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Friday, 11 May 2012 14:25

BALLE Business Conference makes first Midwest appearance

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GRAND RAPIDS — Shifting its ground from the east and west coasts, the BALLE Business Conference will move to the heartland this May and give local businesses, entrepreneurs and community members the opportunity to explore and discuss issues pertaining to the growth of local, interconnected economies.

The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, or BALLE, has the goal of building a network of self-sufficient, sustainable, interconnected economies that provide for the needs of the community.

BALLE hosts a yearly conference on business geared toward cultivating attitudes of cooperation, fairness and networking within local economies.

Grand Rapids-based Local First is a member of the national BALLE organization and helped convince the group to bring the conference to West Michigan.

The 2012 BALLE conference will begin on May 16 with a welcome reception at DeVos Place, right next door to the Amway Grand. Featured at the welcome reception will be the Native American ceremonial “passing of the prayer bundle” with participants Judy Wicks, BALLE co-founder; Derek Long, the executive director of Sustainable Connections; and Local First Executive Director Elissa Hillary. Welcoming remarks will be delivered by Don Schaffer, president and CEO of RSF Social Finance.

Fred Keller, the founder, chairman and CEO of Cascade Engineering Inc., will also speak as part of the event.

Prior to the conference kick-off will be a pre-conference event from May 15 to mid-day on May 16. The pre-conference will center on existing BALLE networks and the challenges they face, with a specific focus on Local First’s approach to promoting the BALLE ideals in Grand Rapids and West Michigan.

2012 BALLE Conference

Topics at the conference will range from cooperatives and ideas surrounding worker employment to bringing sustainable business development to communities that are underserved by businesses.

Companies that wish to attend but don’t want to pay for multiple tickets can purchase one ticket for the use of multiple employees. The collective ticketholders can alternate the use of the ticket for different talks and events, allowing each employee to participate.

Hillary, executive director of Local First West Michigan since 2007, sees the conference as an opportunity to explore ways the whole of West Michigan can benefit by building a strong, interconnected local economy.

“This is not just for the urban core,” said Hillary. “We want to provide jobs for everyone who wants one, protect our resources and provide a sustainable way to engage in business.”

Hosted at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids, the conference will involve over 100 speakers that are chosen for their experience and expertise in sustainability and entrepreneurship. 2012 marks the first year the BALLE Business Conference will be held in the Midwest, a big nod to Local First West Michigan, a nonprofit economic development organization and cofounding BALLE member.

Originally comprised of seven local businesses and one executive director, the organization has grown rapidly. In its nine years of existence, Local First has become one of the largest advocates for local, sustainable economies in the Midwest, involving over 600 member businesses. It was named the local regional hub network for BALLE in 2010.

Local First is hosting the conference in part because of the success of Hillary and her staff in building the local organization and in part because they lobbied BALLE to bring the event somewhere other than the East Coast or West Coast.

“We hosted a couple people [from BALLE] to show off the great work we do here and they were blown away,” Hillary said.

Read 1571 times Last modified on Thursday, 02 August 2012 20:14

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