Local groups hope to reignite buy-local passion

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Buy locally — that’s what could move Colorado Springs out of the recession, create more jobs and a stronger tax base.

That’s what local groups pushing buy local campaigns believe.

Sandia Advertising in Colorado Springs has launched its own “buy local” effort and is seeking to push the movement further.

“It’s isn’t just about buying local,” said Sherri Gorr, advertising executive at Sandia. “It’s about using local companies, whenever possible. It’s about the city and county using local contractors, which they don’t always do.”

The city of Colorado Springs chose an out-of-state contractor to determine advertising spots on city buildings — a contract that started at $50,000. Local companies, who already know the city, could have provided the same services.

“When you buy locally — and that includes contractors, business services, consultants — you increase the tax base,” she said. “And we all know the city needs that right now.”

Sandia is seeking volunteers from the local business community to continue the marketing push for the “Buy Local” campaign.

Dawn Thilmany, professor of agricultural economics at Colorado State University, has been involved with a Buy Local Northern Colorado group for three years, and says they are encouraged by efforts on the East Coast that have been going on for a decade.

“When you concentrate on food, then you see not only the economic benefits you’d expect, but a higher share of profits stay on local farm systems. There some benefits from people finding a way to get local produce too — the explosive growth in farmers’ markets is an example.

Buy local marketing brings another consequence with it, she said. People start to re-think what’s available in a community, which strengthens economic corridors and creates new movements — like Main Street or Imagine Downtown.

“All of those movements to strengthen downtowns came from buy local campaigning,” she said. “Marketing local goods led to an emphasis on strengthening local communities.”

And with the economy still sputtering, some people see “buy local” campaigns as a way to create jobs. The Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. is focusing their own effort to “think locally,” said Executive Director Mike Kazmierski.

“We want to encourage people to use the resources in the region — use local contractors, buy local products, fly out of the local airport,” he said. “It’s pretty simple, from an economic stimulus perspective. We can help ourselves in the short term by keeping who we hire within a certain parameter, by making sound business decisions.”

Sometimes, the best choice is a local choice, Kazmierski said.

“It’s not charity begins at home,” he said. “It isn’t charity. It’s the smart thing. When you do business locally, you take care of each other. It’s a different mindset.”

It’s sometimes easy to overlook local companies, Gorr said. That’s why the buy local marketing is so important.

“With the economy, we noticed that businesses were doing business outside the market,” she said. “They were using out of state contractors, printers, consultants. And there were lots of people who could handle those contracts here. But people have to be persuaded to use local business. We’re hoping we can do that through this marketing effort.”

Buying local is good government, she said. Local residents add to the tax base in a city in need of more money.

“If you choose an out-of-state contractor, then 100 percent of that goes out of the market,” she said. “And that makes no sense.”

Sandia has teamed with local media — Comcast and Lamar — for advertising space to promote “buy local.” They are also looking for other partners and volunteers to push the concept that buying local is good business.

Marketing strategies for “buy local”

Keep it local. Don’t get distracted by other labels: natural, organic, freetrade, handmade, sustainable.

Focus on value. Small business should aim for great customer service and good quality in order to beat the big box stores.

Tell a story. Make sure people understand the “human element” of a product.

Source: SmallBiz.com