Small, but Growing

A buy-local pledge and a new business directory are the focus of a Local First monthly meeting

Capital District Local First (CDLF) is taking the next step in its campaign encouraging people to take the 10 Percent Shift Pledge. Through this program, residents of Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady counties will pledge to shift 10 percent of the goods and services they buy from chain to local businesses.

Draft copies of pledge sign-up sheets were distributed at a monthly CDLF meeting held Monday at Flavour Café in Troy.

“This could be a really big boost to our local economy, especially at a time when we really need it,” said David Hess, treasurer of the board of CDLF and a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The pledge program is modeled after similar programs instated by Local First chapters nationwide. It was started after a survey conducted by Civic Economics and the Local First in Grand Rapids, Mich., found that a 10-percent shift to local goods and products could create $140 million in new economic activity and 1,600 new jobs in that area.

The meeting Monday featured a panel of three Troy business owners leading a discussion on the topic “Building Communities and Building Businesses.” Rocco DeFazio of DeFazio’s Pizza, Elizabeth Young of Living Room Antiques, and Karen Schlesinger of Digital Artist’s Space participated in the panel with CDLF vice-chair Karisa Centanni acting as moderator.

DeFazio, Young, and Schlesinger all spoke on how working to create better neighborhoods can lead to more successful businesses, highlighting programs such as the Troy Neighborhoods Action Council, Troy Night Out, and the attempt at a formation of a Troy Business Improvement District.

DeFazio formed T-NAC to expand on the work he had done to improve his own Little Italy neighborhood. “We want to empower other neighborhoods to do what we do,” DeFazio said.

“What I’ve really found is that there’s strength in numbers,” echoed Young in reference to her work with Schlesinger on Troy Night Out and the Troy Downtown Collaborative.

CDLF also played host to a presentation by startup All for Local. All for Local, the product of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute seniors Joe Balestriere, Alessandro Gerbini, and John Debs, is developing an open-source Web site directory for small businesses to create profiles of business and inventory information. They are also developing inventory software that will eventually funnel into the Web site for real-time inventory information, similar to Gerbini describes the site as “social networking for businesses.”

“By bringing together all small businesses to one database, we can hopefully increase the amount of people that can shop locally simply by knowing what small businesses offer,” Gerbini said. The first step is to gather information about local businesses, and they anticipate having the Capital Region local business directory up by April.

Local business owners (or just those who want to find out more about the businesses in their community) are welcome at every CDLF monthly meeting. Smaller hubs of the CDLF have been set up in each of the four counties represented by the organization. While the CDLF deals with overarching issues concerning local businesses, the hubs will be more action- oriented, organizing events at the city level.

The Schenectady hub has the ball rolling on a May Buy-Local Bash, and the Troy hub has weekly meetings at Brown’s Brewing Company. The Albany and Saratoga hubs are still getting off the ground. Centanni, the interim leader of the Albany hub, encourages anyone interested to contact her directly through the CDLF Web site or to attend a general CDLF meeting.

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