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A year in review

As December nears its end, we are grateful for the blankets of snow covering the mountains as we take in the stillness before the new year. While we cannot begin to understand the true impact the past few years will have on all of us, it is undeniable that a strengthened communitywide commitment to each other can be felt ringing through La Plata County.

For many of us, a renewed commitment to taking small steps to create positive, meaningful change seems like the most important way to spend our time now. For the Local First team, that impact comes through cultivating programs to make it easier to use our collective buying power to ensure our home is the best place it can be. Since its formation in 2008, Local First has taken that collective impact seriously, spearheading community- and local business-based initiatives that shape a more thriving, resilient and self-reliant economy for La Plata County.

The challenges of the past two years have only strengthened our team’s focus on finding solutions to alleviate economic pain points in the community. With our mission to build a strong community and local economy that values people, planet and prosperity for all, Local First has successfully lowered health insurance costs by 35% and enabled four counties to shop local for their health care; motivated the city of Durango to adopt and commit to necessary renewable energy goals; led the way on valuable research through Thrive! Living Wage Coalition to publish an accurate living wage for our community; and advocated for and incubated good ideas within the community, such as the Durango Creative District and Feed the Frontlines.

Alongside those initiatives, Local First continues to be the voice for local, independent businesses in La Plata County – which we’ve worked to support in 2021 through administering the La Plata Relief Fund and collaborating to provide trainings and roundtables to help our local businesses flourish despite pandemic restrictions. We were also grateful to continue educating the public about eating and shopping local this year with the return of our in-person Harvest Dinner (which involved more than 40 businesses and raised over $30,000 for local business support) and our monthlong Shop Local for the Holidays campaign.

The success of these initiatives would not be possible without the voices and contributions from our community and small-business leaders, who continue to be the guiding force behind the work of Local First. As we ring in the new year, let’s continue to shape the future of our community, together. With your support, input and guidance, we know we can build an even more thriving, resilient and self-reliant future for our friends, families, neighbors and this beautiful spot on the planet that we call home.

Visit local-first.org to learn more about how you can become a Localist and help deepen our impact in the new year!

Lauren Haggerty is the policy and programs director of Local First. Contact her at lauren@local-first.org.