rapper to community activist.

“From rebuilding Detroit’s 10,000 abandoned buildings into a vibrant healthy food system to economists exploring what’s beyond capitalism, this conference is for everyone interested in local and global solutions for our increasingly challenging world,” Lanning said.

The conference gets underway Wednesday morning with an “adaptive-reuse tour” of downtown and midtown Phoenix that visits businesses created from the reuse of both historic and modern buildings. Attendees also will be given the chance to see Phoenix’s burgeoning urban agriculture industry.

“The BALLE Conference is another example of the role face-to-face meetings play in fostering better communities and driving business success,” said Steve Moore, president and CEO of Visit Phoenix.

“A couple of weeks ago, thousands of the world’s top wireless engineers—from China, Germany, South Korea—filled downtown Phoenix,” Moore said. “This week, the localist movement’s thought leaders, from places as diverse as Detroit and Appalachia, are here to share their successes and best practices. Events like these turn downtown into a learning campus, and bring innovators and entrepreneurs from the knowledge industry right to our doorstep.”

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