Area businesses got a sneak peek at a way to help more dollars stay local when the “Go Local” program officially was launched here last Thursday.
And while its implementation ultimately will rest on whether or not the business community embraces it, those on hand for the launch thought it looks like a positive program.
“I think it would raise awareness not only amongst the consumers but the business community, as well,” said Paul Noonan of La Place Rendez-Vous.
“The whole concept of buying local is something that is not only ‘green,’ it also benefits the whole community,” he added.
“When we’re buying locally, it creates more employment, there’s a lot of positive spin-off from it.”
While the “Go Local” program is oriented more toward retail, it’s also applicable to service-sector businesses such as the Rendez-Vous.
“There’s no doubt that we have to compete with International Falls, and anything we can do to try to create some incentive for our local residents to stay here, and even attract people from International Falls to come and spend some money in our establishments, I think is a benefit to us all,” Noonan remarked.
“We purchase a lot of our supplies and products locally, as well,” he noted. “We purchase our eggs locally, our ground beef locally, we purchase a lot of our vegetables locally.
“We’re trying to do some of these things already.”
“Things like the high Canadian dollar may be here to stay, so we have to be more creative in terms of finding ways to keep our population spending at home,” stressed Noonan, adding he is “definitely leaning toward participating” in the “Go Local” program here.
Mayor Roy Avis, dealer principal at West End Motors here, also attended the launch, and said it looks like a “win-win for everybody—the customers and the businesses.”
He pointed out that sustaining local businesses is crucial for several reasons.
“Right now, the ratio of taxation is 2:1 for commercial in comparison to residential—they are paying a big portion of the taxes in the community,” he remarked.
On top of that, businesses donate to local charities and sponsor different events and sports teams.
“These things wouldn’t be able to take place at the level they do if it wasn’t for the local businesspeople,” said Mayor Avis.
“As far as I see it, trying to support local business is a good thing.”
While he couldn’t speak for his son, Chad, who is general manager of the dealership, Mayor Avis said that as far as he was aware, West End Motors is seriously considering signing the “Go Local” program.
Susan Bodnarchuk, with Holmlund Financial, conceded the “Go Local” program doesn’t directly apply to her type of business, but felt it’s a good idea for the community as a whole.
“Certainly, if it goes ahead, I get the spin-off because, of course, the economy in Fort Frances benefits from it, and anything in that way helps me out,” she reasoned.
“I thought it was good. I thought it was interesting what they were doing out there [in Edmonton],” Bodnarchuk added. “We’ve tried to talk about shopping local and everything before and it does kind of get turned down lots by people—not so much the businesses, probably more the citizens of Fort Frances.
“But I think you have to keep promoting it,” she remarked, noting guest speaker Jessie Radies said it took four years for it to catch on amongst businesses in Edmonton—and even longer for some consumers.
“It takes even longer, I think, to get the people really thinking about it and realizing that it does benefit locally to shop as much as you can,” Bodnarchuk said.
“I know everybody goes out of town. It’s impossible not to, and we expect that,” she added.
“But if everybody works a little harder at it, I am sure it can benefit us.”
Those who attended last week’s launch not only were treated to a talk by “Go Local” advisor Radies, but a smorgasbord of foods made by—and purchased from—local small businesses.
Local economic development officer Geoff Gillon will meet with the retail community over the next couple of weeks to get them signed up for the “Go Local” program here, consultant Tannis Drysdale said during the launch.
“What we’re doing here in Fort Frances is largely based on Edmonton,” she remarked. “But it specific to us, and we’ve created this program that I don’t think anyone’s done just like this anywhere in North America.
“It should be exciting, it should be successful,” Drysdale enthused. “And I am so glad that you all came and that you are going to be involved.”
A major component of the program is a “Go Local Rewards” card, which consumers can use at participating businesses to earn “Go Local Dollars.”
Similarly, there would be “Go Local” gift cards.
Other membership benefits range from “Go Local” store signs and window decals, lapel buttons for staff, and use of the “Go Local” brand in advertising to “Go Local” business specials announced on Facebook and Twitter.
They also will be part of the “Go Local” website (www.golocalfortfrances.com), which will feature account information for merchants and card holders, links to business websites, web ads, announcements and activities, and articles and reports on localism.
If there’s substantial buy-in by retailers and consumers, a “Go Local” cards program hopefully will be in place by late November or early December.