The Local Lie: How Big Stores are Pretending to be the Little Guy by Stacy Mitchell for Jackson Free Press

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When billboards proclaiming “Buy Local Orlando” first appeared in Orlando, Fla., Julie Norris, a café owner who last year co-founded Ourlando, an initiative to support indie businesses, was excited to see the concept getting such visibility. But she soon realized that the city-funded program, which provides businesses who join with a “Buy Local” decal, seminars at the Disney Entrepreneur Center and a listing on the Web site, was open to any business in Orlando. “We sat down with the city and said, ‘What you guys are doing is a real disservice to the local business movement,'” she said. When Norris complained publicly, city officials accused Ourlando of being “exclusive” by not allowing chains.

#The city did agree to remove from its press materials and Web site a reference to a study that found that, for every $100 spent locally, $45 stays in the community. The problem was that the study, conducted by the firm Civic Economics, found that to be true only if the money was spent at a locally owned business. Shop at a chain store, the analysis found, and only $13 of that $100 spent stays in the community.

#The Economic Development Corporation of Fresno County also appropriated the $45-stays-local statistic when it kicked off its Buy Local campaign at the Fashion Fair Mall. The figure was repeated on a TV news story without any clarification that it did not apply to the types of chains visible in the background. Like the Orlando initiative, the Fresno campaign aims to boost sales tax revenue by deterring online and out-of-town shopping. It goes out of its way in every radio and TV spot to make sure people know that “local” means national chains and big-box stores. “Buy Local” stickers and posters are now visible on malls and chains throughout the Central Valley.

#”For someone to say you are not local if you are a big box, I say baloney. They invested here,” Steve Geil, of the Fresno EDC, said.

Read the entire article here.

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