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Complete Economy Project: Cultivating a Local Living Economy that Works for All

May 31, 2017 6:33 AM | TLC Monadnock (Administrator)

Originally posted in the Monadnock Shopper News

“Business owners, in addition to keeping financially solvent, have a responsibility to conduct business in a way that enhances a quality of life for everyone.  The ‘buy local’ movement empowers communities to create a big-picture economy for long-term social and environmental benefit. Local business owners and their customers are part of the solution!” 

--Valerie Piedmont of Green Energy Options

Monadnock Buy Local wants to help empower businesses and community members to be part of the solution.  One way is through our emerging Complete Economy Project -- an effort to facilitate the adoption of policies and practices that ensure our local economy works for more of us.

Earlier this month, we held our Complete Economy Event with Stacy Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR).  Stacy shared nine public policy ideas to cultivate a Complete Economy at the local and state level.


Here’s a summary of four of the nine policy ideas Stacy shared.

Strengthen and Promote Local Banks

Small banks and credit unions held 15% of bank assets in the U.S. in 2014, yet they provided 40% of all the small business lending that year.  Cities and towns can help get more cash into the hands of entrepreneurs and small business owners by depositing a portion of public funds into local banks and credit unions.

In Portland, Oregon, the City Council passed a resolution to shift $2.5 million of city funds to local banks and credit unions.  The resolution also empowered city staff to create “responsible banking” criteria to assist with the bank selection process.

Los Angeles requires all banks to submit a report of their lending and investment activities annually.  That information is then compiled and published on the city’s website, making it accessible to all.

Local Investment Fund

Northeast Investment Cooperative gives Minnesota residents a way to collectively purchase, renovate and manage commercial and residential real estate in Northeast Minneapolis.   Membership in the cooperative starts at $1,000 and individuals can invest more by purchasing non-voting stock.  It’s a great mechanism for empowering community members to put their capital to work in their own local economy.

How does public policy fit into this idea?  Minnesota passed a policy that empowers cooperatives to raise more capital from their members and skip the expensive and time-consuming process of registering as a securities (investment) offering.  As a result, the cooperative movement in Minnesota is strong -- and businesses like Northeast Investment Cooperative exist.

Public Purchasing

Cleveland adopted policies that motivate the city to do more business with locally owned businesses.  In 2014, the city shifted 39% of its $147 million in contracts to small and locally owned businesses.   These projects fulfill city needs while investing in the local economy.

The city’s selection process for choosing contracts is unique.  It certifies businesses in a variety of categories such as minority-owned, female-owned and sustainable businesses.  Certified businesses get a 2-9% bid preference on city contracts.  The city also sets goals for how much business it will give to these certified businesses.  For example, one goal is to have 30% of construction subcontractors comprised of certified small and local businesses.

Establish Benchmarks

Imagine if the City of Keene or State of New Hampshire collected and published data that helped us measure our Complete Economy -- data that will help us evaluate the impacts of any public policy change.  With richer data we could set goals and collectively track our progress over time. 

“Local and state governments, as well as the federal government, collect lots of data on the economy, but the information they gather and publish is not very useful for tracking the market share of place-based enterprises,” said Stacy Mitchell. “Few states could tell you, for example, what share of their food comes from local or regional sources.  No state regularly analyzes economic leakages to see where there are opportunities to develop local industries to meet local needs.  Many states do not even publish information on the economic development incentives they provide and the outcomes of those giveaways.”

What’s next for the Complete Economy project?  We’re reaching out to potential partners and the City of Keene to discuss specific needs and policy opportunities ripe for our community.  We’re also reviewing case studies and hope to advocate for our first Complete Economy policy this fall.  Please stay updated at monadnocklocal.org/completeeconomy.


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