Tag Archives: Local First

Grand Canyon University; Photo by Shavon Rose for AZ Big Media

Arizona’s Valley of the Scholars

Phoenix may be built on a grid system, but it’s not too hyperbolic to say all roads (and, one day, light rail routes) lead to Arizona State University.

It’s the theory of diffusion of innovations, says Sundt Construction’s Business Development Manager Ryan Abbott. The theory, which has been around since Everett Rogers published a book about it in the ‘60s, suggests how cultures change and adapt to new ideas. What it takes for inertia to kick in on a cultural change is innovators (first 2.5 percent), early adopters (13.5 percent) and an early majority (34 percent). For an idea to carry, Abbott says, it has to reach a tipping point of 15 to 18 percent.

“That is exactly what the university and city did in downtown Phoenix,” says Abbott. “They started by innovating ways of being multiple places at the same time, using integrated technology, synergistic relationships, taking full advantage of mass transportation.  Next, they brought in early adopters — Millennials who wanted to understand and report on society. Where better to be than fully immersed in it at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism?”

Phoenix gets schooled
Sundt Construction built the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, a bright orange and maroon building that sits along Central Avenue and very much serves as the front door of the ASU downtown campus. It was completed even before the first dorms, Taylor Place, were done. The university sits right along the Central and Van Buren light rail stop, which shuttles thousands of students a day to and from classes.

Years later, Sundt was asked to build the downtown’s campus’ Sun Devil Fitness building by the YMCA across the street.

“When we were selected to build ASU’s Sun Devil Fitness, (the university was) approaching the fulcrum that pulls the early majority with it,” says Abbott. “They had a reason for adaptive, creative people to be downtown; now, they were creating the places that keep them there.”

“Part of ASU’s mission is to deliver positive impact in the local community, where we are socially embedded,” university spokesman Mark Johnson says.

Universities serve as the catalyst for business attraction, with its well-educated labor force, as well as a hub for the Millennial generation that is changing the way society looks at work and life.

“At the nucleus of that new societal space is the university supplying its innovation, early adopters and early majority,” says Abbott. “The universities (in downtown Phoenix) are landlords to fantastic restaurants, creators of walkways that connect and amenities that inspire,” Abbott says. “And now that they’ve pulled in the early majority, the late majority and laggards are only to follow.”

Sunbelt Holdings (Portland on the Park) and P.B. Bell are two examples of the Valley’s largest commercial companies breaking ground on their first urban projects in Phoenix. Both companies are known for their master-planned projects, though multifamily trends and the growth of Phoenix’s Millennial population, due to higher ed facility expansions, have caught their eye.

“The expansion of ASU and GCU moving into the downtown area did have an influence on our decision to proceed with developing an apartment community in downtown Phoenix,” says P.B. Bell President Chapin Bell, “We believe that there will be a need for additional housing for both the staff and students that choose to live near the downtown campuses. Also, we expect that the addition of these campuses will generate a new excitement and energy attracting new businesses and downtown dwellers outside of the student population as well.”

P.B. Bell was awarded the adaptive reuse project of the 100-year-old Barrister Place (colloquially referred to as the “Psycho” building, because it appeared in the 1960 film) for a multifamily development.

Downtown Phoenix has been working for more than a decade toward making plans for adaptive reuse and infill projects easier and incentivized.

Kimber Lanning, who founded Local First, was one of the first innovators of a “new societal space” in Phoenix. She actively worked to launch the pilot program nearly a decade ago to streamline the process for adaptive reuse projects in order to retain young, vibrant minds.

“When I started Local First, it was on intuition,” she says. “The kids coming to my store (record store, Stinkweeds) were leaving. I started to think about what do those cities have that connects them to those cities and not Phoenix. They were acting in a local manner. We were too spread out. I set out to create districts. We need to encourage small business development. The brightest people want to be where there are cool restaurants, for instance.”

P.B. Bell Companies has also broken ground this year on Velaire at Aspera, a community near Midwestern University’s campus in Glendale.

“The nearby university is expanding, which will create a  need for new, quality housing,” Bell says.

Strength in numbers
Universities aren’t just attracting new development. They’re actively participating.

“SkySong and the Chandler Innovation Center are strong examples of the kinds of projects that go beyond what you would expect a university to be doing, but provide linkage both to the university and to facilities attractive to new businesses,” says ASU’s Johnson. “We have regular conversations with municipalities around the Valley and around the state about projects that help build the larger infrastructure for economic development. We take those very seriously, but we don’t discuss them until they reach a greater level of fruition.”

Grand Canyon University (GCU), a for-profit, private Christian university, has more than doubled its footprint in the last seven years and plans to move more than 2,000 employees into West Phoenix with an office complex that will break ground next year. The university has 3,500 employees, is expecting 25,000 on-campus students and have half a million annual visitors to its arena. The school also invested $10M into Maryvale Golf Course to bring additional economic activity to the west side of Phoenix and is renovating 700 homes in the neighboring community with Habitat for Humanity over the next few years.

“We’re in the midst of a $1M partnership with the Phoenix Police Department to increase the police presence and combat crime in the areas surrounding our campus, which has had a huge impact on the community,” says GCU President and CEO Brian Mueller.

On top of those and other investments, GCU’s economic impact is about $1B annually, according to Elliott D. Pollack & Co.

“The biggest difference (between GCU and universities such as ASU) is that we are doing it as an enterprise, which means we are using investment dollars to build out a university that can make an impact in numerous ways in the community, all while also paying taxes back to the city, county, state and federal government,” Mueller says. “We’re having the same impact as other universities by producing more and more high-quality graduates and raising the intellectual knowledge of the community, but we’re doing it as a tax-paying enterprise, which adds a second benefit to the area.”

The university also claims to have more than 2,000 students enrolled in the fall semester from California.

“Arizona used to lose thousands of college students, mostly to California, who were seeking a private Christian education,” Mueller says. “Now, those students are staying home. What’s more, the trend has completely reversed, as we’re attracting thousands of students from California and other states to our campus because of the low tuition costs and affordable room and board rates. Those tuition dollars are now coming into the state and are being reinvested right here on our campus, which is a huge plus for Arizona. We hope that a percentage of those students will remain in Arizona after they graduate and build their careers here.”

Ryan Companies, which is working on the 2MSF State Farm build-to-suit at Marina Heights in Tempe and the ASU Research Park, specializes in office development. Nearly all of its office product is affected in some way by university expansions in Phoenix Metro, says Molly Ryan Carson, vice president of development for Ryan Companies.

“The search for educated employees is universal,” she says. “Universities are certainly an important factor in many real estate decisions.”

Universities are surrounded by amenities, such as restaurants and recreational spaces, that appeal to prospective office tenants.

“Having a solid university like ASU in close proximity is viewed as a definite benefit by the tenants we are seeing in the market,” says Carson. “The opportunity to be near tens of thousands of potential employees is very appealing. Additionally, a university often is located in an area rich with amenities, again, a critical requirement for tenants.”

GCU has its eyes on the same type of growth.

“An estimated 1.2 million STEM jobs will be available in Arizona by 2018, yet our universities are producing just half the number of graduates needed to fill this demand,” says Mueller. “We’ve launched programs in computer science, information technology and engineering to help close that gap and are working with industry leaders in Arizona to ensure that we’re producing graduates with the types of skills they are seeking. When we grow out to 25,000 students in the next 4-5 years, it is our intention that 70 percent of those students will be studying in high-demand STEM areas that lead to good-paying jobs. That will have a major impact on the local economy and help attract businesses to Arizona that rely on having that workforce in place.”

Shop Local For The Holidays

We all know major department stores have big holiday sales, but so do local stores.

Local stores also have the added bonus of being good for your conscience. They’re greener – many of their products aren’t shipped in from all over the world – and they help the local economy more than chain stores. See our recent Local First Shift Arizona article.

If you’re looking to shop local this holiday season, here’s a few Phoenix-area shops to help you on your search for the perfect  Hanukkah, Christmas or Christmakkah gift.

1. Souvia Tea

Souvia Tea is stocked with more than 140 teas and gifts for tea lovers. Souvia Tea is part of Local First Arizona’s Buy Local Week that offers deals on local products from Nov. 26 to Dec. 5.

15414 N. 7th St. Ste. 8
Phoenix, Ariz. 85022
(602) 938-1216

2. Natural Paws

For the month of November, Natural Paws is discounting all Web sales 10 percent and offering free shipping. Natural Paws is part of Local First Arizona’s Buy Local Week that offers deals on local products from Nov. 26 to Dec. 5.

3. Pink House Boutique

Pink House Boutique is a one-of-a-kind co-op bursting with home décor, recycled, new and vintage clothing, and much more. The boutique also features local designer Bri Bridge.

7009 N. 58th Ave.
Glendale, Ariz. 85301
(623) 298-1766

4. SeeSaw Designs

Find unique stationary, prints and calendars at SeeSaw Designs.

6125 E. Indian School Road Ste. 2009
Scottsdale, Ariz.  85251
(480) 284-4987

5. Embellish Home

Give the gift of embellishment from Embellish Home. The store offers everything from decorative crowns to whimsical tea towels.

5202 N. 7th St.
Phoenix, Ariz. 85014
(602) 277-1499

6. Frances & 7. Smeeks

Here’s a double dose of local. Frances and Smeeks, both owned by the same woman and located on the same stretch of Camelback Road, are chalk full of everything from vintage candy to clothes to paper goods.

10 W. Camelback Road
Phoenix, Ariz. 85013
(602) 279-5463

14 W. Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85013
(602) 279-0538

8. Sphinx Ranch

For the foodie in your life, look no further than Sphinx Ranch. The shop specializes in gift baskets, but you can pick up anything from Arizona wines to chips and salsa produced locally at their store.

3039 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, Ariz. 85251
(480) 941-2261

9. Maria Funicello Jewelry Designs

If your gal likes to shine, check out Maria Funicello Jewelry Designs. These beautifully crafted silver pieces are sure to wow her this holiday season.

10. Etsy.com

Etsy.com is the perfect place to shop several shops at a time. Just use Etsy’s Geolocator to find sellers in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Flagstaff, Tucson and many more cities. You can find practically anything from a local seller on Etsy, from aprons to jewelry to soap to home furnishings.

Here’s a few Arizona Etsy sellers to check out:

Petite Bonfire – Sewn goods, Tucson
Wing Flash – Jewelry, Tucson
Rose & Root – Soaps, Phoenix
The Tom Kat Studio – Party supplies, Chandler
Jason Hill Design – Artwork, Phoenix
Mommy’s Little Monsters – Children’s clothing, Phoenix
Nesta Home – Home decor, Phoenix
Pink Dandy Shop – Bath and cosmetic products, Phoenix
Spinup Yarns – Yarn, Flagstaff
Red Canyon Glass – Glassware, Flagstaff

Visit Local First’s Web site for a list of local shops and Tucson shops participating in Buy Local Week.

Downtown Phoenix Shopping

The Goal Of Shift Arizona Is To Get People Shopping Locally, Boosting The State’s Economy

In an effort to jolt the state’s economy back to life, Local First Arizona is encouraging Arizonans to shift 10 percent of their purchases to local businesses.

Ten percent might not seem like a lot, but when even a small amount is fed into a local economy, it can grow exponentially. The shift can be made anywhere from banking, food, products or services.

This year-long campaign, called Shift Arizona, is modeled after an economic impact study performed in Grand Rapids, Mich. The study showed that a 10 percent shift by all residents would create 1,600 new jobs, local wages would increase by $50 million and $130 million would be fed into the local economy.

This study is driving Shift Arizona to strengthen Arizona’s economy and foster civic pride along the way.

“A vibrant, robust local business community is what I look forward to,” as a result of Shift Arizona, says Adam Goodman, president of Goodman’s Interior Structures and a Local First Arizona member.

Taking part in Shift Arizona isn’t only about shopping at local boutiques, it’s about buying locally made products and purchasing services provided by locally owned companies, says Kimber Lanning, founder and director of Local First Arizona.

Lanning suggests making a few simple shifts, such as dining at local restaurants, frequenting local theaters, or stopping at a local coffee shop every fifth time you grab a cup of joe — she understands that Starbucks habit is tough to break.

Local First Arizona’s website provides a list of locally owned businesses to help make your transition easier.

However, buying local doesn’t mean completely changing your routine, Lanning says.  Many chain stores, such as Target and Walmart, stock Arizona-made products like Shamrock Farms, China Mist teas and Hickman’s eggs, Lanning says.

Local companies care about and support other local organizations, charities and businesses, while a national company will support the local businesses near its headquarters, Goodman says.

Buying local will affect much more than just that one business; it will create spending throughout the community, Goodman says. He adds that his own business is looking at what it can do to spend more money locally.

Shift Arizona also is dispelling the myth that local stores are more expensive than national chains, Lanning says. Oil changes and pet food are often cheaper at local stores, she says.

In a continuingly tough economic climate, Shift Arizona is championing using your wallet as you would use your vote.

“We’re at a point in time where the discussion amongst our elected officials revolves around whether we want our taxes raised or our services cut, but in reality, through our purchasing power, citizens can grow the economy without spending any more money,” Lanning says. “We just need to make our money shift to a more locally based economy.”

Lanning says Arizonans can boost the economy not by spending more money, but by spending their money a little more thoughtfully.

Local First Arizona Champions Buying Locally - AZ Business Magazine June 2010

Local First Arizona Champions Buying Locally

Today, people generally recognize the importance of shopping locally and supporting our region’s independently owned and operated businesses. But that wasn’t always the case. As recently as seven years ago, the concept was nearly unheard of in Arizona. But in 2003, Kimber Lanning, of the independently owned and operated Stinkweeds music store, started Local First Arizona, then called Arizona Chain Reaction, in an effort to bring the community together and support each other.

“People weren’t really connecting,” says Lanning, who lives in and loves the Phoenix area.

That love of Phoenix compelled her to start a crusade for local, independent store owners. That crusade turned into Local First Arizona, a statewide organization aimed at helping to strengthen local communities in Arizona, bring them together and encourage them to support one another. And she did it one person at a time.

“I just started knocking on doors,” Lanning says of her start-up approach to educating local residents about the importance of celebrating the uniqueness of independently owned businesses in their very own neighborhoods versus the chain stores.

In 2006, she applied for 501(c)3 nonprofit status and changed the name from Arizona Chain Reaction to Local First Arizona to better reflect the goal and mission of the organization — to help people understand the benefits of buying locally and to build a better sense of community.

“I think neighborhoods are finally realizing how important it is (to buy locally),” she says. “It’s like it finally just dawned on us that we can create diverse and unique cities … we can control this.”

It is part of Local First’s mission to educate people on the facts about the real benefits of shopping locally. Studies show that for every $100 spent in a locally owned business, approximately $42 stays in the state. If that same $100 is spent in a chain store, just $13 of it stays right here.

In 2008, Lanning created the Small Wonders maps, pocket-sized guides — one each for Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale — that list unique shopping and dining destinations in the three defined areas. Lanning printed 75,000 copies of the Phoenix version, and downloadable versions of the maps also are available at www.localfirstaz.com. She says the buzz around the maps has been incredible.

“They’ve really taken off,” Lanning says. “Now is the best time to promote independent businesses.”

Indeed that remains one of Lanning’s biggest challenges, managing the rapid (“almost too rapid”) growth of her concept, along with securing funding. But she hasn’t let the latter stop her.

“With any new concept, it’s difficult to secure funding,” she says. “So I’m running it like an entrepreneur would, rather than relying on grants.”
Local First currently has 1,800 members, but Lanning has high hopes for the future.

“As I’ve gotten more involved, I’ve realized things we need,” she says.

She hopes to develop awareness for the adaptive reuse of existing buildings to ensure sustainability, increase business-to-business support, grow membership to 5,000, and develop a diversified staff that can offer programs, benefits and support for the state’s locally owned businesses.
Lanning, whose very own personal business, Stinkweeds, resides in the Central Corridor, is thrilled as she talks about the recent growth and development in the Downtown area.

“I am overjoyed to watch the city growing into itself,” she says. “It’s phenomenal. I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time.”

But Doug MacKenzie, director of communications at the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau, thinks it’s more than just a little luck. He credits Local First and Lanning with driving the unique farm-to-table food product and for helping Phoenix become a culinary destination in its own right — complete with amazing farmer’s markets and unique events. One such event was the recent Devoured Culinary Classic at the Phoenix Art Museum, which Local First spearheaded and co-sponsored.

MacKenzie says that due to efforts by Local First, locals and visitors to the Phoenix area have the opportunity to “really experience the authentic and native foods of the region and the Southwest. Local First is great for promoting our culinary scene.”

More than just promoting local dining establishments, Local First also seeks to bring together communities, neighborhoods and people — one door at a time.


Arizona Business Magazine June 2010