Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally and in our community, provide jobs to residents.
ContentHeader Our Mission Wednesday, 16 March 2011 - i360 Group
images/stories/political1.jpg Our goal is to create awareness for businesses, governments and residents to choose local Cobb County entities when making purchases. Consider how choosing a local business would benefit our community.
ContentHeader Be friendly to our environment Wednesday, 16 March 2011 - i360 Group http://220.127.116.11/~keepitin/images/stories/header1.jpg
Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation which is friendly to our environment.
ContentHeader Keep our community unique Wednesday, 16 March 2011 - i360 Group images/stories/header3.jpg
Where we shop, where we eat and have fun – all of it makes our community home. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of the distinctive character of this place. Our tourism businesses also benefit.
'Keep It in Cobb' sees consortium of business, government, residents.
By Janel Davis
A Cobb County commissioner is looking to help small businesses through a local-buying campaign aimed at keeping dollars in the county.
JoAnn Birrell campaigned for the commission last year on a "Keep It in Cobb" platform. Now that she's on the commission, Birrell has organized an eight-member steering committee to develop policies for the program.
The committee is using a three-pronged approach, hoping the county will begin doing more business with Cobb businesses, firms in the county will do more work with other Cobb companies, and that county residents will become more aware of the buying opportunities in their own backyard.
"I went door-to-door while campaigning and people talked about losing their jobs and working out of their homes and being struggling small-business owners," Birrell said. "I just think if we pull together and support our own businesses, we can keep these businesses alive."
Thus far, the Keep It in Cobb program, which is not fully developed, would include a consortium of local businesses marketed to the public and private sectors through an awareness campaign, complete with branding, a logo, a website and social media outreach, committee leaders said.
"My business is based on successes of relationships, and really that's what we're doing," said Karen Traeger, the Cobb committee's leader and owner of receivables management company Worry Free Receivables.
The committee also is working on an incentive system to reward customers for spending their money with local companies and plans a monthly Cobb company spotlight. The first company spotlight will be on the Atlanta Beat women's professional soccer team, which plays at a stadium on the campus of Kennesaw State University.
"Really small businesses are struggling hard to stay afloat. A lot of them are hanging on by their fingernails," said Ron Skeean Sr, owner of Casual Image Furniture in Marietta.
The family business started in 1984, employs between seven and 10 people, and has grown to include a second building with other small business tenants.
"I think this is something these individual businesses can't do on their own," Skeean said. "They need customers coming in their doors, and this might just be one of the ways to help them do that."
There are 655,552 incorporated businesses in Georgia, according to state economic development figures. About 97.5 percent of those businesses are categorized by the federal government as small businesses, which have fewer than 500 employees. Ninety-five percent employ fewer than 50 workers, and 87 percent of all Georgia businesses employ five workers or less.
"I just think if we pull together and support our own businesses, wecan keep these businesses alive" JoAnnBirrell, County commissioner
"If local companies find it profitable to organize and market themselves to make the business environment better, that is a good idea, as long as it's privately financed," said Michael Reksulak, an economist at Georgia Southern University.
As for offering incentives to shoppers, "you can try to convince them, but you can't really compel them to go against their interest when they are spending their own money," he said.
Business leaders in Gordon County in North Georgia are using customers' preferences to their advantage.
Recognizing that many of the county's residents make shopping trips to Atlanta, "we said, even if you're going to Atlanta, then get your gas in Gordon on the way, or get your breakfast or lunch at a Gordon drive-through on the way," said Joni Harbin, spokeswoman for the local chamber of commerce.
Gordon, one of the few counties Cobb organizers have found with a formal local-buying program, began its Keep It in the County campaign in June 2009 as an advertising cooperative for chamber business members.
Harbin admitted measuring the program's success is a challenge because no statistics are kept, but the anecdotal results from businesses have been positive.
In Paulding County, Cobb's neighbor to the west, commissioners adopted new policies in October to give local businesses an advantage in bidding for county jobs. If a local business is within 10 percent of the top bidder and willing to match the low bid, the contract is awarded to the Paulding company, said Jennifer Alford, the county's purchasing manager.
The only preferential terms for local businesses wanting to do work with Cobb are included in the general bid guidelines, according to the purchasing department. A county con- -tract would go to a Cobb company first only in the case of an exact tie with the winning bidder. Preference is next given to a state vendor, then a regional vendor in the same situation.
There are no preferences or set-asides for local companies on statewide contracts, but there have been some discussions on adding the provisions, especially for small businesses, said Rodney Jenkins, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Administrative Services.
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