Independent businesses to summit |

Independent businesses to summit

KEELY BROWNspecial to the daily

FRISCO Big boxes beware. The little guys are assembling.Starting Tuesday, Frisco will play host to the Colorado Summit on Community Economic & Environmental Vitality, a statewide gathering held by the American Independent Business Alliance. The event is geared toward encouraging more communities to start their own affiliates.The group was originally founded in Boulder in 1998 by community activist Jeff Milchen and Boulder Bookstore owner David Bolduc. We saw that local businesses were being displaced by corporate chains and online businesses, and we wanted to make sure that Boulder maintained a healthy base of individual businesses and didnt become like Anytown, U.S.A., said Milchen, who, along with AMIBA director Jennifer Rockne, runs the nonprofit organization from its headquarters in Bozeman, Mont.. According to Milchen, the Boulder chapter quickly grew to more than 150 business members within its first three years.Today, the American Independent Business Alliance has 41 member communities nationwide and one in Canada. If Summit County decides to start its own affiliate, as has been discussed over the past month, then it will be the first chapter of its kind in the High Country.It looks like there are several folks who are determined to make it happen in Summit County, Milchen said. Every community is capable of supporting one of these, and were seeing the interest spread quickly.One important distinction to make, Milchen said, is that Independent Business Association (IBA) chapters are not started in order to compete with existing chambers of commerce, but rather to work alongside with them.The biggest distinction is that IBAs have a singular focus theyre not about promoting the community as a destination for tourists or businesses, he explained. IBAs are created to be an effective advocate for individual ownership, and a facilitator to help independent businesses organize together, sharing tools and resources.Very often when folks are first getting started, the local chambers might be defensive but as long as the IBA organizers are communicating with them from the get-go, it results in a healthy relationship, he added.Another important mission of IBAs, Milchen said, is to make the public aware of the benefits of patronizing locally-owned independent businesses.Its even more beneficial for a community with a tourism-based economy, because when youre going on your vacation, you want to go somewhere special that has a unique character, something different than what you experience at home, Milchen said.Thats not to say that its a terrible thing to have a McDonalds at the interstate exchange but a tourist town that lets itself become homogenized does so at its own peril, he added.The meeting in Frisco, Milchen said, will be not only be an introduction to the IBA for Summit County business owners and residents, but will also serve to bring together interested businesses owners from other Colorado communities as well, and give them an opportunity to network with already-existing IBA members from established affiliate areas such as Boulder. In addition to workshops featuring topics such as how to execute an effective Buy Local campaign, the meeting will also feature a presentation by Rocky Mountain Institute senior consultant Michael Kinsley, who will speak on how to improve economic vitality while conserving natural resources and open space.Among the Summit County business owners who have already expressed interest in creating an IBA affiliate is Jim Berg, who owns a healthcare consulting firm, Centennial Consulting Group, in Frisco. Bergs wife, Karen, is the owner of the Next Page bookstore on Main Street in Frisco. According to Berg, supporting independent businesses in Frisco will not only benefit sales tax revenue, but will also help re-circulate money within the community.Ive read a statistic that for every $100 spent in local business, it can generate another $200-$300 of spending in the community, he said. We businesses owners use local accountants and local printers and local banks and computer services so the money keeps re-circulating in the community, instead of going to corporate chains in another city.Another interested local business owner is Frank Lilly, who owns Copy Copy on Summit Boulevard in Frisco. Lilly said that his hope is that more local consumers will understand the benefits of patronizing local businesses whenever possible.Beyond the personal way of looking at it, its a benefit for the county, he said. Seventy-three percent of the money spent stays local if its spent with locally-owned businesses, while with a nationally-owned business only 45 percent stays local.Along with Berg and Lilly, around 25 business owners and concerned locals turned out in early May for a brainstorming, question-fielding session, geared toward seeing the level of interest in creating an IBA affiliate for Summit County. The proposed Summit Independent Business Alliance (SIBA) garnered an enthusiastic response, according to SIBA spokesperson Katie Roberts, from those present at the meeting as well as from a number of other interested business owners who werent able to attend.Those who were interested in forming a board were invited to a meeting the following week, where, according to Roberts, nine people committed to becoming board members.Were already forming a board and organizing a structure so it sure looks like its going to become a reality, said Jim Berg. Were very excited about it.

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