By Alex Gladu, Writer for Independent We Stand
The Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) is much more than a place for small business owners to share resources and ideas. It’s a place for them to advocate for and create real change within the city.
Launched in 2002, AIBA came together to teach people about buying local before they had any incentive to do so. At that time, little was known about the direct impact that small businesses have on communities and local economies. As dedicated small business owners and advocates, though, members of AIBA knew what they could do for the community – and now the community knows it, too. Over the past twelve years, AIBA has led the way to researching and identifying the real economic benefits of small businesses. This research gives serious credibility to the buy local movement and small businesses beyond the Texas border.
Using that research, AIBA has changed the way that the local government of Austin interacts with its small businesses. In 2012, AIBA presented its landmark Local Business Manifesto to the Austin City Council. In it, the group called for significant changes to the city’s business environment, including new zoning policies that encourage smaller infrastructure, hiring incentive to drive small business growth, and an annual local business conference to maintain a commitment to these businesses over time. The day after AIBA’s presentation, the Austin City Council passed a resolution to support the manifesto and begin working toward its priorities. In 2013, AIBA held its first Local and Small Business Conference, and the local government has signed on to help organize the 2014 conference, which will be held in October.
AIBA’s advocacy work doesn’t stop there. As the local government nears November elections, the group has sent local business pledges to all city candidates and is keeping track of who signs and who doesn’t. AIBA also monitors the progress it has made with the city of Austin since outlining its goals in the Local Business Manifesto. In 2014, for example, AIBA wanted the city to hire a Local Business Director. So far, the AIBA Leadership Council has written a job description for this position and held productive meetings with each city council member. It’s action and progress like this that makes AIBA a successful advocate for small businesses in Austin.
Through its advocacy work, AIBA is bringing sustainable solutions to Austin’s small businesses and its local economy. To see this sort of change in your community, join an Independent Business Alliance near you. If there isn’t one in your area, consider starting your own. You’ll have the example of successful IBAs like Austin’s to guide you along the way.