Building a local business alliance

BALLE is the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. It’s all about local businesses working together to make their local economy prosper, with a focus on locally-owned businesses, sustainability, green jobs, and thinking local first. There is a national organization, and local networks have formed in many cities, towns and regions. I’m reporting today from the BALLE Business Conference.

A local BALLE network is different from the local chamber of commerce. The chamber must support all local business development. A local business network can focus on local ownership and sustainable industries. Many reach out to local food producers and farmers. In most places, the local network works with the local chamber. A few chambers actually are their local BALLE network.

This is a way to refine local economic development, away from bulldozers and smokestacks, toward more local and sustainable businesses. If you’re interested in the economic development part of this, pick up a copy of Growing a Local Living Economy by Michael Shuman.

What it does
Local networks offer promotion of local businesses (especially when two or more businesses work together), events, education of the community on why local ownership matters, and lots more. Many offer entrepreneur training and support especially for socially responsible business.

Grand Rapids, Michigan, works with the city to give local bidders an advantage, supports sourcing locally, and does economic gardening bringing together lots of local groups to support local business. They also hold lots of events, including networking, food events and a sustainable business half-day conference.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, did a local community convening to find out what issues are pressing for local business. They also conducted workshops to help local businesses take advantage of all the movie filming that happens in New Mexico. Santa Fe also headed a farm to restaurant food project to better distribute local food to local restaurants. Training farmers to be better businesspeople, educating consumers and restaurants on how to get and use local produce also falls into their mission. They also do a lot of advocacy on legislation.

Summary
A local business alliance allows a small town or a region to tackle issues no one individual could handle alone. It focuses attention on the local economy. Each network selects the most important local issues to address.

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About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.
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