How does independent business rate in your town?

by Cinda Baxter on January 21, 2011

in Economy, Independent Retailers, Marketing, Real World, Retail, The 3/50 Project

One of the bonuses to attending the A.I.R. (Advocates for Independent Retail) Summit is that we were among the first to see Civic Economics’ latest study, the Indie City Index. Based on their always-thorough methodology, CE was able to rank the top 363 metropolitan regions (not cities, since many MSAs are in extremely rural areas) according to how “independent brick and mortar healthy” they are. The more active and supported local independent businesses are in an area, the higher the score; the less active and supported, the lower the score. Here’s how the overall list shook out:

The Top 25 (in order)
1. Ocean City, NJ
2. Bellingham, WA
3. Medford, OR
4. Carson City, NV
5. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
6. Barnstable Town, MA
7. Austin-Round Rock, TX
8. Dalton, GA
9. Harrisonburg, VA
10. Gainesville, GA
11. Glens Falls, NY
12. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
13. Lewiston, ID-WA
14. Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA
15. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
16. Eugene-Springfield, OR
17. Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA
18. Redding, CA
19. Longview, WA
20. Corvalis, OR
21. Bend, OR
22. Atlantic City, NJ
23. Burlington-South Burlington, VT
24. Valdosta, GA
25. Lancaster, PA

…and the bottom 25 (in order)
339. Jackson, MI
340. Binghamton, NY
341. Laredo, TX
342. Kokomo, IN
343. Lawton, OK
344. Sioux Falls, SD
345. Mansfield, OH
346. Lakeland, FL
347. Palm Coast, FL
348. Rocky Mount, NC
349. Tyler, TX
350. Columbus, OH
351. Sandusky, OH
352. Amarillo, TX
353. Hinesville-Fort Stewart, GA
354. Decatur, IL
355. Joplin, MO
356. Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH
357. Wichita Falls, TX
358. Racine, WI
359. Burlington, NC
360. San Angelo, TX
361. Auburn-Opelika, AL
362. Topeka, KS
363. Kankakee-Bradley, IL

One not-even-remotely-surprising pattern CE turned up was that communities who actively participate in a pro-independent “buy local” program (such as The 3/50 Project or similar) came out better than those who did not.

And, by the way, “actively participate” doesn’t mean just print up some flyers and assume that alone, they’ll save the day. What it means is serious, in-with-both-feet participation—getting every single independent brick and mortar business involved; using all the marketing materials available; talking to town/city officials who have the ability to push the  message further; engaging local media; working in tandem with Main Streets, Chambers, DDAs, BIDs, and any other local economic development group you can find…. It means putting as much effort into getting the message out as you did opening your business.

Sure, you can create your own program from scratch, but why? Do you really have endless hours and unlimited funds necessary to develop effective messaging, design overlapping layers of collateral, register the myriad of necessary TMs and copyrights, then sell a brand spanking new idea from square one (you’d be astonished at just how long all that takes and what, to the penny, it costs…before the first flyer even hits a copy machine)? Instead, cut to the front of the line by getting involved with an organization that provides those things already, and run with them. If you haven’t already, check out the Resources page of The 3/50 Project website, then think about how great it would be to get those free marketing materials into the hands of every single business owner in town…and, as a result, into the hands of every single consumer who lives there too.

We call that “hitting the ground running.”

So put on your track shoes, folks. It’s time to get in the race.

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