Michelle Long is the executive director of BALLE. Its first co-director, she transitioned to serve on the BALLE board starting in 2003 and later returned as executive director in 2009. Founded in 2002, BALLE is amplifying and accelerating the enormous awakening energy directed toward local economies. Seeing local, independently owned businesses as the key to solving our communities’ toughest challenges and to creating real prosperity, BALLE connects visionary local leaders so they can find inspiration and support. Through intense collaboration BALLE identifies and promotes the most innovative business models for creating healthier, sustainable, and prosperous communities. With a growing network of 22,000 local entrepreneurs spanning 80 communities, BALLE is leveraging the collective voice of this movement to drive new investment, scale the best solutions, and harness the power of local, independently owned business to transform the communities where we work and live.
Before going to BALLE, Michelle co-founded and was executive director of Sustainable Connections in Bellingham, Washington—one of BALLE's first member business networks. Its membership, now comprised of 700 locally owned businesses, has made Bellingham the nation's top EPA-certified green-power community, a leader in green building, in fostering hundreds of new relationships between farmers and food buyers, and in shifting the purchasing behavior of three out of five households toward choosing independent retailers and services first. NPR's Marketplace called Bellingham the “epicenter of a new economic model,” and the National Resources Defense Council named Bellingham the number one small city in the nation in urban progress toward sustainability. Michelle was named one of the West Coast's "top five leading ladies of sustainability" by the Sustainable Industries Journal. A regular keynote speaker, she is also the co-author of Local First: A How-to Guide and the author of the new Building a Community of Businesses: A BALLE Business Network How-to Kit.