Earth Day will mark a shift in direction for the 35-year-old Valley Forward business and civic organization.
On Thursday, the group will present its first Livability Summit, heralding a new focus on promoting environmentally friendly economic development, said Scottsdale resident Diane Brossart, Valley Forward’s president for the past 14 years.
The conference will bring prominent business, economics and environmental experts before an audience of more than 200 local business, government and community leaders. Valley Forward plans to make it an annual event.
The organization has always encouraged balancing economic growth, urban development and environmental protection, but its new approach emphasizes an increasingly critical link among the three interests, Brossart said.
Biotechnology, nanotechnology and the like are the driving forces behind today’s global economy, and those industries are locating where quality of life is high, she said.
"If we’re going to compete effectively, we have to provide an environment that’s better to live in than other places in the country," Brossart said.
Valley leaders need to shed the old model for economic growth that makes environmental quality a secondary priority, said Scottsdale resident and environmental scientist Michael Moffitt, a co-chairman of the Livability Summit.
Air and water quality, energy-efficient transportation systems and land conservation are now the major lures for business investment, said Moffitt, a vice president of Western Technologies, an engineering and environmental consulting company.
Issues to be addressed at the summit are piquing interest.
Valley Forward has drawn more corporate sponsors and industry exhibitors than it expected for the firsttime event, Brossart said.
The Livability Summit replaces Valley Forward’s EarthFest, which introduced local schoolchildren to environmental issues.
A new annual environmental education program for students is being planned to debut in the fall, Brossart said.
What: Valley Forward’s Earth Day Livability Summit
When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday
Where: Phoenix Civic Plaza and Convention Center, 111 N. Third St.
Information: For reservations or exhibit space, call (602) 240-2408 or visit www.valleyforward.org