Kimber Lanning stands at just 5 feet 1 inch. But in the Arizona economic landscape where she acts as a fierce advocate for local economies, she is a giant.
In 2003, Lanning started Local First Arizona. She was the only employee, and didn’t take any salary. Now, with 3,200 members, it is the largest coalition of local businesses in the country. The coalition’s staff of 24 manages programs ranging from an annual local business fall festival to the state’s first directory of locally grown food to a program in Spanish for micro-entrepreneurs.
Lanning is widely recognized for her work. Even though she finds traditional economic development planners to be frequent adversaries, in 2014 the International Economic Development Council awarded her a Citizen Leader of the Year Award. She considers that a turning point in planners’ recognition of the value of local businesses. Arizona Business Magazine named her one of the 50 most influential women in Arizona, and the American Planning Association named her Distinguished Citizen Planner for her work on the reuse of old buildings.