Who Is: Local First Arizona and Fuerza Local

By admin December 2, 2013 17:31

fuerza-local LogoBy Taylor Pineda

Director of the largest local coalition in North America, Local First Arizona, Kimber Lanning encourages integration through commerce. Carlos Velasco, Director of Fuerza Local, is inspired by Lanning and continues to uplift the Hispanic local business market.

It is through the tremendous efforts of individuals like Lanning and Velasco that the voices of local businesses in Arizona are heard. 

“I met Kimber Lanning at a Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Her talk really touched me. I thought the Buy Local idea she presented is something tangible that creates social economic change,” said Velasco. He expresses his motivation to get involved with such movements. “Phoenix is a great town, rich with culture, and in some cases diversity.”

He also adds the importance of building, empowering, and “striking interest in entrepreneurship within the Latino community.” 

Latinos represent nearly $64 billion in annual consumption, and unfortunately, a trending decrease has been seen. Velasco points out that, “if we are seeing an increasing as a population, why are we seeing so many disconnects?”

Velasco stays optimistic by focusing on improvements within local commerce. He admits that more could be done if we understood how to leverage economic power. “Part of the message is to teach people to vote with their wallet.”

Further elaborating these thoughts, the concept that the Hispanic communities dollar will circulate for less than six days before it leaves, in contrast to the Jewish and Asian communities where the dollar typically circulates 25-27 days.

“The Hispanic buying power is tremendous; all the big national big box stores have created closets of economic consumption. We are forgetting about the locals that have a tremendous economic impact in our community.” 

For instance, for every hundred dollars you spend at a local business, 43% remains home. On the other hand, a bigger box business only sees 13% recirculated back into the local community of the same amount of money spent. 

Lanning elaborates on how cheap isn’t better. “We have actually exported our wealth. Convenience has cost us a fortune. If we can remember what it was like to do business together, then our kids will have more job opportunities and our families will have more wealth.”

One of Lanning and Velasco’s most supported elements of the local commerce movement is that secondary and tertiary opportunities are credited to small businesses. For example, a chain of coffee houses creates retail jobs that don’t encourage opportunities for entrepreneurs. Local coffee houses will employ local workers, and create opportunities for other local businesses such as graphic designers, web developers and accountants well as recirculating the dollar back into the community for longer amounts of time.

One of the most important problems is the lack of effort seen to preserve local commerce.  According to Velasco,  “Retention of culture and civic pride are critically important. Experience comes from the local community, and as locals disappear, cultures disappear as well. Local businesses create a unique experience for customers, and people become more engaged when they feel culture.”

Lanning states how simple it is to make a local business an economic choice, reminding us that local does not always mean small. For example, choosing to go to Harkins Movie Theatre, a locally owned business versus AMC Theaters, a German company that exports all of their revenue. Consumers get the same, if not better experience and recirculate the dollar back into the community.

Both Lanning and Velasco encourage the idea of not thinking cheap. “If we continue to think shopping cheap is best, we will have shop keepers instead of shop owners.”

“Psychologically, when a small child walks into a business, their scope of possibility increases. They see they can achieve more and have goals,” Velasco states. He continues, “We don’t understand how our consumption does make a difference. A lot of us are just uneducated consumers.” 

In efforts to achieve this market, Fuerza Local works to organize the Hispanic migrant business base, which makes up a large sector of Arizona Hispanic entrepreneurs. In addition to this organization, they intend to educate the community about this Buy Local movement, as many do not have access to education.

“Part of what we are doing is bringing forth business education in Spanish. This year, we were able to run an accelerator program on business sustainability, competitiveness, and marketing, using private funding. We have partnered with a company called  eMoneyPool to build Money Pools for our accelerator students, so they can begin to save and co-depend for larger pay-outs,” Velasco said. “Part of the message is encouraging entrepreneurs to consider working with more banks and local credit unions to help get funding at fair market rates.”

“When you apply with a credit union, you’re dealing with an employee face to face. It is about the relationship,” Lanning said. “Working for a local company, you know your boss. You have a lot more flexibility with someone that knows you and knows your family.”

By admin December 2, 2013 17:31

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