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Buy Local RI campaign takes off
By Chris Barnett / November 24, 2015 /   Loading Disqus...

The Rhode Island Foundation is promoting a statewide campaign to encourage Rhode Islanders to shop at locally owned businesses ahead of Small Business Saturday and the holiday shopping season.

“Buy Local RI” offers businesses and consumers a central website where merchants can market their products and services and shoppers can find locally sold products, see a calendar of holiday-related events and promotions and even sign up for email about discounts and special offers.

“Patronizing local shops and restaurants has the potential to payoff in a big way. We are talking about money that each one of us is already spending, so no additional investment is required. The return can be spectacular as the cash circulates through our economy,” said Neil Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “As these companies prosper, they will grow and put people back to work.”

Shifting just 10 percent of the purchasing that Rhode Island shoppers do from chains to independent, locally owned businesses has the potential to add $373 million to the state’s economy, according to a study commissioned by the Foundation. The study estimates that 57 percent of spending with locally owned retailers stays in the state’s economy compared to just 13.6 percent of spending at major national chains.

The Foundation kicked off the campaign by taking a busload of Rhode Islanders on a statewide shopping tour. The first stop was at the Ocean State Job Lot store in Pawtucket, where small business owners and shoppers gathered to celebrate the importance of shopping locally.

"Shopping local helps keep our neighborhoods strong" said David Sarlitto, executive director at Ocean State Job Lot, who notes that the North Kingstown-based closeout retailer has 15 stores in Rhode Island. "Job Lot employs hundreds of Rhode Islanders, is owned by partners who live in the state, works with many local suppliers, and has a philanthropic Charitable Foundation which gives back to numerous worthwhile community organizations. Buying local is the foundation for keeping our neighborhoods economically vibrant and healthy.”

Other stops included Hope and Main in Warren, the Mission restaurant in Newport, Schartner Farm in Exeter, Wickford Village and Foolproof Brewery in Pawtucket.

Only locally owned, Rhode Island businesses can list their companies on buylocalri.org. Consumers can search by a number of fields including location, product or service and company name. There is no cost for businesses or consumers to use the website.

Among the holiday-related promotions featured on the Buy Local RI's website's calendar are the Newport County Chamber of Commerce’s “Holidays by the Sea” festivities, the Friends of Pawtuxet Village’s events and the "Hope Street Holiday Stroll" on Dec. 3, which includes a craft tent, sleigh rides and a petting zoo.

“Shopping locally not only adds jobs and dollars to our economy, but it also contributes to the fabric of our communities in countless ways. Independent businesses support nonprofits, the arts, charities and co-exist with business peers to improve their neighborhood, their state and their world. When you shop small, you invest in local businesses so that they can then invest in Rhode Island," said Dixie Carroll, co-owner of J. Marcel in Providence

The Foundation took on the campaign coming out of its $ 1 million Make It Happen RI economic development initiative.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2014, the Foundation awarded $34.8 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.
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