Local First Arizona's SCALE UP program wins two distinct awards

SCALE UP, a new sustainability program from Local First Arizona, is gaining praise for an innovative approach to reducing water and energy consumption while increasing access to low-interest loan options for locally owned and independent businesses in Arizona.

SCALE UP - Sustainable Communities Accessing Lending and Expertise Upon Performance - just completed a pilot program in 2018 thanks to funding from Arizona Office of Grants and Federal Resources.

In the initial pilot, 11 local business owners were taken through six workshops emphasizing local energy usage, water waste, and transportation conservation. During the program, businesses utilized checklists to track their progress through set benchmarks, building a history of reporting that can be used to obtain package benefits as well as to create individual plans aimed at achieving at least a 10 percent reduction in resource usage.

“The impact that our local businesses can have on environmental sustainability is immense,” says CJ Agbannawag, SCALE UP Manager, “And through this program, owners take a hands-on approach to learning and implementing sustainable practices, rather than just being given a plan that might end up on a shelf.”

Program participants benefit from SCALE UP by lowering their utility costs and receiving a package of benefits, like low-interest rate micro-loans to help with larger improvement purchases, the first of its kind in the State of Arizona, thanks to a partnership with Community Investment Corporation (CIC).

Merit Foods, a locally owned produce and meat distribution company in the Arizona, joined the pilot program because of their higher usage of electricity and fuel, enticed by the opportunity to save the planet and their bottom line.

"As a large user of electricity and fuel, our team at Merit Foods inherently knew that efficiency and sustainability would impact our competitiveness and profitability in a business with low gross profit margins,” says Mike Sadowsky of Merit Foods, “What we found was that the SCALE UP program exposed us to so much more than that. We have learned about the environmental impact of our consumption and where we could invest in our business to get the biggest impact to our costs, while procuring the quickest return.”

In recognition for their innovative pilot program, SCALE UP was the recipient of the Go Green Business Development Partner Award from Tucson Electric Power as well as a Tucson 2030 Changemaker Award, awarded to Local First Arizona and Merit Foods.

“The Tucson 2030 District recognition of Local First Arizona and our Legacy Partner Merit Foods is an important opportunity for increasing the awareness of the larger impact that all of the partners are having collaboratively by working together through the SCALE UP program,” says Michael Peel, Southern Arizona Director of Local First Arizona.

“The SCALE UP Team has provided Merit with endless and accessible knowledge beyond economic and ecological benefits. We have really enjoyed meeting and networking with other participants who share similar goals and values for our community,” says Sadowsky, “We highly recommend this program to business and property owners in Arizona. We will continue to strive toward our 2030 goals and are thankful to have SCALE UP on our side."

For more information on the SCALE UP program, contact Mike Peel, Local First Arizona Southern Arizona Director at mike@localfirstaz.com or (520) 261-0824.


Launched in 2018 as a pilot project, the Sustainable Communities Accessing Lending and Expertise Upon Performance, or SCALE UP, is a collaboration between Local First Arizona and Tucson 2030 District training businesses, organizations, and institutions on how to increase efficiency, reduce environmental impact and save money through sustainability. Find out more: https://www.localfirstaz.com/scale-up


Founded in 2003 by Executive Director Kimber Lanning, Local First Arizona (LFA) is a community and economic development organization working to passionately build a diverse, inclusive and prosperous Arizona economy by innovatively connecting people, locally owned businesses, and communities. LFA educates consumers about the interconnectedness of the economy, trains small businesses to be more effective and more competitive, helps larger Arizona businesses and institutions tell their story as champions of Arizona, and creates programs and events that make it fun and easy to discover local businesses and buy local. Visit www.localfirstaz.com for more information and a directory of more than 3,000 locally owned businesses.


Merit Foods aims to be the best Local, Independent Broad-line Food Distribution Company serving Arizona for over three generations. With over 40,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space and over 20 refrigerated trucks, we are able to house thousands of products and efficiently deliver them to customers throughout Arizona every day. We specialize in custom-cut beef and poultry as well as produce, groceries, local product, and non-foods. Family owned and operated since 1961, Merit Foods prides itself on strong local partnerships, experienced and knowledgeable team members, and ecologically responsible growth. As an alternative to the large national broad-line distributors, we go the extra mile for our customers and enhance business relationships through personal sales to customer relations, and competitive pricing. We are proud members of Local First Arizona and a preferred purveyor of the Tucson Originals.

Alongside these organizations, we strive to create a stronger and more vibrant economy for our community. For business inquiries please email sales@meritfoods.net. For more information visit www.meritfoods.net and/or call 520.884.8232.