Buy Local

What is "Local"?

I’m a big fan of the Chapel Hill Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s new OurLocalDeal website, that has daily, Groupon-style, half-off deals for Orange County businesses, but recently when I grumbled about their featuring the local UPS Store franchise, I set off a minor twitter war.  UPS is a global corporation based in Atlanta with stores located all over the world.  The Chamber of Commerce defends their choice as being a unionized, locally-owned store.

Carrboro to county ED leaders: "You just don't understand!"

I thought this was a very direct point about the philosophical divide on economic development (ED) from the Carrboro Board of Aldermen's recent annual retreat.

The aldermen agreed that some organizations just don't get Carrboro's vision, especially the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, and Orange County's Economic Development Commission, and they wondered aloud whether they should seek support from those two groups for the Think Local First Campaign.

- The Herald-Sun - Carrboro wants people to Think Local First, 2/2/2010  

Brian has written about this divide before, but I've never seen it laid out quite so starkly.  Can't we all just get along?

What does "buy local" mean to you?

Yesterday was the last day of Buy Carrboro Week (see adorable flyer at left). This was an initiative of the new group LocalMotive, which is just one of several organizations focusing on economic development and "buying local" in southern Orange County.  Others include the Carrboro Merchant's Association's Walk Carrboro, and the Town of Chapel Hill's Downtown Economic Development Initiative and emerging Franklin Street Artists' Co-op. There are also older/more traditional groups such as the Chamber of Commerce (and their We Buy Local effort), the Visitor's Bureau, and the Downtown Partnership (risen from the ashes of the old Downtown Commission). I'm sure I'm forgetting some, and I'm not even touching on the groups covering Hillsborough and the rest of Orange County. Buy Carrboro Week got me to thinking about our evolving understanding of economic development in Orange County. Just like our views on other issues such as growth management, affordable housing, environmental preservation, and school achievement I think we as a community have been continuing to learn and to look ahead, leading to a change in attitudes and goals. I've started to wonder whether a traditional "Chamber of Commerce"-type approach is all that relevant here anymore.

Weaver Street Market moving from Discounts to Dividends

Weaver Street Market will change the way it rewards consumer owners. Starting at the end of June, consumer owners will receive a Patronage Dividend at the end of the year rather than a 5% discount on some products at the cash register. The co-op will also eliminate its 10% discount for senior citizens on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Like many businesses, Weaver Street Market is going through a difficult financial time; the change is expected to save the co-op $60,000 per month. “Changing from discounts to dividends, along with other changes that our staff is making, will put us back in the black,” said Dave Rizzo, Chair of the Board of Directors. The co-op is currently losing $65,000 a month primarily because sales are down 12% compared to last year in its Carrboro and Southern Village locations. The lower sales are due to the economy and increased competition.

Subsidise Local???

Someone brought up the idea of downtown businesses giving a discount for people shopping off peak hours. Unfortunately, small business really doesn't have the money to do that. Part of that is that State and Local subsidies and development go to out of town ventures - like Interstate 40, The Parton Theater and Carolina North. We encourage people to buy locally, but what is government doing to help local businesses?

I don't have any preconceived notions on this, just the usual anectdotal evidence that many cite as fact. However, it is interesting how Micro-Loans have helped in developing countries. I believe someone won a Nobel Prize with that one.

As a taxpayer and homeowner in Chapel Hill, I am in favor of things that help out working people (and students) like free bus service. I feel like that is giving people a hand-up rather than a hand out and helps local business, the environment and actually keeps taxes lower (fewer car trips, fewer road repairs).


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