Encore, June 26, 2013
Every now and then, it is nice to be reminded that the Live Local movement is national in scope—that there are opportunities to tap into larger activities aimed at promoting and supporting small business. The 3/50 Project comes to mind as a highly successful example that has gotten national attention for the importance of supporting locally owned brick-and-mortar stores. Since 2009 3/50 has been asking people to consider how their lives would be impacted if three of their favorite small businesses disappeared? If the answer is something along the lines of “friends or family out of work, life changed for the worse, things I need and want no longer available,” then the project advocates making a concerted effort to spend $50 with one’s favorite independents to prevent their demise.
The Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) continues to work to spread the message about buy local. They also make tools for developing buy local campaigns across the county. One could say they wrote the book on it, since Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher at ILSR penned “Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses.”
On the book front, there is Indie Bound, a desperate and occasionally functional attempt to help locate independent booksellers in the age of big-box and online book retailers. Created in 2008 by the American Booksellers Association (ABA), Indie Bound seeks to help the public connect with independent bookstores and purchase from them instead of the giants. It hopes to connect independent bookstores with both the American Independent Business Alliance and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, which are two national networks of buy-local movements.
It can be strange to talk about national movements for Live Local, but it’s sort of like “made in the U.S.A.” It’s trying to keep our attention and money on creating jobs here rather than overseas. By definition small business is small, and grows slowly and incrementally. In a piece in “Bloomberg Businessweek” last April, Scott Shane noted that “companies with up to 49 workers employed 2.6 percent more people in March 2012 than they did in July 2009, when the economic recovery began.” So, it’s not a fast-growing sector of the economy, but it is a solid one. According to the Small Business Administration, 49.2 percent of private employment in America is through small business.