News and Tribune

June 3, 2010

BAYLOR: Can ‘shift happen’ in New Albany, too?

By ROGER BAYLOR
Local Columnist

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — In the craft beer business, we have creatively adapted an old activist mantra to suit our specific circumstances: “Think globally, drink locally.”

American craft beer is a locally brewed adult beverage. It is not to be confused with mass-produced, conceptually derivative swill from multinational manufacturing corporations like Anheuser-Busch, which currently seeks to foist the word “craft” on unsuspecting drinkers via misleading marketing tactics that would make even Herr Goebbels cringe.

Genuine American craft beer is best consumed locally, with folks who share the vision and dream the dream, and as a locally loyal revolutionary, I do my fair share of sampling. Indeed, quality control is a never-ending task. To my delight and edification, the ongoing revival of downtown New Albany allows me to drink local beer quite locally - when merited, copiously - and to walk home afterward in a physically beneficial and socially responsible manner.

In fact, my family's decision to buy the midtown house we currently occupy, and my company's downtown brewery expansion plan, both were consciously calibrated with walking (and bicycling) in mind. It isn't “luck” that enables strolling and biking. It's planning, stemming from solid, traditional, locally-based principles of life and living in an urban area originally built for precisely that purpose. At one time these notions were the accepted norm. Now they must be rediscovered by New Albany's residents and business community.  

“Thinking globally” provides wonderful insights into successful strategies pursued in differing environments. As an example, my family reunion will be held this summer in Concord, Massachusetts, and during the course of rooming, dining and watering options in the Boston metropolitan area, I happened upon Somerville, a community to the north of downtown Boston near the Harvard University campus.

Apparently, such is the taste for Somerville self-identity (of course, the city's residents still cheer for the Red Sox) that it has a “buy local first” movement: Somerville Local First. Consider the way that Somerville's business community defines its mission.

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Overview: There is a movement coming ... a return to local and the emergence of sustainable economies. We’re at the epicenter ... Shift Happens

Mission: Somerville Local First, formed in March 2008, is a network of locally owned and independent businesses to build a robust Somerville economy and a vibrant community.

We accomplish this by:

• Organizing a Somerville Local First campaign that raises the awareness of customers, businesses, and government agencies regarding the benefits of purchasing from locally owned businesses.

• Implementing programs and discounts that reduce the cost of doing business for locally-owned businesses. Bringing together independent businesses for mutual benefit and networking opportunities.

• Supporting Somerville ordinances and regulations that promote locally owned businesses.

• Collaborating to deliver programs to help local businesses become greener in their business operations.

Products: Organizing, supporting, strengthening and promoting locally-owned, independent businesses in Somerville, MA. Educating customers about the benefits of shopping locally.

www.facebook.com/SomervilleLocalFirst

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Don't say it, because I already know that Louisville has its own locally-minded group, one called Louisville Independent Business Alliance (LIBA). My own businesses are members of LIBA, and LIBA's goal of keeping Louisville “weird” in the sense of unique and independently owned and operated is shared by many businesses on the Indiana side of the river.

If we briefly glance to the east, beyond the Interstate-driven, exhaust-perfumed chain store purgatory of Clarksville, another “buy local first” model exists even closer to us. It's Jeffersonville Main Street, which actively seeks to organize its business community and wastes no opportunity to espouse these core “buy local first” principles.  

Why does any of this matter? The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (www.ilsr.org) offers these ten vital commandments. The sooner New Albany “gets them,” the better.

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1. Protect Local Character and Prosperity

New Albany is unlike any other city in the world. By choosing to support locally owned businesses, you help maintain New Albany's diversity and distinctive flavor.

2. Community Well-Being

Locally owned businesses build strong neighborhoods by sustaining communities, linking neighbors, and by contributing more to local causes.

3. Local Decision-Making

Local ownership means important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.

4. Keeping Dollars in the Local Economy

Your dollars spent in locally-owned businesses have three times the impact on your community as dollars spent at national chains. When shopping locally, you simultaneously create jobs, fund more city services through sales tax, invest in neighborhood improvement and promote community development.

5. Job and Wages

Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.

6. Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship fuels America's economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.

7. Public Benefits and Costs

Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls.

8. Environmental Sustainability

Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers, which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution.

9. Competition

A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.

10. Product Diversity

A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based, not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

Roger wonders how many elected officials in New Albany and Floyd County “get” these local principles. For more, visit the NA Confidential blog: www.cityofnewalbany.blogspot.com