Kimber Lanning is dedicated to making Arizona a world class destination and is fiercely proud of the culture of the region. Specifically, Kimber hates injustice. She wants to leave Arizona a better and more just place than she found it. To this end, Kimber founded both Local First Arizona and Local First Arizona Foundation, two statewide organizations that work together to strengthen Arizona’s economy. She’s grown Local First Arizona into an organization with five statewide offices with 28 employees who work on a diverse array of programs ranging from healthy local food access, entrepreneurial development in underserved communities, and rural community development, each of which plays a part in building sustainable and resilient local economies. and Local First Arizona Foundation is leading the nation in implementing systems and policies to ensure a level playing field for entrepreneurial endeavors and communities of all sizes.
Lanning has received national numerous awards for her diverse work and extensive leadership and speaks regularly around the country. Her work in promoting adaptive reuse in Phoenix’s urban core was recognized by the American Planning Association, who presented Lanning with the Distinguished Citizen Planner Award in 2013. She has also been named one of the “50 Most Influential Women in Arizona” (Arizona Business Magazine, 2011), was the recipient of the Athena Award by the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce in 2013, and was named Citizen Leader of the Year from the International Economic Development Council.
And if that’s not enough, Kimber opened Stinkweeds, a record store, when she was just 19 years old, and has moved the store 4 times over the past 27 years.
Insights and Inspirations
- The odds are stacked against small businesses – they are not bankable.
- Kimber is working to stop displacement that is expected when a new light rail is built in a racially segregated section of South Phoenix. It’s an uphill battle.
- One passionate person like Kimber can make an enormous difference in many people’s lives.
Information and Links
- Kimber wonders whether community investment trusts can help slow down gentrification, like this project in Portland.
- Kimber loves this Local First program called FOR(u)M because it brings together the development community to talk about better designs for healthy communities.
- She just learned about the Incremental Development Alliance recently and LOVES learning more about their work.
- The Boston Impact Initiative is a beautiful organization in Boston doing amazing work building equity and ownership.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: Hey, everyone, this is Eve Picker, and if you listen to this podcast series, you’re going to learn how to make some change. Thanks so much for joining us on this podcast. I’m Eve Picker, and my life revolves around cities, real estate, crowdfunding, and change. In this podcast series, we’ll be digging deep to discover how we can build better cities by building better buildings.
Eve Picker: Today’s feisty guest is Kimber Lanning. Kimber is dedicated to making Arizona a world-class destination and is fiercely proud of the culture of the region. Specifically, Kimber hates injustice. She wants to leave Arizona a better, and more just place than she found it. To this end, Kimber founded both Local First Arizona, and Local First Arizona Foundation – two statewide organizations that work together to strengthen Arizona’s economy.
Eve Picker: She’s grown Local First Arizona into an organization with five statewide offices and 28 employees, who work on a diverse array of programs, ranging from healthy local food access, entrepreneurial development in under-served communities, and rural community development – each of which plays a part in building sustainable and resilient local economies. If that’s not enough, Kimber open Stinkweeds, a record store, when she was just 19 years old, and has moved the store four times over the past 27 years.
Eve Picker: If you want to know more about Kimber after you’ve listened to this podcast, please visit EvePicker.com, where you’ll find links and other goodies on the show notes page, and where you can subscribe to my newsletter on all things real-estate impact. Hello, Kimber, how are you?
Kimber Lanning: I’m doing very well this morning. How are you?
Eve Picker: Good. Good. I would love you to tell us a little about what you’ve built in Arizona to support your passion.
Kimber Lanning: Absolutely. My background is as a small-business owner. I’ve had a small business for 32 years now, here in Phoenix. It’s a music store, of all things. I started Local First in 2003. Initially my orientation was simply corporate versus local. I wanted to build a better economy by educating and informing people about why the local economy matters and why local businesses matter.
Kimber Lanning: We’ve really been an organization that has evolved over time, so today we look very different than when we started. We do have the business coalition that I originally envisioned, which is now 3,600 businesses strong – small, medium, and large. In addition, we run some very specific programs that are creating a more diverse and inclusive economy.
Kimber Lanning: The first one is we run a business-accelerator program called Fuerza Local, which is Spanish for, essentially, Stronger Together Local First. It’s a business-accelerator program that we teach in Spanish that helps community members not only build successful businesses, but to become bankable, to gain a credit score so they can access capital at fair market rates, and essentially pulling them out of the predatory lenders.
Kimber Lanning: We also run a sustainability department, which is focused on a Green Business Certification program. We run a program called Forum that I think you’d be very interested in that’s focused on helping the developing community wrap their arms around the social determinants of health, and better understand health equity, and how the built environment plays a role in that.
Kimber Lanning: The final two programs are food and farming. We do a lot to build healthier food systems in Arizona, and finally, we are the Rural Development Council for the state. We have five statewide offices, and we work diligently in communities of all sizes to help them create entrepreneurial ecosystems and build opportunities for all. That says it, in a nutshell. There’s a lot going on.
Eve Picker: Wow. You’ve built quite an organization I know you have 17 employees and four different offices now.
Kimber Lanning: We actually even have grown bigger than that. We’re at 28 today. Yeah, it’s been quite a remarkable run. The good news is I’m still as fired up as ever, so who knows what else will happen in the next 10 years.
Eve Picker: Great! That’s really great news. Tell us just a little bit about your favorite project at the moment that you’re working on.
Kimber Lanning: You know what? I’m going to frame it a little bit differently than ‘favorite,’ because it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done, and it’s in an area in Phoenix called South Phoenix. Like many big cities, this is a part of town that was very racially segregated. The very-much ‘white power’ control of the city, here, relegated people of color into this area that is south of the river bottom. This is a story that can probably resonate in many cities across America. The river bottom, we use it as a dump, and there’s all sorts of toxic sludge in there.
Kimber Lanning: Just recently, the city won funding through a federal grant to expand the light rail into South Phoenix, which, on the one hand, is absolutely fantastic. We want these folks that live here to be able to access high-quality public transportation. It will minimize air pollution, and all the other benefits that come with that.
Kimber Lanning: I happen to live in a city that doesn’t have a lot of power in terms of … I should say they do have the power, but they’re refusing to use their power to create zoning regulations that will minimize displacement. While the community is supportive of the light rail, they’re very opposed, and fearful of the gentrification that comes with light rail, when there’s no transit justice involved, and, clearly, rightfully so. Many of them feel like this is the third time ‘you’ve come for my family to move us out of here.’.
Kimber Lanning: I’m very much involved with a business-assistance plan to try to strengthen, and shore up the businesses that are there, and I’m very active in trying to help those businesses figure out how to buy their own buildings, because, as you know, when wealth moves in, ownership matters. We need to make sure that as many families that have lived there for a long time own their properties as [inaudible] possibly can. That’s a big project I’m working on right now. I wouldn’t describe it as my favorite, but it’s the most challenging thing I’ve done in my career.
Eve Picker: That’s very challenging. What sort of success are you having in helping these business owners purchase the buildings?
Kimber Lanning: So far, we’ve only been able to help one, and that’s just very honest. There’s many different facets here. We’ve had more than one that could qualify, but they don’t trust banks enough, so they wouldn’t go for the loan. They want to do a cash deal, and they’re struggling to find ways to make that happen.
Kimber Lanning: There’s a lot of situations where we’ve actually found people that believed they were purchasing a building, but when they were making their payments, the landlord had actually never sold them the building. He was just collecting the payments [cross talk] There’s quite a lot of … Yeah, there’s quite a lot of unlawful activity in terms of abuse and victimization of people who don’t know the laws. We do have one success story. He actually owned his building and he was able to acquire a parking lot that he was using that he had never owned before.
Kimber Lanning: We have a long way to go. I’m looking at models, community land trusts, and other such things. You and I talked about crowdfunding; trying to figure out a way to make that work in a community that doesn’t have a lot of collaboration, and certainly a lot of historical trauma that causes justified mistrust.
Eve Picker: Be sure to go to EvePicker.com and sign up for my free educational newsletter about impact real-estate investing. You’ll be among the first to hear about new projects you can invest in. That’s EvePicker.com. Thanks so much.
Eve Picker: Yes, that’s a pretty painful story. The person who purchased the land, can that person help reach others who might be mistrustful?
Kimber Lanning: Yes, we’re doing a lot of work to get the word out about that. We actually have submitted ‘thief’ to the attorney general’s office, and we’re seeing what legal recourse there might be, so that’s in progress.
Eve Picker: Wow, that’s really quite a project. Your world does really intersect with real estate quite a lot. Do you think that crowdfunding could help, or do you think that would just be more difficult for these people?
Kimber Lanning: No, I believe it would help. The challenge is there’s language barriers. This is a Spanish-preferred part of town. Then, there’s certainly trust.
Kimber Lanning: One thing that I find quite interesting in our business-accelerator program, which I mentioned, called Fuerza Local, the way we help people earn a credit score is that they participate in what’s called a money pool; in places around the world it’s called a tanda, or a cadena. It’s been used for centuries around the world, and the way I describe it to people – largely those of us in privilege, who have never faced these kinds of situations – it’s a way that families have saved money without paying interest by leveraging friends and family.
Kimber Lanning: Let’s just say my car broke down, and I need $1,200 by tomorrow to get it fixed, or I face losing my job, because it’s the only transportation that I have. I would call 12, well, 11 friends and family together, and I would ask them each to put $100 into a kitty.
Kimber Lanning: Then, if you can imagine, going around, like on a dial, each of us would put $100 into the kitty in the center each month and a different person in my family would get to take the whole kitty each month. I would take first position and take the whole $1,200; my aunt’s getting married next month, she’ll take the next $1,200, and we would all continue to pay, for the year, $100 a month.
Kimber Lanning: We’ve digitized that through a program called eMoneyPool. We put our students, our classes of business owners, into pods of twelve. They’re very familiar with a tanda, so we don’t have to teach them what a tanda is.
Kimber Lanning: We have to teach them to trust the digital aspect of it – that they’ll put their money in, and we’re reporting those payments over six months to Experian, so that when they graduate – Experian, the credit bureau – they have an actual credit history. We have relationships with two credit unions that will accept that six-month payment history in lieu of any either bad-credit, or no-credit history to extend them a line of credit for their business.
Kimber Lanning: With crowdfunding, the challenge is not that I don’t think it would be helpful; the challenge is how do we build trust? When we first started Fuerza Local, the hardest part was recruiting those first 12 businesses.
Eve Picker: I’m sure.
Kimber Lanning: They had to trust us. They had to believe it was going to work; that it mattered; that a credit score mattered – all of those things; even that access to capital mattered. They were so used to just doing business on a cash basis, and not buying what they couldn’t afford, even if it meant inventory that they then couldn’t sell. They were hindered significantly in their business.
Kimber Lanning: With crowdfunding, it’s a matter of how do we get in there, and show them that this works? Now that we’re going, we have about 60 students each semester that we can afford to put through the program, but over 150 apply, now that the word is out that we’re a trustworthy organization, that this works, that credit works, that banks are not going to steal all your money – all of those rampant rumors are not true – and that we can actually be a provided, and trusted resource. I think if we can get over that hurdle, Eve, the crowdfunding for real estate will be huge.
Eve Picker: I also wonder, although it doesn’t sound like you have great neighbors there who are helping, I wonder if there are people across the nation who might contribute to a fund that a trustworthy group like yourself could control.
Kimber Lanning: Right. I’d be interested in having that conversation. I think that this is a classic case of a very deliberately marginalized community that’s not being listened to, and it very much needs support.
Kimber Lanning: I think that if we can get that story out, people would- it would resonate, because whether we’re talking about East Chicago, or are certainly communities like New Orleans, and others, where a recovery has been slow, the investment has been slow, and people have been essentially left on their own, and now, we’re coming to take their land, essentially … This is how the system works, and we need to stop it.
Eve Picker: Wow! It’s quite a story. When you talk about this, I can’t even really think about the buildings. For you, impact is all really all about the people, right?
Kimber Lanning: It’s all about the people. This particular place, the one thing we have going is that the real estate was all developed in the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, so there’s a lot of very small-footprint buildings that are stacked up very close to one another with unique ownership. Some of them might have five or six buildings in one parcel.
Kimber Lanning: My point is it will be harder for developers to do massive land acquisitions because there’s so many deals that need to be done, and that will perhaps save some of the older buildings, so that we can keep local and independent businesses in them.
Eve Picker: Interesting. Have you thought about recreating new buildings, or a new set of buildings like this, as well? Have you thought about actually finding some land on this corridor, and doing a project? I gather you’re a nonprofit, so that could be helpful.
Kimber Lanning: I love that idea. I don’t know how to make that work, but what’s interesting is the City of Phoenix owns a lot of land in this area, so I’m very curious about getting involved in an RFP process that is putting in, for example, not just commercial space, but affordable housing with local businesses on the ground floor.
Kimber Lanning: I’m really intrigued by this new model that I found in Portland that you may be familiar with, where a nonprofit went in, bought affordable housing; refurbished it, and then had allowed themselves to be bought out of it, as the community members that lived there had bought into it. Residents run businesses on the ground floor, and it’s a very healthy and active development. I’m very interested in that model, as well.
Eve Picker: Yeah, it’d be really interesting to see if it would translate, but it sounds like you need to move pretty fast, if that train is coming, right?
Kimber Lanning: That’s exactly right. We have to move fast, and the pressure is intense.
Eve Picker: Right. Are there any other current trends in real-estate development that you think could be helpful to you in that area? You see, for example, a lot of market-restaurant trends, which allow small businesses to start in a curated- like incubated space … Co-working, which shares office space.
Kimber Lanning: Right, right.
Eve Picker: There are people I’m talking to who are building … I don’t even want to call them co-working spaces, but small-.
Kimber Lanning: Almost like an incubator space, yeah.
Eve Picker: Incubator space, but for hands-on businesses, not tech companies [cross talk]
Kimber Lanning: Right, yeah. That’s a project that we run in a town called Mesa, which is in the East Valley, here, of the greater Phoenix area. We partnered with community development partners. They were real-estate developers who were very interested in place-based development.
Kimber Lanning: This is an affordable-housing complex. Everyone there is qualified, living below the poverty line, so it’s very affordable. It’s a new-market tax-credit deal that’s right on a light-rail line. They’ve partnered with us to run a commercial kitchen on site. We teach our Fuerza Local classes there. They invested in a commercial kitchen, which we never would have been able to afford.
Kimber Lanning: We are programming it in ways that are beneficial to their residents. We teach cooking classes for kids, and adults. We have 29 gardening beds so that families can grow their own food on site. There’s shared, fun playground area with barbecues, so that families can have indoor/outdoor opportunities, and really build community there.
Kimber Lanning: We’re also incubating small businesses. Some of the residents, as well as other people in the neighborhood, are growing catering companies, or foods that they can sell at the farmer’s market, which is just down the road, so there’s a variety of food-related things happening.
Kimber Lanning: We just started a business-accelerator boot camp that is designed specifically for food entrepreneurs. When they get out of the broad business development, they can go through six courses that are on managing food cost, and mitigating food waste, and very specific to restaurants [cross talk]
Eve Picker: -you’re digging in and helping these people build businesses, and learn how to build businesses, and then, the last piece of it is the real estate. When they find something affordable, when gentrification comes, it all kind of falls apart, so ownership becomes really critical, doesn’t it?
Kimber Lanning: It does. It really does, and the other piece of that, Eve, is that what we’re trying to do is demonstrate a model so that we can encourage the City of Phoenix to include in their RFP … When they put out an RFP for a city-owned parcel, they could be requiring a ground-floor commercial kitchen, specifically to incubate food entrepreneurs; they could require on-site gardening beds.
Kimber Lanning: We’re trying to use that as a model, and then apply pressure to the city on certain parcels – not all of them, obviously, but certain parcels – that we think are important for maintaining affordability, and health equity; we would make that requirement. We’ve done tours of this property to show the city officials how this is different, and why it matters.
Eve Picker: Wow. So, in the world of real-estate impact and real-estate impact investing, how do you think it might be improved?
Kimber Lanning: For impact investing, I feel that … I see some impact investing that is focused on systems change, and some that’s focused on projects that perhaps are temporary fixes. As good as they are, absent that particular project, it hasn’t really implemented long-term change.
Kimber Lanning: I think that this is the million-dollar question. We have so much inequity in the US. There are really great people with a lot of money trying to find ways to invest it. Again, we’re going to have to rattle some cages here.
Kimber Lanning: I’m not picking on any particular organization but let’s just say you have a giant- some of these giant nonprofit organizations that might be working with kids in communities of color, as an example … We can, of course, invest in those communities, and we can demonstrate that with the proper education, more of them will be successful.
Kimber Lanning: But, what are we really doing to change the racism that put the system in place that marginalized them in the first place, and limits their ownership? We shouldn’t be focusing on the few success stories. We should be focusing on the equity that enables everyone to have an equal opportunity to succeed. That’s my point.
Kimber Lanning: What we’re doing, essentially, with a lot of philanthropic money in America, is we’re buying more pool tables to placate the time of the children who are suffering through the indignities of a racist system. That is unconscionable.
Eve Picker: How do we start to fix that?
Kimber Lanning: Well, I think we need to have an honest conversation around race. I think that many white people that are doing well in this country are very slow, if not opposed to recognizing the privilege that got them there. We need to get there before we can start coming up with actual solutions, because, in order to create equity, we need to be willing to give some things up.
Eve Picker: Yes. It’s a very, very difficult conversation, and I think very hard for people to hear each other. I think maybe that’s the first step, just getting them to listen to each other.
Kimber Lanning: Agreed. There’s a lot of pain. It’s escalating. If anybody’s not recognizing that it’s escalating right now [cross talk].
Eve Picker: Oh, it is escalating. Yeah, I agree. It’s escalating very quickly. I don’t know if we’re going to solve that here, today, Kimber.
Kimber Lanning: We’re definitely not going to solve it here, today.
Eve Picker: At least we’re talking about it, right?
Kimber Lanning: I think it’s the first step. We have to talk about it, and it really … When you start talking about real estate, and equity, another thing I just would like to touch on is that the financial systems in the United States are very rapidly alienating communities of color, as well.
Kimber Lanning: When you look at the redlining, or specifically, the Big Banks not lending in communities that are primarily people of color, then we have to hold ourselves accountable, as the people who have deposits; that we move our money into places where those deposits will best help support those communities. That may look like community banks, or credit unions, or certainly banks that are owned by people of color.
Kimber Lanning: What I’ve done is I’ve moved all of my money into banks that I can see are demonstrating in the communities that I want to preserve, and support, and uplift. We can’t simply scratch our heads, and say, “Well, look at all this inequity,” if our money is sitting in Bank of America, or Wells Fargo, or JP Morgan Chase.
Kimber Lanning: We need to acknowledge that our money is doing harm. It’s invested in private prisons; it’s invested in perpetuating the inequities that we see in this country. That would just be one thing that I would ask your listeners to consider is to move their money into smaller, locally owned community banks, or credit unions, where they can be accountable for their money.
Eve Picker: I think it’s a great first step; a really great first step. Let’s move on. It’s hard to know where to move on after this conversation. It’s a pretty deep conversation. How do you think we need to think about our cities, and neighborhoods to build better places for everyone?
Kimber Lanning: I think that we need to always be willing to … The phase that I call peeling back the layers of the onion. A typical analysis might go in, and say this neighborhood is underemployed. There’s a high percentage of unemployed, as well as people that are working part-time, or not maximizing their education – whatever that might look like, but sometimes there’s an indicator that we completely overlook, like lack of affordable childcare.
Kimber Lanning: When I talk about building great communities, we need to look at all aspects, because when you don’t have affordable, quality childcare, you are taking a parent out of the workforce, or putting them in a part-time position, or whatever that might be just to try to be the supportive parent that they need to be.
Kimber Lanning: Especially when we work in rural areas, every worker counts in some of these smaller towns. When we go in, and do an assessment, sometimes they’re surprised to hear that the problem is not workforce training; it’s not, “Well, these people just don’t want to work,” which I’ve heard.
Kimber Lanning: It’s that you need to invest in quality childcare, in order to maximize the workers that are there. Believe me, they would love the opportunity, but they don’t currently have it. Peeling back the layers of the onion is really important as we begin to think about how to build better places.
Eve Picker: Yeah, I agree. I was somewhere yesterday, where the city’s working on a rather large project, and they were talking about a prisoner-release center nearby, and people drifting over to a McDonald’s, and hanging out there, and causing all sorts of problems.
Eve Picker: The discussion we had … They’re basically using McDonald’s as a safe place to hang out. There isn’t anywhere else for them to go. They don’t have money; they don’t have a job. Perhaps looking at what the work-release center provides is the first step. Not tearing down the McDonald’s, right?
Kimber Lanning: Exactly right. That’s exactly it. It’s a perfect example for when I say peeling back the layers of the onion to look at what are the original causes; what are we dealing with, before we react?
Eve Picker: That’s right. I totally agree with that. You’ve worked a lot in community work, and I’m wondering what community engagement tools you’ve seen that have worked best, because clearly that’s a big struggle [cross talk] to the table?
Kimber Lanning: I’m going to answer that in a few different ways. In rural communities, it’s about convening people, talking to them, and really listening to what their needs are, so that you can accurately assess what the challenges are.
Kimber Lanning: I think that in the Latino community, where we’re working, you don’t need to convene them all in a room. You need to find a few champions, and let those champions tell the story, and it will reverberate. I guess the first step is knowing your audience; knowing the community where you’re working, before you implement any sort of strategy.
Kimber Lanning: In rural communities here in Arizona, the opioid crisis has spread out into the rural areas, so much so that we have private-sector employers who will put out an entry level position at, say, $35,000 a year, which, in rural Arizona, is a good wage for a living, and for an entry level position.
Kimber Lanning: They’ll say if they get 10 applicants, that five of them won’t pass a drug test, and of the remaining five, three of them, on average, will no-show the interview. Of the two that actually show up, if they just hire them because they showed up, essentially, the average length of time they can keep them is six months.
Kimber Lanning: This is a massive workforce crisis, and I don’t think that our rural communities are an exception. There’s a major problem just under the surface in the US that’s workforce-related. You’re starting to see more, and more people starting to say, “Wait, we need more people in the trades.”
Kimber Lanning: Well, for 20 years, young people were told if you don’t go get a four-year degree, you basically should move into the alley, and become a heroin addict, right? Everybody ran and got a four-year degree, and now we don’t have people hanging drywall. It’s important that we recognize we need people in the trades. Not everyone is going to have a four-year degree.
Eve Picker: Oh, I so agree with you. I so agree with you. Are you going to start a trade school next?
Kimber Lanning: Don’t get me started [cross talk]
Eve Picker: -both my children went to trade school, and they were not ready … They were not ready for college. They both love learning, and they both said it was the best educational experience they had. They loved it.
Kimber Lanning: I have a dear friend whose son knew, in high school, he wanted to be a welder, so he went to a trade school for the last year of high school; got out of that, and landed a job at $45,000 a year, as a welder, that he absolutely loves, and he’s doing better than any of his friends who are struggling through community college, and everything else. I think that-
Eve Picker: The interesting things was that when my kids were finishing high school, there wasn’t one counselor who would talk to us about trade schools.
Kimber Lanning: Right. Yeah, no, it is a huge bias, and it’s going to cost our country mightily.
Eve Picker: You know, I totally agree with you. Not everyone is cut out for college, and not everyone learns very much in college. I think the next step of the problem is the debt they’re burdened with. I’ve hired people with liberal-arts degrees, who can’t write a letter, and I really wonder how they ever going to pay back their college debt.
Kimber Lanning: Right.
Eve Picker: It’s a crisis.
Kimber Lanning: It’s a crisis. That doesn’t even touch on the fact that there’s not enough of those jobs to go around. Meanwhile, the jobs that actually require hands-on knowledge are available. I can’t find a roofer in this city to save my life, right now. They are spread too thin, because there’s not enough of them.
Eve Picker: Wow.
Kimber Lanning: One thing I do want to mention that I think that people would be curious to hear about is we have one small town here that’s 1,300 people. They suddenly realized that everyone in their town that knew how to be a plumber, an air-conditioning repairman, or a heavy equipment operator was over 65. and just moments away from retirement.
Kimber Lanning: They started a journeyman program, where they took six high-school juniors, and seniors, and, for a year- I think it was actually 18 months, they shadowed, in the field, these professionals, so that by the time the older gentlemen were ready to retire, the younger gentlemen were ready to step into those roles. It was very successful.
Eve Picker: It’s like an apprentice program, right?
Kimber Lanning: It is, yeah.
Eve Picker: That’s fabulous. Well, we’re straying from real-estate impact, but it’s very interesting.
Kimber Lanning: Well, yes, and no. We can’t develop what we need to develop without the trades. So, to me-.
Eve Picker: It’s true; it’s true. I’m going to challenge you to start that trade school. It sounds like an opportunity in the making. You’d probably [inaudible] from that. Okay, well then, I have one wrap-up question. Actually, one wrap-up, and then three others that I’d like to ask you, so four questions. Where do you think the future of real-estate impact investing lies, knowing what we know today, and the gaps that exist?
Kimber Lanning: I think it has to lie in a community land trust. I think that we can’t retain ownership, as impact investors, in communities that need that ownership. The Portland model that I mentioned … I think the original acquisition, whether that’s done by a group of individuals, or nonprofits, I think they need to allow themselves to be bought out of it by the people who live there so that it becomes a self-reliant entity.
Eve Picker: That sounds like what you’re going to be working on next, right?
Kimber Lanning: That’s right. That’s right.
Eve Picker: Very good. I have three sign-off questions for you. What’s the key factor, or what are the key factors that make a real-estate project impactful to you?
Kimber Lanning: I think it has to be acculturated, meaning in the community where you are building, it has to be responsive to that community. El Rancho is 90-percent Latino, and it’s responsive to that in that the programming is done in Spanish. The foods that are encouraged, and the equipment, even, that we installed was for people that are going to be making foods like tamales, and other foods that that community enjoys. I also think that-
Eve Picker: And the rest of us enjoy.
Kimber Lanning: Well, the rest of us enjoy, but Grandma that lives there knows how to make the best ones known to mankind, so, it’s important that the younger kids be able to learn those heritage foods, and traditions. Providing a space for them to convene, and share is important. I also think the shared space for the kids to play after school, and the barbecues outdoors are very acculturated, as well.
Kimber Lanning: Another thing I will say, in real estate, Latino families tend to be larger, so this is an affordable-housing complex that has two-, three-, and four-bedroom, which you rarely see in affordability. It’s usually one-, and two-bedrooms only, because they always say it can’t be done. But it can be done, and it must be done. I think place-based would be my first one, and culturally appropriate for the communities that are living there.
Kimber Lanning: Then, the third, that’d be comprehensive and holistic. We need to think about health very broadly. Are there opportunities for the residents to learn new skills, or advance themselves economically on-site? Are there after-school programs for the kids to continue their learning after school? Those questions need to be answered.
Eve Picker: Very good. Other than by raising money, in what ways can involving investors through crowdfunding benefit the impact real-estate developer?
Kimber Lanning: Outside of raising money? I think influence; just influence. I think there are a lot of impact investors that are influencing others’ behavior, and perhaps they’re not even aware. I think to shine a light, to share, to show what an impact investment they’ve made has done … To share those stories, I think, is important.
Eve Picker: Okay. This is my really big one that I have to ask everyone. How do you think real-estate development in the US can be improved?
Kimber Lanning: Oh, my goodness! That-.
Eve Picker: That’s a whole podcast, right?
Kimber Lanning: Yeah, it is! I’m in Phoenix, Arizona, where the developers have ruled the earth like the dinosaurs for my entire lifetime. They control the policies; they control our state legislature. If they don’t want to build sustainably, they don’t have to, because they’ll just go and fight the laws, and they always win. They’re a powerful bunch.
Kimber Lanning: For me, I think that what I would ask is that they actually are accountable for the outcomes of what they develop. That means that they are accountable for the displacement; that they are accountable for the environmental degradation; that they are accountable for the unaffordability, or their role in crisis.
Kimber Lanning: I think, too often, developers have been trained to build what they want, and they drop new developments in like spaceships from outer space, without even looking around at what was actually needed. Too often, they just replicate what they’ve done that’s been profitable for themselves, rather than considering the rest of us who have to live with the crap they turn out.
Kimber Lanning: Understand walkability. Dropping in an apartment complex that doesn’t have any ground-floor activation, in a walkable district, is a crime, and they need to be held accountable for that. I could go on … I’ve seen some really [cross talk]
Eve Picker: That’s pretty good. That’s really holding people accountable. Well, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you, and thank you very much for joining us.
Kimber Lanning: Same to you!
Eve Picker: And I’m sure we’ll be talking again soon, because I really want to talk to you about crowdfunding in your community. I think there’s something we could cook up together. I’m sure.
Kimber Lanning: I think so, too. Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me.
Eve Picker: Thank you, Kimber. Bye.
Kimber Lanning: Take care; bye-bye.
Eve Picker: That was Kimber Lanning. I really enjoy talking to her. Kimber gave me three great takeaways. First, the odds are stacked against small businesses. They are not bankable. Second, she’s working to stop displacement that she expects will happen with a new light rail in a racially segregated section of South Phoenix. Third, women should rule the world. What did you learn?
Eve Picker: You can read more about Kimber on the show notes page for this podcast at EvePicker.com. While you’re there, please consider signing up for my newsletter to find out more about how to make money in real estate, while making some change. Thank you so much for spending your time with Kimber and I, today. We’ll talk again soon, but for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Image courtesy of Kimber Lanning, Local First Arizona