In 1998, two residents of Boulder, Colorado, became concerned about the affect big chain stores were having on local businesses and the character of their community. They organized likeminded businesses and individuals and devised a plan to counteract this disturbing trend. Through their trailblazing efforts – replicated many times since in communities far and wide – awareness was raised for this issue. For maybe the first time, it became cool to be local!
The group became the first Independent Business Alliance (IBA®). Now known as the American Independent Business Alliance, or AMIBA, it’s a national non-profit organization dedicated in large part to helping communities across the country launch and successfully operate their own IBAs.
Which takes us back to that original effort in Boulder to preserve the community’s character and sustain its local businesses. As described on the AMIBA website, “The initial sell was tough; being the first of its kind, the idea was untested. Once several of the community’s landmark businesses were aboard, attracting others became easier. After two years the Boulder IBA had a coalition of 150 community-based businesses and had succeeded in creating a culture of support for local independent business.”
The results of this coordinated, multifaceted campaign were so positive and groundbreaking, it has inspired similar efforts in communities across the country. As the story continues, “Being local became hip. Non-IBA affiliated businesses and even franchises began using “local” as a marketing tool. The chain-owned daily newspaper touted a local business advertising page and routinely provided a local business perspective in its staff-generated articles. Conversation on the street regarding “local” versus “chains” was overheard commonly, and discussion in the letters section of the newspaper became frequent.”
But AMIBA has provided much more than inspiration. In fact, the reason the group became an official organization with a national focus is that, within the first two years of the Boulder effort began, more than 100 inquiries about the IBA model poured in from communities nationwide. One of AMIBA’s main functions ever since has been to provide training and support – everything from direct consultation to custom materials for municipal governments, independent trade groups and other entities – for launching and maintaining local IBAs across the country, including
For over 15 years, this innovative organization has provided a strong voice for community-based, independent businesses. We salute the American Independent Business Alliance, one of the true pioneers of the “localization” movement.