The Locally Owned Business Organization (LOBO) of Grand Junction, Colorado celebrates its first anniversary this month. In a year’s time, LOBO has grown from a handful of founders to 52 dues-paying members, ranging from retail stores to contractors, banks, and media outlets.
“Our goal is to develop a strong presence in the community and convey to people that there are very important reasons to do business with locally owned companies,” says Don Teets, founder and president of LOBO. “The majority of [national chains] are here on a bottom line basis. If the economy goes south, they go north. The health of this community depends on maintaining our own economic infrastructure.”
The origins of the alliance can be found in an unsuccessful shopping trip to Home Depot in 1999. After finding that the store would not deliver a new door, Teets stopped at locally owned Harbert Lumber. Not only did they deliver, but the price was lower and the service better.
The experience led Teets to conclude that a major problem facing local businesses is that they tend to be overlooked by consumers swept up in a sea of chain store marketing. He began meeting with several business owners. They decided that the only way to get their message out was to form an alliance with more power and reach than any of them could muster on their own.
The organization plans a paid advertising campaign once it reaches about 300 members. For now, LOBO relies on less expense ways of reaching the community. The group’s newsletter is inserted in the Grand Valley Business Times. Several news outlets have run stories and interviews on the alliance. LOBO held a public meeting last year and plans to speak to several community organizations this year.
LOBO also encourages its members to support each other. To join, businesses must provide discounts to all LOBO members, their families, and their employees. This simple step has already had an impact, according to Teets. The local office supply store, for example, has seen a bump in sales as LOBO businesses stop shopping at Office Max.
One of LOBO’s projects for the upcoming year is to meet with both government and industry purchasing agents throughout the county. The organization is concerned that local businesses are often unaware of requests for bids. LOBO plans to function as a central clearinghouse where purchasers can send bid requests to be forwarded to appropriate LOBO members. LOBO will also make a case to purchasers, especially public agencies, that giving preference to locally owned businesses generates economic and community benefits.
LOBO’s monthly membership dues range from $50-$200. The organization has one and a half full-time employees and hopes to have 300 members by the end of 2001.
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