Greene County to launch ‘Shop Local’ campaign to promote small businesses

Port Authority program hopes to create online directory of local, independent small businesses

Greene County government organizations are in the early stages of developing a Shop Local program that would support and invest in the county’s small businesses.

The Greene County Port Authority and Community Improvement Corporation announced a “Local First” campaign this week, which would both promote and be a resource for independent restaurants, retail, and service businesses in Greene County. The initiative is expected to launch this fall.

“Our locally owned small businesses deserve our support,” said Greene County Commissioner Tom Koogler. “These businesses are owned and operated by our friends and neighbors who are supporting their families and their communities. They are the life-blood of our communities and we need to help them thrive.”

Preliminary plans indicate participating businesses will have to meet four requirements, based on standards used by the American Independent Business Alliance:

* the primary place of business must be in Greene County;

* at least 50% of the ownership resides in Greene or an adjacent county;

* the owners must be free to make their own decisions on all business matters (i.e. not franchises);

* and the business has a limited number of outlets and a limited geographic range.

Additionally, one of the goals of the program is to create an online directory of local, independent small businesses for use by consumers.

“This is the kind of thing that once people know about it, they care about it,” Port Authority Economic Development Coordinator Jeffrey Gord said. “We’re looking to have a cultural shift about thinking of your local businesses first — at an institutional level, (for) local governments, other businesses and actual consumers.”

The program is limited to independent, locally owned small businesses, and likely would not be open to locations of national franchises, Gord said. That’s because local independents generally have little or no advertising resources when compared to franchises, Gord said.

The Port Authority is also working with local chambers of commerce, which will provide guidance on the program, he added.

Normally, bodies like the Greene County Port Authority primarily do outreach for businesses like manufacturers or defense contractors, Gord explained, and don’t focus as much on consumer-facing businesses. However, the difficulties imposed by the COVID pandemic on consumer-facing businesses motivated the organization to invest in smaller “community staples” like retail and restaurants, he said.

“This campaign will be a great opportunity to boost our local independent retailers, restaurants, and services, which continue to weather various new and enduring challenges in the marketplace,” Gord said.

The county is seeking an independent contractor to help design and market the program. Proposals are due by Feb. 22.

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