'Tis the Season to Go Local Despite the annual Black Friday media frenzy, our annual "America/Canada Unchained" campaign and grassroots counterparts

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'Tis the Season to Go Local

Despite the annual Black Friday media frenzy, our annual "America/Canada Unchained" campaign and grassroots counterparts like "Plaid Friday" helped generate buzz around the continent. While some of you have expressed concern over various companies promoting their own "buy local" brands, we simply encourage you to present them as evidence for the growing energy behind the Localization Movement and use them to amplify your message.

AMIBA board member Stacy Mitchell and BALLE co-founder Laury Hammel teamed up for this Boston Globe commentary, while the Boston-area Concord IBA, Somerville Local First and Cambridge Local First all generated local media attention using the America Unchained or Plaid Friday concept.

The Fayetteville IBA (AR) used "Indie Bingo" to draw attention and customers to member businesses, while the Louisville IBA (KY) is using a Holiday Passport program to entice more patronage of its members. Local First Utah is promoting Take 10/Tell 10/Shift 10 during the holidays.

The Boulder County (CO) and Flagstaff (AZ) IBAs both held early holiday events with business member expos, food and drink, prizes and more. Debbie Leavitt of FIBA reported event bartenders saying Christmas parties are mostly boring, but they loved the energy and fun at FIBAs event. Don't underestimate the power of a great party to build cohesiveness and attract supporters!


Building a Media Presence for Independents

We expect our affiliates to become the "go-to" source for regional media on business and economic issues, but when reporters start contacting you to talk about the weather, you're really becoming a player! When the Twin Cities was hammered by nearly two feet of snow recently, Star-Tribune (the major daily paper) readers heard from the state dept. of transportation, medical center staff... and MetroIBA members and director Mary Hamel. They all discussed the blizzard's impact on local independent businesses.

Metro IBA also generated major features detailing the economic importance of going local and indie for holiday shopping on evening news broadcasts and in the business pages of the Star-Tribune.

Indie Business News

Accuracy Counts
We're glad to see many journalists already using our new resource page on the local multiplier effect to accurately present the topic, including Susan Kuchinskas, writing for the AmEx Open forum on the importance of local independents. The Gant Daily incorporated the information into reporting on the Philipsburg Main Street Program's America Unchained activities.

Producers and Indie Retailers Share Interdependence

AMIBA's Jeff Milchen explained the link between indie retailers and the prosperity of domestic producers in this recent article. "U.S. manufacturers can compete successfully when innovation, quality and customization are key factors, but the mega-retailers' business model intrinsically elevates the importance of price over other qualities," says Milchen.


For those interested in delving deeper into this connection, check out The Distribution Trap: Keeping Your Innovations from Becoming Commodities by Andrew Thomas, and Timothy Wilkinson, which recently was crowned "Marketing Book of the Year." The authors argue 'It's time for U.S. companies to wake up to the destructive mass-marketing theories that have cut their profits, diminished their reputations, and sent American jobs overseas."

From Maine to California, Local Businesses Banding Together
The Sacramento Bee covers local action, and Maine Biz reports on the growing number of indie business coalitions around the state.

Health Care Tax Credits and New Policies Take Effect
If your business or non-profit organization provides health care benefits, be sure to check the policy changes coming in 2011 and see if you're eligible for tax credits. See the IRS's overview of policy changes or FAQ page to learn more.

Fed's Definition of "Small Business" Gets a Whole Lot Bigger
In October, the SBA's criteria for businesses to qualify for various small business benefits was loosened dramatically in several business categories. Hotels now can generate $30 million in annual sales, for example, up from $7 million. All the details here.

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New Free Resources

Research Tools on Subsidies

Good Jobs First just launched some unique online resources, including the first national search engine for state economic development subsidies, allowing you to evaluate whether economic incentives are being used sensibly. The database includes data on subsidy amounts, recipients, the program and state agency involved, the location of the subsidized facility, and the employment impact of the subsidy.

Launched simultaneously, Accountable USA provides an overview of each state's track record on job subsidies. The data include key subsidy programs with descriptions, costs and the companies receiving financial assistance, case studies of large subsidy deals, and more. While productive subsidies serving public purposes exist, too often we find taxpayer-funded subsidies are extracted by large corporations, subverting fair market competition. See what's happening in your state!

This situation was worsened by the US Supreme Court's unfounded ruling in January that corporate officers enjoy a constitutional right to spend company funds to elect or defeat their preferred candidates election outcomes. AMIBA is a partner in Free Speech for People, one of two (along with Move to Amend) national coalitions aiming to overrule the Court.

Engaging Universities as Economic Development Engines

The Democracy Collaborative has long been the leader in engaging "anchor institutions" to advance innovative community development. Now, with The Road Half Traveled, they've created a remarkably thorough report on how universities can embrace their role as anchors to build community wealth. If you're working in a community with higher education institutions, don't miss this incredible resource (236 pp pdf).


Welcome to the Newest AMIBA Affiliates!

Fresno (CA) Regional Independent Business Alliance
Kilgore (TX) Chamber of Commerce ("buy local" campaign affiliate)

Closing Thought

"Be better, be different or be cheaper. And the last is no fun." -- Seth Godin


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