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Keeping Dollars Local

Author: Jean Saylor Doppenberg
June, 2014 Issue

It can be cost-effective to buy food and other goods from locally owned businesses, and the rewards for the community are significantly greater.

The ease of trolling online for merchandise can be seductive, and big-box stores and grocery chains with huge advertising budgets have a strong allure. But it can be just as cost-effective to buy food and other goods from locally owned businesses, and the rewards for the community are significantly greater.
That’s the message of the Sonoma County Go Local Cooperative, the Made Local Marketplace, Grown Local Marin County and Napa County’s Eat Shop Drink Local campaign––all separate enterprises that trumpet the economic benefits of keeping dollars spent on local products within the North Bay.
Go Local’s stated mission is to “reclaim our local economic power” by promoting the benefits of supporting locally owned businesses. Terry Garrett, who joined Go Local in 2009 shortly after its official incorporation, is a managing member along with Janeen Murray, and the two share an office in downtown Santa Rosa. “Go Local now has 350 members, so Janeen and I are out in the community, much of the time, meeting with them,” he says.

Calculating the “multiplier effect”

To illustrate the economic impact of buying local goods and services, Garrett points to the Sonoma County Food System Alliance’s Food Action Plan, which was created to provide a shared community vision and goals for the local food system. Research demonstrates that locally directed spending by consumers more than doubles the number of dollars circulating among businesses in a community, creating a local economic stimulus known as the “multiplier effect,” because it directs more jobs and sales tax revenue into that community.
The Food Action Plan states that, in contrast to importing food to Sonoma County, if $100 million more of locally produced food was consumed in the county, it would result in an additional $125 million in local economic activity.
“If you let consumers know the importance of local economic development, cultivate a preference for local in the food chain and then buy those products through a locally owned retailer, the economic multiplier can be tremendous,” says Garrett. “It’s nearly double what it would be if you bought nonlocal products at, say, Safeway. So it’s in our best interest for food producers and food retailers here to be successful, because it lifts the boat for everybody.”
Distributing information about the Food Action Plan directly into the hands of consumers was the impetus behind Go Local’s recent launch of Made Local Magazine, a free periodical available at Sonoma County’s independent grocery stores and other Go Local member businesses. “Continuity and frequency is needed to market the Food Action Plan,” says Garrett. “So it came to me late last summer to produce a printed magazine to cover the local stories that make the Food Action Plan come alive—and then to give it away right where people buy their food.”
The inaugural issue was produced in only five weeks, from conception to distribution. Plans call for five issues to publish per year, with a print run of 12,000 copies per issue plus online viewing. “The magazine explains the real nitty-gritty of what it takes to grow and produce food here,” says Garrett. “It’s very specific to the Food Action Plan, so there will be no recipes or restaurant reviews.”

Membership criteria

Go Local has four tiers of membership, with annual fees ranging from $150 to $2,500, based on Sonoma County sales. To become a member, the business must be privately owned, not publicly held; 50 percent or more of its owners must live locally; its corporate headquarters must be located in Sonoma County; and the business must make its own major decisions, pay its own rent and pay for marketing and other expenses.
Go Local’s “Made Local” campaign kicked off in 2010, most visibly with large posters at Oliver’s Markets that picture and identify local farmers and other locally owned businesses. The store also created stock-keeping units (SKUs) for tracking sales of local food products. So when shoppers check out at Oliver’s, their receipts show how much of the total sale represents local goods. “Oliver’s was a pioneer in our Made Local program,” says Garrett. “It’s probably the top independent grocery chain on the West Coast right now.”
The Go Local Rewards card was added to the mix to give consumers various types of discounts at member businesses. Free at participating merchants, the card is activated when the shopper uses it for the first time or uses his or her Community First Credit Union debit card. Though food is a major focus of Go Local, numerous member businesses in many other industries honor the rewards card.

Marin promotion debuted in 2013

In Marin County, where farms and ranches comprise about half of the land—approximately 167,000 acres—a campaign called “Grown Local Marin County” rolled out early in 2013, following the example of Sonoma County’s Go Local cooperative. The campaign is a pilot project sponsored by the Marin County Board of Supervisors and the Grown Local Committee, which includes representatives from the Agricultural Institute of Marin, University of California Cooperative Extension, Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), Marin Organic, the county of Marin and local ranches and farms.
With the average size of a farm in Marin County at 523 acres, scores of producers are growing and raising meat and dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and seafood. Those who participate in Grown Local Marin must raise or grow at least 51 percent of their products in Marin County and pay a fee, based on sales, from $75 to $500 per year. At least 80 percent of the collected fees are applied to the campaign’s advertising and marketing expenses.

Napa’s Eat Shop Drink Local

Efforts to launch a cooperative in Napa County similar to Sonoma County’s have stalled, according to Michael McKeown, owner and lead developer of Wine Country Web Services and a long-time member of Napa Success Connection, a business development organization. McKeown first learned about the Sonoma County Go Local Cooperative from an article in the Napa Valley Register in 2009. He then created a website to list Napa businesses that wanted to be part of a Go Local-style organization.
“Nobody seemed interested in taking it to the next step,” says McKeown, who initially promoted 20 to 30 Napa businesses on the website. “But I think there’s a great opportunity for such a marketing venture here, and I would love to see a higher level of participation from Napa businesses.”
Napa County isn’t sitting idly by, however. Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) and the county’s five chambers of commerce have partnered to promote the “Eat Shop Drink Local” campaign, which encourages residents to support local restaurants, stores and wineries. According to NVV, the wine industry and related businesses in Napa County generate more than 46,000 local jobs and pump more than $13 billion into the local economy every year.
“Napa is a wealthy community, so, as with any wealthy situation, it’s easy to shrug off the necessity of watching where every dollar goes,” says McKeown. “But that neglect comes at great cost to our local small businesses and our local employee base, as well as our global environment.”

Retail exposure for local makers

In December 2010, the Made Local Marketplace and Share Exchange opened on Fifth Street in downtown Santa Rosa as two distinct spaces: a retail store in the front selling locally made products and a small business incubator and cowork space in the back. The store grew from 36 local vendors initially to more than 400, most of whom create handcrafted items that range from pottery to jewelry to food.
“Some vendors have moved away or no longer make their products, but many are still with us,” says Kelley Rajala, co-owner of the business with Pam Dale. (Rajala was cofounder and first executive director of Go Local, but she left the organization in 2010 to open the marketplace. Made Local Marketplace and the Share Exchange aren’t affiliated with the Sonoma County Go Local Cooperative or Made Local Magazine.) In fall 2012, Share Exchange moved next door into much larger quarters spanning two floors and totaling 6,000 square feet, and the marketplace expanded its sales floor to 1,800 square feet.
Today, the store is brimming with housewares and artisan foods, health and beauty products, and clothing. Greeting cards are sprinkled throughout the store, along with books, CDs and seasonal items such as organic plant starts. Nearly all of the merchandise is sold on consignment, based on a 50-50 split with each vendor. “It’s not a high-end gallery,” says Rajala. “The products have to be functional, everyday items and the price point must be affordable.”
Buoyed by their success with the marketplace, Rajala and Dale announced a new branding effort in 2013 called “North Bay Made,” to locate and promote artists and producers in Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Mendocino, Lake and Solano counties. Rajala is actively seeking independent retailers in those counties who wish to be included in the North Bay Made project “to form partnerships and work more collaboratively,” she says.
The marketplace, once stocked exclusively with Sonoma County-made goods, hopes to attract other makers in the six counties whose products will integrate well with the store’s existing merchandise. “That’s to showcase the breadth of quality products made in our region,” says Rajala.
Made Local Marketplace and the Share Exchange represent a combined retail and business incubation project that Rajala believes is unique to the region. “Nobody else is doing exactly what we’re doing. We’re covering the whole spectrum, from providing inexpensive office space for startups to helping artists place their products in retail stores.” She’s also developing a toolkit to help entrepreneurs who’d like to open a similar retail store in their own community or assist an existing store with creating a Made Local display.

A big economic engine

Ultimately, says Rajala, the goal of the North Bay Made project is “economic localization”—to continue to grow local businesses and increase the number of essential goods and services that are made and sold in the region—mirroring the objective of Sonoma County Go Local, Grown Local Marin County and Napa’s Eat Shop Drink Local promotion.
Go Local’s Garrett envisions Sonoma County eventually becoming to food and beverage production what Silicon Valley has become to high technology. “It’s not inconceivable that, when we add farming and a more mature ranching community, together with our wineries and our cheese and dairy and poultry producers, we could become that kind of big economic engine for the region, as high-tech is for Silicon Valley. We already have a great start on it.”

Artist Gets Noticed at Made Local Marketplace

Three years ago, when Jessica Buickerood was trying to attract interest in her hand-drawn note cards and silkscreened garments, the new Made Local Marketplace on Fifth Street in downtown Santa Rosa was looking for additional local craftspeople to showcase. “I’d heard about the marketplace through a friend,” she says. “One day I got up the courage to walk through the door with some of my products.”
Self-promotion can be an uncomfortable part of doing business for artists and creative types, says Buickerood, who lives in Santa Rosa. “Marketing myself really is the most difficult thing for me to do, but my products were well received by the marketplace right from the start. I’ve had amazing support, and my inventory moves off the shelves well. I want to promote Made Local Marketplace because it’s promoting me.”
She first began producing note cards of her own designs and those of her sister-in-law using linoleum block carvings, which she digitized and printed. Next came cards featuring the recipes of a caterer friend, followed by the silkscreened items. The cards are currently for sale at Made Local Marketplace, along with her flour sack dish towels, tees, hoodies and toddler and infant apparel embellished with simple line drawings of farm and garden themes.
For Buickerood, Made Local Marketplace was a launching pad for wider distribution and recognition of her merchandise, which has led to other retailers selling her wares. The Seed Bank in Petaluma and Hand Goods in Occidental also carry her dish towels and apparel.
“Creating is the fun part,” she says. “The business part, not so much.”

Rewards Card a Bonanza for Community Market

Approaching its 40th year as an independent grocer in Sonoma County, Community Market hasn’t strayed far from its mission to build lasting relationships with customers. “We have customers who still remember when the store first opened in 1975 on Morgan Street in Santa Rosa, in a small, converted house,” says Nica Poznanovich, the grocer’s assistant general manager.
That’s why partnering with the Sonoma County Go Local Cooperative in 2009 was a “no-brainer” for the market, she says. “The values and mission of Go Local are closely aligned with our own values and mission, and one of the initial benefits we saw in that partnership was the shared branding—that Go Local badge.” 
The Go Local Rewards card has also brought new customers into Community Market’s two locations, on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa and in Sebastopol’s Barlow Center. She estimates that 60 percent of Community Market’s customers use the rewards card each time they shop. “But that might be a low estimate. If I’m on the cash register on any given day, no doubt about 60 percent of those I serve will pull out their cards.”
The rewards card has significantly increased foot traffic in the stores, she says and, last year, the company posted sales of $4 million. “But as a nonprofit, what’s important to us is that, through our alliance with Go Local, we help stimulate our local economy and contribute to the local multiplier effect.”
Maintaining its legacy of excellent customer service is paramount to Community Market. “I like to think the atmosphere in our stores is similar to a coffee shop, and I see our workers not as employees but as stewards of the organization,” says Poznanovich. The two stores employ a total of 90 people, most full-time.
Though Community Market had been a meat-free grocer for decades, the Sebastopol store sells meat in a partnership with Sebastopol-based Victorian Farmstead Meat Company. “We’re in business to provide high-quality, sustainable food options for Sonoma County at large, and that includes meat eaters,” says Poznanovich. “The meat processing industry has improved so much since the 1970s, and it’s now possible to find locally raised and responsibly treated animals.”
The reaction from most customers to the meat department has been “extraordinary,” she says. “A small minority weren’t happy about it, but we believe most people shop at several different grocers, not at just one. So it’s really important to have a corridor of stores here that provide a variety of products.”
If someone asks for a product Community Market doesn’t carry, the store will refer that customer to Oliver’s Markets. “We don’t view each other as competitors,” says Poznanovich. “And that’s a big part of what the Go Local cooperative can do––broker conversations between businesses that might typically be seen as competitors. As a cooperative, it’s part of Go Local’s mission to bring us all together.”
Community Market uses the Go Local branding in all of its advertising materials and the monthly newsletter. “Anything we do branded as Community Market is also branded with Go Local. We’ll be in this partnership for a long time,” she says.


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