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Local First effort expands to Spanish-speaking community

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PHOENIX – As owner of Del Sol Furniture, with four locations in the Valley, Rosa Macias has a clientele that’s almost entirely Hispanic. Many of her customers speak only Spanish.

As a Latina and a member of Local First Arizona, Macias wants members of the Hispanic community to understand the value of buying from locally owned businesses, starting with the way money recirculates in the local economy.

“We are strong. We spend a lot of money,” she said. “And we need to let them know the difference if they buy local versus at a national company.”

That’s the goal of Fuerza Local, which is Spanish for Local Force, an effort by Local First Arizona to reach the Spanish-speaking community.

Built around a website, the effort includes seminars for businesses and customers in the Spanish-speaking community, said Macias, who is a board member for Fuerza Local.

“They need to get a lot of information and see the difference why they have to buy here,” she said.

Addressing competition from chain competitors is an ever-present challenge, Macias said. She has lost some customers when chains moved in near her stores.

“When our business competitors came from California, the people were excited and they tried to go and see the new stores and the new things they were trying to sell,” she said.

Kimber Lanning, founder and director of Local First Arizona, called Fuerza Local a natural extension of what her group has been doing since 2003.

“It’s the exact same thing, only in Español,” she said. “Fuerza Local is about empowering the locals to move things in a positive direction.”

According to a study by Local Works, a national organization campaigning to promote sustainable communities, 73 percent of every dollar spent at locally owned businesses stays in the local economy, while 43 percent remains when consumers buy from business owned elsewhere.

About 11 percent of Arizona businesses are owned by Latinos, and most of them locally owned, said James Garcia, spokesman for the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce spokesman. And at 30 percent of the population, Latinos as a whole are an economic force, he added.

“And it’s growing at a faster rate, so the overall impact is growing as well,” he said. “We play a significant role.”

Lanning said she hopes Fuerza Local will help members of the Spanish-speaking community better understand that where they buy can help lift Arizona’s economy.

“We’re more interested in making sure the message resonates within their community and they change their lifestyles, because the more they spend at big boxes, the more of their wealth will exit their community,” she said.