By now, you’ve probably seen them around town – in shop windows on Center Street, in front of businesses along Woodstock Avenue and everywhere in between, reaching near ubiquity. They say “Buy Local Rutland” in bold, black lettering against a familiar green and blue cityscape.
So what are they all about? The signs are part of a campaign called By Local Rutland designed to raise awareness and support for Vermont-owned, independent businesses. The campaign is the brainchild of local businessman and Rutland native Barry Beauchamp.
Beauchamp, store manager and co-owner of Beauchamp & O’Rourke Pharmacy on Woodstock Avenue, launched the campaign last summer. Since then, he has been recruiting local businesses to participate in a variety of ways.
Working with the Rutland Herald, Beauchamp has been coordinating a series of cooperative advertising opportunities for businesses. The ads initially ran monthly in the Herald. Now, they run every week. The half-page ads present BLR member businesses and encourage readers to keep their money local by supporting them.
Participating businesses are also listed on a website – www.buylocalrutland.com – that explains the mission of the campaign and how interested business can get involved. In addition, membership includes the opportunity for co-op television ads as well as 60-second radio spots on WSYB’s “On the Air with Tim Philbin” program.
However, the newest and most visible phase of the campaign has been the lawn signs. Currently, there are almost 100 of them circulating throughout the city, raising awareness and showing solidarity for buying local.
For Beauchamp, encouraging people to keep their money in the community has been an easy sell.
“In a down economy, you have to ask what you can do to strengthen the community,” he said. “Buying local is an obvious avenue.”
But defining exactly what “local” is can be tricky. Some would argue that shopping at Home Depot counts as buying local since it employs locals, and if it wasn’t in Rutland, people would have to travel elsewhere to find one, taking their money with them. This is a fair argument but it misses a larger point.
Money spent at locally owned businesses stays in the community. If you spend $100 in a box store, only $15 will stay local. Compare that to the $45 in local spending generated when you spend $100 at a local business.
Beauchamp describes “local” in two tiers. The first is any money spent locally, boxes or independents; the second – and more important – tier is spending money at Vermont-owned businesses whenever possible.
According to Beauchamp, the response has been strong and positive.
“It’s really snowballed,” he said.
He attributes part of BLR’s appeal to its apolitical nature; there’s no agenda or hidden message.
“Buying locally fits in with anyone’s politics,” said Beauchamp, who noted that members of BLR also belong to such politically disparate organizations as the Rutland County Pro-Business Coalition and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility.
Beauchamp happily acknowledged the statewide efforts of Local First Vermont, an organization with a similar mission, which is now part of VBSR. While he was inspired by and appreciates LFVT’s work, he explained that BLR, with its mission focused solely on Rutland, could deliver at the local level in a way that a larger organization simply cannot.
Beauchamp has the advantage of knowing much of the business community personally, and is able to build confidence in and support for BLR on a personal level.