April Fool’s Day was the appropriate launch of the City’s “Buy Local” campaign and we’ve been getting lots of questions about what we think about it. On the surface, it sounds like a great program, but it has one fundamentally misleading element to it that consumers & small business owners should be aware of: their definition of local is the exact opposite of what “local first” campaigns around the country, including ours, are trying to promote. Any business with a sales tax receipt can be a part of the city program, including McDonald’s, Walmart & Best Buy. The Orlando Business Journal recently stated the program was modeled after the one in Austin – but one look at their website clearly shows they promote independent & locally-owned businesses – not any old chain store that has a tax id. [Update: Statement from Austin here.]
It seems as though the City is looking to increase it’s sales tax earnings, not support small businesses or improve the quality of life of it’s residents. Just another example of city-speak, similar to their mis-named Green Business Program (read It’s Easy Being Green for more info), which they finally renamed to a more accurate description: Think Blue. Perhaps a more accurate title for the “Buy Local” campaign would be “Buy Anything that lines the governement’s pocket with Sales Tax, to heck with focusing on local independent businesses like the statistics we quote.” Course, that just isn’t as catchy.
In order to be a member of Ourlando, all potential businesses must be able to say YES to the following questions:
1. Is your business privately held? (not publicly traded)
2. Do the business owners who have a controlling interest, totaling greater than 50% of the business ownership, live in Central Florida?
3. Is your business registered in the state of Florida with no corporate or national headquarters outside of Central Florida?
4. Do you have full autonomy to make your own independent decisions regarding your unique business and it’s purchasing, operations and distribution, as well as the name and look of your business?
5. Do you pay all your own marketing, rent and other business expenses, without assistance from, or payment to a corporate headquarters?
(Sound like you? Join Ourlando Here!!)
Why do we require local ownership & independence? Compared to their national competitors (ie Walmart, Chili’s etc), local independent businesses recycle more money back into the local economy and give greater support to a community’s nonprofit and civic needs. They are better positioned to respond to the special needs of the community, and they are more tied to the community’s future. Additionally, unlike a homogenized Anyplace, USA, a community with vibrant independent businesses retains its unique character as a great place to live and visit. In promoting a truly Local First campaign, a community supports a thriving local economy and its way of life.
If you are a journalist seeking more information, please contact Julie Norris at julie [at] dandelioncommunitea.com
Read more about the “Buy Local” press coverage below. We will updated regularly, so check back often.
Orlando Sentinel 04.02.09 Buy Local: Can it help the economy?
Orlando Business Journal 03.27.09 Orlando to launch program aimed to boost spending
On the blogosphere: The Daily City
When Local Isn’t: Deceiving ‘Buy Local Orlando’ Program Supports City Taxes, not Local Businesses