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People of AMIBA

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Board of Directors

Erin Kilmer Neel 
Board member, Oakland Grown, California

Amy Fuentes
Local Business Initiatives Manager, City of Fresno, California
Co-founder, Fresno Regional Independent Business Alliance 

Dana Eness
Executive Director, Stay Local! New Orleans, Louisiana

Jennifer Rubenstein
Executive Director, Louisville Independent Business Alliance, Kentucky

Lily Brislen
PhD Candidate, University of Kentucky
Founding Director, Think Local Umpqua, Oregon

Nicole Kelly
Board of Directors, Keep St. Petersburg Local

 

Staff

Jennifer RockneJeff MilchenJoe GraftonHaley Miller

Advisory Board

David Bolduc
Co-founder, Boulder IBA
Boulder, Colorado

Betsy Burton
Co-founder, Local First Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah

Susan Crandall
Workforce Development Consultant, Workforce Results
Somerville, Massachusetts 

Laury Hammel
Founder, Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts
Wayland, Massachusetts

Michael Kinsley
Senior Consultant, Communities & Campuses, Rocky Mountain Institute
Snowmass, Colorado

David C. Korten
People-Centered Development Forum
Bainbridge Island, Washington

Stu M. Levit (Legal Advisor)
Bozeman, Montana

KayAnn Miller (Financial Advisor)
Bozeman, Montana

Stacy Mitchell
Portland, Maine 
Program Director, Institute for Local Self-Reliance 

 

Other AMIBA Speakers and Workshop Facilitators

Visit our Speakers Bureau page


Biographies

 

Staff

Jennifer Rockne, Co-Director & Co-founder 

Jennifer served as Outreach Director for the nation’s first Independent Business Alliance in Boulder, Colorado for two years before leaving to help launch and direct AMIBA in 2001 in response to address broader interest in the Boulder IBA’s success. Jennifer maintains the operation of the organization and is the main contact for most of AMIBA’s community affiliates.  She advises on various aspects of IBA operation, including developing relationships with local government officials toward bringing the IBA voice to the table of economic development discussion and developing strategies to prevent displacement of local businesses.

Jennifer hails from a family with a four-generations-old independent business.  She currently engages in her community of Bozeman, Montana as both coordinator of her neighborhood association and chair of Bozeman's InterNeighborhood Council.

Jennifer received her BA degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and holds a Masters in Communication from the University of Colorado, where she augmented coursework with classes in non-profit management and public policy. 

 

Jeff Milchen, Co-director and Co-founder

 

 

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Jeff has spent 15 years helping communities build vital local economies and enhancing economic opportunity through supporting local independent businesses. Milchen co-founded the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), which helps communities to launch and successfully operate Independent Business Alliances. These Alliances work to strengthen and sustain community-based businesses while promoting citizen empowerment over community development.

Milchen pioneered this organizing model, founding and directing the Boulder IBA in Colorado, starting in 1998. Since 2001, AMIBA has helped more than 80 of these Alliances form in a diverse range of communities. He has provided keynotes, presentations and workshops for nearly one hundred organizations and conferences across North America. Milchen spent eight years as a small business owner before moving to non-profit work.

Milchen's prior work includes successfully operating his own start-up businesses in Vermont and serving as the director of Reclaim Democracy. He is the author of "Building Buy Local Campaigns that Shift Culture and Spending" and his commentaries and articles have appeared in dozens of publications including Business Week, S.F. Chronicle, The Ecologist, The Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and Adbusters. Milchen is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains surrounding Bozeman, MT. He's inching toward Tweeting as habit soon.

See upcoming speaking events


Joe Grafton, Director of Development and Community Engagement

Joe has dedicated the last decade of his life to shifting culture and paradigms to support of sustainable local economies and community-based businesses. He is the Founding Executive Director and current Board Member at Somerville Local First, a leading local business alliance, a board member at the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts, a steering committee member of the New England Local Economy Network, Co-Chair of the Pioneer Valley Slow Money Chapter and Director and Treasurer for the Together Festival, Boston's SXSW.

Joe brings skills and experience in fundraising, speaking, training, marketing, social media, operations and planning to AMIBA and focuses on driving resources to the Localization Movement while engaging and supporting Independent Business Alliance leaders.

Joe lives in Cambridge, Mass., where he enjoys local craft beer, music and undertakings that change the world.

 

Haley Miller, Office Manager

After earning a B.A. in economics from the University of Chicago, Haley left behind the city life for the U.S. Virgin Islands, where she worked as a kayak guide for a small ecotourism company and volunteered with Grow Virgin Islands. There, Haley helped create organizational systems and outreach events to promote local food sources and developed relationships between farmers and vendors.

Haley was thrilled to return to the mountains and rivers of her native Montana and became involved with the local food movement by working for a farm-to-table catering company that serves delicious meals with ingredients from local farms and ranches. Haley joins the AMIBA team in March as our new office manager, but we also anticipate tapping her skills and energy to advance new programs to serve Independent Business Alliances, communities and her passion for supporting local food and agriculture.

 

Board of Directors

Erin Kilmer Neel, Interim Board Chair

Erin is passionate about supporting local independent businesses and artists since these groups greatly improve the economic health and quality of life of our communities. To that end, she co-founded Oakland Unwrapped!, is the co-Chair of the Board of the Oakland Merchant Leadership Forum (OMLF) and chairs the organization development group for AMIBA's board. 

Erin is a graduate of MIT's Master of City Planning program, where she worked with several community development and economic development corporations and developed neighborhood revitalization plans, performed neighborhood economic analyses, conducted research on various community economic development topics, and used AMIBA as a focus of her Masters thesis. 

 

Amy Fuentes

Fresno native Amy Huerta currently is the Local Business Initiatives Manager for the City of Fresno where she oversees the City’s economic development program, based on strategic initiatives to help grow locally-owned businesses. During her tenure, Huerta launched the Fresno Regional Independent Business Alliance (which operates independently). She also launched and manages the Fresno Food Expo, a regional food show that advances the City's economic development strategy of expanding markets for regional farmers and producers. The Expo provides a platform to exhibit products to a variety of buyers from restaurants, food service distributors, government agencies and hospitality venues. 

Huerta is a graduate of Leadership Fresno and was a 2010 “Top 40 under 40” recipient. She is past President for La Visionaria Guild and is current President of the Center for Multicultural Cooperation, an after-school technology and media program for kids in underserved neighborhoods. Huerta received her bachelor degree at UCLA and a Masters in Public Administration from Cal State-Fresno. 

 

Dana Eness

Dana Eness is a founding board member and Executive Director of Stay Local!, which since 2003 has been dedicated to creating a robust independent business network in Greater New Orleans.  Dana has also served as Executive Director of New Orleans-based nonprofit The Urban Conservancy since 2006.  The Urban Conservancy engages in research, education, and advocacy which promote sustainable land use and local economies in Southeast Louisiana.

Since receiving her MA in Latin American Studies from Tulane University in 1989, Dana has worked in non-profit administration, programming, community development and systems building in a number of settings both in the US and abroad. 

 

Jennifer Rubenstein

Jennifer started working for the Louisville Independent Business Alliance (LIBA) in 2008 and became Director in 2011.  Under her leadership, LIBA has grown from 60 to over 470 business members. LIBA educates the public about the advantages of buying from locally-owned, independent businesses, promotes the Keep Louisville Weird campaign and holds the Buy Local First Fair, Shift Your Shopping Contest and Louisville Brewfest annually in addition to other campaigns.

Jennifer holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville with a major in Marketing and was included as a “40 Under 40” by Business First Louisville in 2012. She was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, where she lives with her husband Mark, daughter Katie and two sweet hound dogs. 

 

Lily Brislen


Lily Brislen is the founding director of Think Local Umpqua in Douglas County, Oregon, one of the most successful smaller-town Independent Business Alliances. Lily generates rave reviews for making her presentations and workshops memorably fun as well as informative and productive. She has written for rural development groups on many aspects of localization and entrepreneurial development.

Lily now resides in Lexington, KY, where she is completing a Master's degree at the University of Kentucky focused on community development. She also serves on the board of the Community Farm Alliance.

 

Nicole Kelly

Nicole Kelly serves on the board of Keep Saint Petersburg Local -- the city's Independent Business Alliance -- that developed 500 members in its first two years and helped the city develop a reputation as a "destination city of the arts."   Nicole and her husband, John, own and operate the Hideaway Cafe, St Petersburg's Original Listening Room, where they strive to provide truly appreciative listening audience's for local artists.  They have been at the forefront in supporting original music in St Petersburg since their move from Nashville, TN in 2000 and strive to bring independent musicians to the table in the pro-local cause. 

Nicole holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Vanderbilt University.  She has worked in site development for many industries and companies, including FOX, WebMD, AEGON, and Columbia/HCA, as well as several successful startups.  In addition to Hideaway Cafe, Nicole offers technology consulting services through her web development company, Technikelly Kreative.  In her downtime, she enjoys being a "baseball mom" to her boys, Jackson and Brennan.


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