Local First is a buy-local group based in Grand Rapids that represents some 800 independent locally owned businesses in the region.
Since its founding in 2003 as an informal group of just seven business owners led by Grand Rapids entrepreneur Guy Bazzani, Local First has grown to currently represent nearly 800 locally owned businesses, being the largest membership organization exclusively for locally owned businesses in the Midwest and the third largest per capita in the entire United States.
“We work with local businesses to strengthen our economy and also to educate the public on why supporting the local economy is important. Supporting a locally owned business makes that community thrive,” said Mieke Stoub, marketing manager.
Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than a national chain, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers, and farms. In simple terms, when you buy local, more money stays in the community.
In fact, West Michigan is not the exception, Local First conducted the study “Local Works” which showed that if a consumer spends $100 at a locally owned business in or near Grand Rapids, $68 from the purchase stays in the local economy. That money can indirectly fund employee wages, local schools or local giving.
These results make a clear case for shopping locally and supporting small businesses, an initiative that Local First has been supporting for years, encouraging and promoting local business ownership, social equity, and environmental stewardship through education, support and collaboration.
Local First’s programs are meant to keep small businesses growing and include partnerships with local government to create “character only” independent retail zones and offer members placement in an online and print directory of local businesses, neighborhood business maps, promotional material and networking events, among others.
One of their flagship programs is Good for Grand Rapids, where businesses are measured by the Quick Impact Assessment (QIA). All 800 businesses that belong to Local First have a Local First sticker that means they are supporting a business owned by a friend or neighbor. And if they have a sticker that reads, “Good for Grand Rapids!” they passed the Quick Impact Assessment, meaning the company is using business as a force for good.
The QIA measures how local businesses compare to other businesses in the nation in terms of their commitment to the triple bottom line: people, profits, and planet. “We are encouraging all businesses to take our Quick Impact Assessment, which is a 60-minute assessment that gives businesses a snapshot of the positive impact they’re making in their local community,” said Elissa Hillary, Local First Executive Director.
Furthermore, the organization is a member of BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) and serves as a BALLE regional hub network, offering consultancy services to similar organizations from the Midwest on best practices. BALLE offers resources and networking opportunities on a national level for Local First and other like-minded groups.
If you want to know more about the good work Local First is doing in West Michigan, visit www.localfirst.com
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