Elissa Hillary

Executive Director of Local First
Local First West Michigan
Bachelor of Arts in Community Leadership & Political Science
Class of 2005
Honoree's Site
Alma Mater:
Aquinas College

Independent Alum of the Day

Since 2007, Elissa Hillary has served as the Executive Director of Local First, an entrepreneurial nonprofit working to build a sustainable West Michigan economy.

Her energy and creativity have helped Local First quintuple its business membership and develop programs that promote sustainable business development, reduce waste, and increase community vibrancy.

Elissa was named Grand Rapids Young Non-Profit Professionals Exemplary Executive in 2010 and one of Grand Rapids Business Journal’s “Top 40 under 40” business leaders in 2010 and 2012.  She is a 2011 Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) Fellow.  In addition, she serves on the Grand Rapids DDA’s Board of Directors. 

You can read more about “living local” in her bi-monthly column in Grand Rapids Magazine.

My motivation

I’m motivated by helping others see how easy it is to make a positive impact on their community.  The small choices we make each day matter and have the potential to transform the world around us.

My latest accomplishments

Professionally, over the last two years, I’ve had the privilege of helping to expand our efforts across the region.  Local First has worked with businesses and community organizations in Grand Rapids – now we’re doing work along the Lakeshore from Grand Haven all the way down to Saugatuck.  Personally, last fall I finished my second half marathon!

Next big goal

Over these next couple of years, Local First will focus on helping locally-owned businesses understand how they can use the power of their business to transform the community.  Local First has partnered with BCorp and is the first in the nation to pilot a Quick Impact Assessment as a means to determine how much good a company does for their local economy, community, and environment.  The results of this assessment will be used to create educational programs that will help businesses move the needle toward community good.

Why is choosing your own path important?

I believe people excel when their interests and passions align with their work.  Everything is challenging sometimes, but if you’re doing something you believe in and love, you are that much more motivated to pull through.

Favorite place on campus

Holmdene Gardens

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