ALBA History

Our Story

In 2000 Steve Bercu, founder of Book People, and Emily MIller of Juice Joint were feeling drowned-out as the City of Austin searched for and attracted national chains to the area. They decided to follow the lead of the Boulder Independent Business Alliance and formed the Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) in early 2001 with a small group of local retailers.

As if on cue, the City approved a permit for Borders Books to build at the site of the current Whole Foods on 6th and Lamar, right next door to Book People and Waterloo Records.  Well, Steve and AIBA were table-flipping mad that the City would basically crush some of our most beloved local businesses for the lure of a national chain. With this energy and the help of Mike Blizzard, Rebecca Melançon (and many more folks), they hired Gary Newbold as the first Executive Director, and created a web of locally-owned businesses to promote local buying, provide a network of peer support, and bring more customers in for everyone.

Immediately the question of ‘why buy local’ came up, so ALBA hired a local firm which proved that you keep 25-45% more of your money flowing into the local economy (not extracted by chain retailers) which feeds into our commons and our shared natural treasures.  This research has been duplicated all across the country and can be currently up at independentwestand.org

When the City of Austin (CoA) didn’t know how to help small businesses we came up with a Local Business Manifesto that outlined twelve ways they can ease entry and survival as a business in Austin. The CoA has implemented these findings over the last decade.

And when we realized that shared promotions could help the smallest of our neighbors we invented the Independent Business Investment Zone (IBIZ) program that funded 14 walkable districts over 15 years through CoA’s Economic Development Department.  This has been administered through our sister organization – Local Economies Council – a 501c(3) formed to encourage and enable the development of a vibrant, sustainable local economy. 

We’ve continued fighting for local business the past 20 years, speaking our truth about what it means to be local at the City, County, State, National and International levels. We think local and support local in all we do.

With this in mind, and the input of our amazing members and Board of Directors, we have decided to change our name from Austin Independent Business Alliance to Austin Local Business Alliance!

Our 2022 Board President Janet Krueger says:

 “Our local business community continues to be the place where we gather and get support – to brainstorm, share ideas, find new hires, improve systems, and learn from each other. Here in 2022, we reset and refresh with a new name, new logo, and renewed focus on all things local as the Austin Local Business Alliance (ALBA). Onward!”

Civic Economics of Retail – a study commissioned by ALBA in 2002 proving that buying local keeps more money in the local economy.

Did you know that AIBA has won an International Award for our IBIZ District program? In 2011, the City of Austin received an International Economic Development Council (IEDC) award in Neighborhood Economic Development for our IBIZ Districts.