If you noticed an unusual abundance of energetic tourists in Downtown Phoenix during the second week of June, don’t worry; you’re not going crazy.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton at the 2015 BALLE Conference. Photo: Local First Arizona

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton at the 2015 BALLE Conference. Photo: Local First Arizona

They weren’t just tourists. They were attendees of the 2015 BALLE Conference, which brings together the most active minds in small business from around the country. With seminars held in the Orpheum Theatre, ASU Downtown Campus, and the Crescent Ballroom, our out of town guests truly got a taste of what makes Phoenix so special.

Ushered in by Local First Arizona, the biggest local business association in the country, visitors took part in seminars that looked at every part of the small business process. Topics ranged from launching a new idea to the necessity of collaboration among local business owners to answer the needs of their own communities.

Niambi Cacchioli, founder and head artisan of Bloomsbury Sq. Bath and Body from Jersey City, NJ, spoke during the Innovation for Good seminar on Friday, noting the need for local business owners to connect with the local community.

“When we often talk among ourselves and we often talk about the “shared economy.” It’s a beautiful idea, but why doesn’t everybody do it?” she asked during her presentation.

“Because it’s really hard. Because everyday is a negotiation.”

But, as the co-founder of shared workspace 942 Summit, Cacchioli has dealt firsthand with the intricacies of local business owners coming together to create a destination for community members, and found the reward of committing to her own backyard with creative solutions as a business owner.

BALLE Living WallThe conference also featured a tour of adaptive reuse projects in the Downtown Phoenix area, and Local First AZ used the opportunity to showcase the urban revival taking place in Downtown Phoenix.

Business owners and community leaders from around the country congregated in Phoenix, braved triple-digit weather, and shared stories on how to make small business work in every setting. Representatives from Detroit’s Hopeful Harvest and FoodLab/Detroit Kitchen Connect discussed the need to engage the community by creating jobs and opportunity for growth to locals who have a deep investment in the future of the community.

In support of our state’s local and independent businesses, Local First Arizona will recognize Independents Week from Saturday, June 27 – Saturday, July 5. Learn how you can support local businesses during Independents Week through shopping, contests and events.

Photography: Ivan Martinez