People of AMIBA
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Board of Directors
Erin Kilmer Neel (Interim Chair) Oakland, California
Board member, Oakland Grown
Steve Bercu (Vice President / Treasurer) Austin, Texas
President, Austin Independent Business Alliance
Carla Jimenez (Secretary) Saint Petersburg, Florida
Founding member and past president, Tampa Independent Business Alliance
Local Business Initiatives Manager, City of Fresno, California
Co-founder, Fresno Regional Independent Business Alliance
Executive Director, Stay Local! New Orleans, Louisiana
Executive Director, Louisville Independent Business Alliance, Kentucky
Co-founder, Boulder IBA
Co-founder, Local First Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
Founder, Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts
David C. Korten
People-Centered Development Forum
Bainbridge Island, Washington
Senior Consultant, Communities & Campuses, Rocky Mountain Institute
KayAnn Miller (Financial Advisor)
Co-founder, Portland Independent Business and Community Alliance
Senior researcher, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Stu M. Levit (Legal Advisor)
Other AMIBA Speakers and Workshop Facilitators
Founding director of Think Local Umpqua in Douglas County, Oregon
Now in Lexington, Kentucky
Director, Asheville Grown Business Alliance
Asheville, North Carolina
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 Inter-neighborhood 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 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, directing the Boulder IBA in CO, starting in 1998. Since 2001, AMIBA has helped more than 80 of these Alliances form in a diverse range of communities across the U.S. and Canada. AMIBA already has inspired similar organizations and influenced countless others in the growing Localization Movement.
Milchen's prior work includes successfully operating his own start-up businesses in Vermont and serving as the director of Reclaim Democracy! His commentaries and articles have appeared in dozens of publications including The Chicago Tribune, Business Week, The Ecologist, Adbusters, and Inc. Magazine. Milchen is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains surrounding Bozeman, MT.
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 Western Massachusetts with his partner Jess, enjoys local craft beer, electronic dance music and undertakings that change the world.
Alex is a graduating senior in Business Marketing from Montana State University. She was a star intern for AMIBA as a sophomore, so we're excited to welcome Alex back helping out while she completes her studies. She has focused on developing online resources and social media communication while helping out AMIBA affiliates and our staff with anything thrown her way! Alex also worked with marketing and public relations for Big Sky Resort where she coordinated events, promotions, and performed market research.
During summer 2012 she worked as a research assistant investigating the messaging effectiveness for bear safety in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. From this, she co-authored a paper on consumer psychology and the importance of language in persuasive messages.
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 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.
Steve is co-owner of Austin, Texas, mainstay BookPeople and co-founder and president of the influential Austin Independent Business Alliance. He had spent several decades as a lawyer before investing in BookPeople and ultimately took over the store's management.
Bercu has been an ardent advocate of independent businesses organizing. "I'm extremely interested in the idea that our independence is what distinguishes us from our competition online and off...This is where my business and personal interests intersect."
Carla received her BA from Colgate University and JD from Boston University School of Law, and practiced labor and employment law in the University of South Florida's Office of the General Counsel before opening Inkwood Books in Tampa, Florida in 1991.
Carla founded the Tampa Independent Business Alliance in 2003 and has helped guide the organization since inception.Her community involvement includes participation in the Survivors Teaching Students program of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.
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 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 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.
Other AMIBA Speakers and Facilitators
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.
Franzi Charen has been an independent business owner in Asheville, North Carolina for 10 years and co-owns Hip Replacements clothing store. From manufacturing, retail, festival and non-profit work, she is well versed in the diversity needed for a community to thrive. As founder and director of the Asheville Grown Business Alliance she assembled a team that promotes the independent spirit of Asheville through design, social networking and public events. Under her leadership, Asheville's alliance has created a remarkable level of community-wide awareness and engagement.
Laury is the President and CEO of The Longfellow Clubs of Massachusetts. His business includes health and sports clubs, holistic health centers, children’s centers, and camps that serve 10,000 members. Honored by the Boston Globe as one of the top places to work in MA, Longfellow is a recognized industry leader in innovative business practices, environmental responsibility, and community service.
Laury has helped numerous local business alliances get started. Additionally, he founded the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts (SBN) in 1988, Business for Social Responsibility in 1991 and, in 2001, co-founded the the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. Laury directs the 1000+ member SBN and has developed innovative programs like the Boston Local Food Festival, the Sustainable Business Leader Program, and the Sustainability Leadership Summit.
Stacy Mitchell is a senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its initiatives on community banking and independent business. She has written for numerous national publications and her award-winning book, Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses, is the first one we recommend to newcomers.
Stacy is a past AMIBA board chair and now serves on AMIBA's advisory board. She is a popular speaker and has advised many community groups, independent business organizations, and policymakers seeking strategies to strengthen local economies. Stacy also has helped make the Portland IBCA a powerful force in her Maine home.