The Rapidian

Local First to Host 2012 BALLE Business Conference in Grand Rapids

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10th Annual BALLE Business Conference will focus on a new economic model for the future
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At a Glance: The 2012 BALLE Business Conference

WHAT: 2012 BALLE Business Conference - Hosted by Local First

WHEN: May 15-18, 2012

WHERE: Grand Rapids, MI

WHY: Because the old economy is crumbling around you and we have the solutions you can't afford to miss. For more information visit

Local First anticipates approximately 700 people will attend the 2012 BALLE Business Conference in Grand Rapids

Local First anticipates approximately 700 people will attend the 2012 BALLE Business Conference in Grand Rapids /Andy Paniwozik

Local First will host the 2012 BALLE Business Conference in Grand Rapids, May 15-18, the organization has announced. Organizers anticipate that approximately 700 entrepreneurs, economic developers, sustainability experts, and community and government leaders will attend the four-day event. The selection of Grand Rapids marks the first time in the BALLE Business Conference's 10-year history that the event has been held in a Midwestern city. Previous host cities include Boston, Denver, Philadelphia and Portland.

Founded in 2002, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) is the first and leading organization dedicated to leveraging local business to unleash real prosperity. BALLE connects visionary local leaders across North America so they can find inspiration and support. Through intense collaboration, the organization identifies and promotes the most innovative business models for creating more healthy, wealthy and sustainable communities. And with a growing network of 22,000 local entrepreneurs spanning 80 communities, BALLE is leveraging its collective voice to drive new investment, scale and spread the best solutions and harness the power of local business to transform the communities where we work and live. For more information on BALLE, please visit

"This Conference is truly an opportunity to showcase West Michigan to the world," said Elissa Hillary, Executive Director at Local First. "From local business ownership to sustainable food systems, green manufacturing to urban renewal, West Michigan is developing a new economic model for the 21st century, and we are excited to share it with 2012 BALLE Business Conference attendees."

Local First, a founding BALLE network, is the 3rd largest network per capita in the United States, and the largest in the Midwest with approximately 600 member businesses and organizations. A 2008 study commissioned by Local First determined that just a 10% shift in consumer spending toward locally owned businesses could create approximately 1,600 new jobs, $140 million in new economic impact, and $50 million in new wages. The study has been widely circulated throughout the country and helped establish Local First as a leading advocate for local business ownership and sustainable economic development. Today, Local First is a recognized leader among BALLE affiliates, known for its innovative programs supporting entrepreneurship, sustainability and consumer education.

"We could not be more excited to be partnering with Local First to bring this year's BALLE Business Conference to Grand Rapids," said BALLE Executive Director Michelle Long. "West Michigan has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that an economy driven by local businesses, local ownership and local investment is stronger and more resilient than the broken systems that have destroyed the global economy. It is a region caught in a perfect storm of economic challenges that is defying the odds and creating a crucial blueprint for the new economy."

Local First and BALLE are working closely to finalize conference venues and speakers. The 2012 BALLE Business Conference will feature a mix of plenary and breakout sessions, panel discussions, living economy tours, and more. Optional sessions - such as a pre-conference bus tour of Detroit - will highlight regional economic issues and opportunities for collaboration.

"We say 'Real Prosperity Starts Here,' meaning that wealth, health, and stability flourish in places where local entrepreneurs are the primary economic champions," said Long. "Grand Rapids is one of those places, which is why - in celebration of our 10th anniversary - BALLE is thrilled to bring the most cutting-edge experts and innovators from across North America to share how they are cultivating real prosperity in their communities, and to learn the lessons that Grand Rapids has to teach."

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