Printed in the Durango Herald January 25, 2020

Here’s how to help your Local First Foundation

Local First, the non-profit organization that is the voice of local, independent businesses in La Plata County, has been serving the business community for 12 years now. We are approaching 300 business members in 2020. This is a monumental achievement for our remote, rural slice of the West. Clearly, our community has prioritized the importance of local and independent businesses for quite some time now. The fact that there is not another Local First organization in the state of Colorado, nevermind one with close to 300 members, is a strong statement about the people that live here in La Plata County. We value our quality of life, our ability to be self-reliant, and we understand that by supporting local, independent businesses our community thrives and has a tremendous amount of character.

The local, independent businesses in La Plata County would not be what they are today if it were not for the people of our community. Knowing this, Local First has strived to serve two audiences: businesses and individuals. However, the non-profit structure of Local First is specifically designed to serve business members. Local First is a 501(c)6 trade association just like our colleagues at Visit Durango and the Durango Chamber of Commerce.

For the last few years, the Local First Board and staff have been discussing how to more directly serve the local, self-reliant community at large. We want to engage more directly with all of you, the individuals or Localists in the community that are the other side of the coin, so to speak, of the Local First business family. 

And so, it is with great pleasure that we announce the formation of the Local First Foundation. The Local First Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization with the greater good of the public as its mission. The mission of the Local First Foundation is to conduct education, research, and outreach on the importance of local self-reliance in order to build an economy that values people, the planet, and prosperity for everyone in the greater La Plata County region. As noted in the mission, it is important to point out that the Local First Foundation works in the greater La Plata County region in order to address self-reliance beyond the borders of La Plata County.

A few initiatives that you may be aware of now fall within the purview of the Local First Foundation. 

Our Power Local campaign is a tireless proponent for local, renewable energy. And, the Local First Foundation now has the opportunity to work with LPEA and the City of Durango on the climate and carbon goals they set in 2019. The Southwest Health Alliance also falls under the leadership of the foundation. While it was the business community that asked us to address the rising cost of health care, the solution we found benefited both the business community and the individuals who live in our region. These are both great examples of the relationship between Local First and the Local First Foundation and how we will work together on behalf of the community, and have greater capacity to do so. The image below provides a visual depiction of the roles the two organizations play, all under one umbrella.

The Local First Foundation is also the fiscal sponsor of the Durango Creative District that Local First played a key role in forming. As a 501(c)3, the foundation now has the capacity to be the fiscal sponsor for other important community initiatives that benefit our region. 

And, in an exciting turn of events, all the same staff that have been leading Local First over the last three years are now at the helm of this new Local First family while stepping up to leadership roles: Monique DiGiorgio is now the Executive Director of the Local First Foundation, Kiki Hooton is the Managing Director of Local First, and Hayley Kirkman is the Creative Director of Local First and the Interim Director of the Durango Creative District. This tremendous trio is poised for success along with an incredible Board of Directors providing us vision and support. 

How can you support the Local First Foundation, you ask?! You can be an “early adopter” by ripping out The Payroll Department’s $5 donation coupon on page 125 of the Be Local Coupon Book and dropping it off at Maria’s Bookshop or the Local First office in the Smiley Building, Suite #1. Or you can make a tax-deductible donation to the foundation and join the Localist community. It’s all Local First, and now you have another avenue to support local self-reliance and local, independent businesses! You can read more about the Local First Foundation here.

Monique DiGiorgio is executive director of Local First in Durango. Contact her at