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"Local isn't just a place on a map. It's people."

“...your neighbors and their families, their businesses, farms, non-profits, events, and recreational venues. Local is a community and all the opportunities we create together and challenges we overcome. Local First has a passion for people living and working together in a sustainable community. We envision a West Michigan that is nationally recognized for its quality of life, diverse entrepreneurial energy, beautiful environment, and unique local culture.”

- Elissa Hillary

Executive Director, Local First

Local First Means...

Local isn't a place, it's people. It's reintegrating our lives, connecting in practical ways with the people we live and work with. Local First is another way of saying "People first." West Michigan is a region that has put people first, through entrepreneurial enterprise, compassionate service, and an intimate connection with the environment.

We have launched global businesses by doing the right things here at home. For us, sustainability isn't an ideal, but a foundational principle and lifestyle. Local First exists to assist and collaborate with sustainable enterprises in their success.

Fast Facts

Why Local First

Communities thrive when neighbors buy from locally owned businesses, those businesses invest in their neighbors as customers and employees, and everyone develops sustainable lifestyles that engage and enhance their physical environment.

Local First engages, humanizes, and preserves

what's best about people living and working together. It makes better places by making those places about people. It preserves and strengthens the social and economic bonds that hold a community together. It encourages investment and enriches families, homes, civic organizations, and businesses that are organized around them.

Local First Leads

When Local First was founded in 2003, it started in Grand Rapids with a handful of local business owners working to create a network of locally owned businesses who supported each other. Over the past few years Local First has grown to over 800 members and has expanded to include all of West Michigan.

Local First is one of the first organizations of its kind in the BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) national network, a local movement founded in 2001 by a business owner in Philadelphia. Local First has remained one of the largest organizations and has one of the most diverse portfolios of events and programming of any organization like it. Local First has also forged national partnerships, with results such as piloting the Quick Impact Assessment with B Lab.

Local First has propelled the sustainability movement in West Michigan forward in a variety of ways: first with a conference focused on best business practices, then with LocalMotion awards spotlighting businesses and changing behaviors, and lastly by convening B Corporations to do good in our communities.

Join the Movement!

With your support, we can deepen the impact of businesses in our community and continue to make West Michigan a national thought leader for sustainable business development.