Advocacy: Vocal for Local
Chambers of Commerce have a unique perspective on government and the commons. Chambers as a form pre-date most States, and have always been a group of merchants that band together for a number of reasons, but always because they want to enhance their local communities.
Austin Local Business Alliance’s (ALBA)* advocacy was the starting point of our creation. We needed the strength in numbers as locally-owned businesses to say “enough” to the City of Austin (CoA) when their willingness to permit national chains to the detriment of the locals began to eat away at the spots we all love the most. The neighborhood hangouts and restaurants. The dive bars and rickety music shacks. The only place in town to get that pair of shoes.
Our advocacy has taken us many places over the years. We started off with a bang in 2002 by hiring a local firm – Civic Economics – to create a report that showed how putting our money in local businesses brings a 25-45% increase in revenue over chain retailers to the local area. No one had to wonder anymore if shopping locally worked – we proved it!
We took on many advocacy projects on over the years: from simplifying food handers certification to serving on the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan Task Force to guarantee that local business were a planned part of Austin’s future.
In March 2010, the Mayor convened the first Small Local Business Summit with ALBA to explore the issues of local business in Austin. ALBA asked a roundtable of local business owners: how can the City of Austin (CoA) stimulate local business ownership? The Local Business Manifesto attempts to answer that question. To their credit, the CoA has implemented multiple items from that report over the last 10 years.
But the CoA isn’t the only governmental entity that we as business owners deal with. The CoA extends from Travis to Williamson Counties, and borders Hays, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, and Bastrop counties. Many folks have businesses in town and live in those surrounding areas. It’s important we have a connection to those counties.
We also have State and Federal advocacy partners that support local businesses. For example, we are part of the American Sustainable Business Network (ASBN) and it’s newly-formed Texas Chapter. One way we are participating is in Business for Democracy. From the ASBN’s website: “the role of businesses, large and small, in supporting inclusive democracy is increasingly pertinent. ASBN has long championed inclusivity and equity as enduring principles on which a healthy economy is founded. And a functioning free and fair democracy is an incomparable tool to achieving such a landscape. We believe bold changes must be made to protect American democracy, and businesses can lead the way.” We pass their info on to our members too.
Another national movement we are behind is the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s calls for monopoly-busting, and for action to curb Amazon’s ever-increasing seller’s fees which affect many of our members.
And of course we’re micro level too. There are many solo practitioners, green witches, gig economy workers, influencers, and podcasters here in Austin. You’re a business owner too, and as such have a voice at the table in our commons!
What questions are you facing now? What cracks in the foundation did the pandemic (or the freeze) widen? What’s in your heart as a business owner to improve for yourself and your community? Let’s have a conversation and together change our world!
*formerly Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA)
Advocacy or politics?
We practice what’s termed Economic Advocacy. This delineates us from party politics across the broad range of issues each business faces. We’re here to talk about you – the local business owner and how you are the backbone of any City. You bring the tourists, you create the legends, you serve us and feed us and love us. Our government policies should reflect that.
Here’s how we do this:
- We won’t favor political personalities.
- We will talk to anyone who influences the policies that affect our members.
- We will allow any policy maker to agree with or contradict our position on economic policies.
The point is not to enter reactionary fights and persevere through sheer willpower, the point is to get to the place where we agree and work from there. As your Alliance, we do that for you.