As you’ve walked around downtown Provo these last few weeks, you may have noticed something new in the doorways. The bright green stickers proclaiming “Buy Local First” recently adorning these businesses are in large part the handiwork of Kristen Lavelett, Assistant Director of Local First Utah. Local First has recently opened up a chapter in Provo and Heirloom couldn’t be more excited! We spoke with Kristen a few days after the chapter’s launch party to learn more about the recent Local First expansion.
Tell us about Local First.
Local First is a statewide organization whose mission is to educate the public regarding the benefit of local business. We’re looking at the public as consumers, local government and local business. We work in several different endeavors to fulfill their needs.
We are not an advocacy organization. We are an education organization. We try to educate local politicians to help them shape policy. With business, we help them know how to brand themselves as a local business; how to work with other local business. Our strongest branding piece is our window cling and door cling. We use that as a branding tool so our consumers know that “If Pizzeria 712 is a local business, we know what our dollars are doing when we shop here.”
We are not anti-chain or anti-big business. The name is local “first” not local “only”. When possible, choose local first, but we’re obviously not going to tell people to boycott Wal-Mart.
How long has Local First had a presence in Utah?
Local First has been a non-profit since 2006. We started out as a group of business owners who recognized we needed each other and we needed to support each other during the economic climate. We’re on really firm ground in the sense that localism has become really trendy and that works for us. I think the economic downturn of 2008 caused our culture as a whole to really analyze where we were going and what we were doing. Was it really worthwhile? I think some of that thinking has changed, particularly with people 35 and younger. I think people 35 and younger want to change our cities. They want walkable cities; better planned cities. As that had changed, Local First has really seen a great change.
What are the economic benefits to shopping locally?
For years, we had been citing studies from other cities and we were so excited to find out that in Utah, 4 times as much money stays in the local economy, which is just tremendous. For every $100 dollars spent in a locally owned business in Utah, $52 are re-circulated in the local economy. If that same money is spent in a big box store, only $14 are re-circulated. At a restaurant, $78 are re-circulated and stay in our economy. At a big box, only $14 are re-circulated. Those numbers just sent a new energy through the movement as a whole.
Provo is such a unique cultural and economic climate. Why the expansion to Provo? Do you alter your approach when coming here?
I have been really surprised by Provo. Because Utah is such a geographically large state we recognized that if we are going to learn to engage with this trend of localism on an individual level, we needed to engage chapters on a smaller level. We’ve set up this chapter initiative. Local First Ogden was our first and they’ve been on the scene for 2 years. We realized Provo could be a really viable next step. We have found that the local source movement really strongly appeals to a segment and that Utah County and Provo would be a good place to learn how to do that.
In addition to choosing to chop locally first, how can an individual get involved?
Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook. When we develop information or when we have events or new programs, that’s how we communicate them. When we have events, it means the world to us to have consumers come.
We are working tentatively on having a “Friends of Local First” out in 2013. We are looking to develop some incentives and loyalty for those who really choose to shop locally a part of their lifestyle. But having people engage with us on FB and through events and our newsletter is a great thing.
Many thanks to Kristen and Local First for bringing the movement to Provo! Local First is hosting their annual gala “Celebrate the Bounty” on October 11 at Rico’s Warehouse in Salt Lake City. Heirloom will be there and you should be too! Visit www.localfirst.org for more information.