Daily Archives: December 24, 2009

Season’s Greetings!

Advocacy group stresses importance of local companies

[Source: Luci Scott, Arizona Republic] — For every $100 spent in a chain store, $13 remains in the state.  For every $100 spent in a locally owned business, $45 remains in the state.  That’s the message delivered at a Tempe Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday by Kimber Lanning, director of Local First Arizona, an advocacy group promoting local companies.  Chandler officials are well aware of the benefits of local buying; the city began a Shop Chandler campaign this year.  Lanning said the figures came out of an Austin-based Civic Economics Study in 2002.

Lanning, owner of Stinkweeds music store in central Phoenix, said Local First Arizona is starting a campaign to persuade people and companies to shift 10 percent of their spending toward locally owned businesses.  That shift would result in 1,600 new jobs and $15 million in new local wages, she said.

Although national chains employ people too, they don’t give to local charities at the same rate, Lanning said.  And local companies hire other local business people such as attorneys, CPAs, sign makers, and Web designers.  Lanning commended the utility APS for recently signing a contract for supplies with Wist Office Products of Tempe rather than using a national chain.

Lanning said the idea that local is more expensive is a myth.   In comparing prices, she discovered, for example, that a big bag of dog food was $4.30 less at the Noble Beast on Camelback Road than at a big box.  In some cases, the big boxes are cheaper, she said, but “they’ve convinced us it doesn’t pay to shop around.”  She encouraged the audience to, when they’re in the dairy section of a supermarket, to buy locally by picking up Hickmans’ eggs and Shamrock milk.

Supporting local independent businesses not only keeps more money in the area, it also promotes a sense of community and enriches the culture, she said.  “People are living here and telling how great it is where they came from,” she said.  “When you move to Phoenix, you shop in big boxes and eat at national chains, and never feel connected to Phoenix… They’re still from Des Moines even though they’ve lived here 20 years.”  Lanning said when Arizonans go to Chicago, they return talking about the great local pizza place they found; they don’t come back raving about Applebee’s. 

Buying locally and creating a sense of community would help keep young, creative people in Arizona, she said.  “Of the top 10 percent of our graduates, 98 percent leave.  The bottom 50 percent all stay.”

In terms of promoting local procurement, Arizona rates low nationally.  Arizona is one of only three states that doesn’t give preference in purchasing to local businesses, Lanning said.  The other two states are Mississippi and Michigan.  Because other states are loyal to their own, Arizona contractors can be put at a disadvantage, she said.  “Kitchell and Sundt can’t get contracts in California, Nevada and Utah, because those states favor the home team,” she said.  Giving preference to companies in Arizona would also help lure business to the state.  “They look whether they’re going to be favored,” she said.  “We’re thinking like it’s 1985 in terms of economic development,” she said. “We need to shift our thinking.”  [Note: To read the full article, visit Advocacy group stresses importance of local companies.]

ASU students design projects for vacant downtown Phoenix lots

ASU sustainability students Carissa Taylor (left), Truman Kiyaani, and Braden Kay with a planter box nearing completion. (Photo source: John Harlow)

[Source: Arizona State University] — Low-cost ideas, including the construction of planter boxes, to transform vacant lots in downtown Phoenix for temporary use until their development, [were] presented on Dec. 8 on the Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix campus.  The multimedia presentation of research models was developed by university students in an urban design practice class taught by Nan Ellin, an associate professor and director of the planning program in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  She also is an affiliate faculty member with ASU’s School of Sustainability.  “In 2000, the Phoenix metropolitan area contained 42.6 percent vacant land, significantly higher than most American cities,” said Pei Zhai, a doctoral student in sustainability.

“To address this vexing challenge, the office of the mayor requested that ASU students develop a model for the temporary use of publicly-owned vacant lots,” explained Ellin.  “In response, students developed the Desert TULIP – Temporary Urban Laboratory Infill Project – a low-cost strategy to transform vacant lots until their development,” Ellin said.

The students were asked to focus specifically on lots south of Garfield between 3rd and 6th Streets, an area designated to become part of the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.   [Note: Read the full article at ASU students design temp use project for downtown Phoenix vacant lots.]

New restaurant cluster emerging along downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt St.

[Source: Howard Seftel, Arizona Republic] — A new cluster of restaurants looks poised to bring some energy to yet another part of downtown Phoenix.  This time the location is the stretch along Roosevelt Street between Second and Third Avenues.

There’s Bambino Bistro, formerly Vinery 214. Chef/owner Leonard Jay threw in the towel on Vinery’s small-plate concept — the neighborhood didn’t get it, he says with a sigh.  Now, armed with a new name and concept, the restaurant features sandwiches built around three kinds of homemade flatbread; from-scratch pasta; wood-fired, brick-oven pizza; burgers; mussels; and several off-beat specials… Bambino Bistro is a cute spot that could turn out to be a neighborhood sleeper.  Jay, meanwhile, is determined: “We’ve made a commitment to the community,” he says.  “No matter what it takes, we’re going to be here.”

A few feet down the block is Lola Coffee, the second branch of Daniel Wayne’s hip coffeehouse.  (The original is at 4700 N. Central Avenue, just south of Camelback Road.)  It opened Dec. 18 in the remodeled circa 1925 Gold Spot Market building.  Why here? “Downtown is finally ready,” Wayne says, pointing to the growing number of neighborhood residents.  He’s roasting his coffee beans and baking pastries on the premises.

Finally, the 10th Valley branch of Pita Jungle is coming to the same building as Lola Coffee.  It’s scheduled to open by the end of March.

By my count, the area bounded by Fourth Avenue on the west and Fourth Street on the east, and Roosevelt and Fillmore Streets on the north and south, is now home to 10 new places in the past year.  Along with Bambino Bistro, Lola Coffee and Pita Jungle, the list includes Nine 05, Local Breeze, Pasta Bar, Sens, Turf Restaurant & Pub, Moira Sushi and Phoenix Public Market Urban Grocery and Wine Bar.  And several more restaurants are on the way.  [Note: To read the full article, visit New restaurant cluster emerging along downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt St.]