SOLE educates consumers about local spending

It’s easy to be seduced by the enormous selections you can find in national chains, but cheap goods made elsewhere can’t buy what we really need– economic security where we live. As the economy becomes “the pot that cannot hold itself,” more and more enterprising small business owners have made the choice to create jobs and invest in the place where they live as a means of survival, and are devoted to investing in the local economy.

These forward-thinking business owners know that every dollar is compounded four times if that dollar stays in the area and is spent in local stores (called the “multiplier effect”). However, residents in many areas, including Central Ohio, have long been sinking almost all their income –disposable or otherwise– into buying goods that were produced somewhere else, from corporations that send that money offshore. Business owners can help counteract this by supporting programs that educate consumers about local spending– organizations like the  Save Our Local Economy coalition.

SOLE includes key resource organizations that provide support to locally owned, independent businesses. SOLE helps connect the dots and ensure that businesses get the support they need from its partners:

  • • The Economic and Community Development Institute offers training, mentoring, and microloans.
  • The Small Business Beanstalk offers business services and encourages their 500+ local business members to network and build local supply chains.
  • Local Matters focuses on food infrastructure from farm to table and encourages entrepreneurs in food-related operations.
  • Kemba offers banking and loan services to small businesses.
  • Simply Living offers a business membership option for locally owned businesses and promotes them to their membership base and to the larger community.

SOLE doesn’t duplicate existing services and is open to expand in ways that can help grow our local economy. The initial focus has been on supporting independent retail, local food, access to community capital, and education and outreach to the community. The organization anticipates adding green building partners, zero waste manufacturing enterprises, green energy businesses, and other partners that will make our local economy sustainable.

The “Spend Me Local” $2 Bill

SOLE volunteers –called SOLE Mates– exhibit at community events and conferences. Last year, SOLE launched a $2 bill campaign at Comfest with special $2 bills rubber stamped with a “Spend Me Local” bubble coming from Jefferson’s image, and on the other side our campaign website, “ThinkColumbusFirst.org.”  The idea is to create buzz and stimulate conversations about the benefits of buying local. SOLE has exhibited at numerous events, including Independents’ Day, the Midwest Fair Trade Festival, The Ohio State University Sustainability Conference, and the Hilliard Festival.

In 2012, SOLE is working with the SBB to place “Buy Local” and “Share the Money” posters and cards in SBB member businesses. Some businesses will be offering our $2 bills as change and conversation starters. A “round up” to the next dollar option will give customers the opportunity to contribute to SOLE and make our education campaigns financially sustainable.

SOLE will also be launching a “speakers bureau” through Simply Living that will offer informative presentations on the local economy to community groups, local chambers of commerce, and interested organizations and agencies.

Get Involved

SOLE maintains two websites: SoleNow.org offers more in-depth information about the local economy and sustainable business practices.  Blog posts there provide examples and often include a local context for national trends and reports. ThinkColumbusFirst.org is the public face of its education campaigns, and includes basic information about the benefits of buying local, and is now running a new Facebook page, where the following is growing steadily with the support of the local business community.

Because SOLE partners with the SBB, it counts the organization’s 500-plus members as its own. SOLE invites and encourages business contacts to join the SBB. Some SBB members participate actively on a voluntary basis on SOLE’s steering committee and others participate virtually through our Google Group.

The steering committee includes standing positions representing the key business support organizations. At present, these include SBB (Alex Rider), ECDI (Lynn Stan), Local Matters (Todd Mills), Kemba (Gary Weaver), and Simply Living (Mac Crawford). Chuck Lynd chairs the committee.

SOLE also joined BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) last June.  This affiliation allows SOLE to network with 80-plus local BALLE networks and participate in its annual conference.

Many resources are available through BALLE. This year, BALLE is creating online “Affinity Groups” among BALLE networks and SOLE is participating in a group focused on fundraising and development.

Membership fees are based on the size of the business looking to join. Interested business owners should contact Steering Committee Chair Chuck Lynd by phone at 614-354-6172 or email at chuck.lynd@gmail.com.