The Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce is launching a new initiative to get businesses and consumers to do business with local independent businesses — and help build the regional economy by keeping their dollars in the community.
The chamber launched its Independent Business Alliance as a partnership with the American Independent Business Association. It feels the Alliance will develop a co-operative system of marketing and referrals.
"There are over 5,000 independent businesses in the five-county footprint of the Princeton Regional Chamber and there is no one speaking as one voice to the needs of these businesses," said Scott Needham, president of Princeton Air and co-vice chair of the Alliance. "Local businesses give back to their communities — you buy from me and the money stays here; there's a value to that."
Needham said the Alliance is aimed at both the B2B marketplace and the retail consumer. The goal is to get buyers to consider local independent businesses when making a purchasing decision.
The theory: "(If buying locally) is a little more pricy, and you can handle that small increase in price, then buy it there," he said. "If, in fact, it's way over your budget, at least you've considered it."
Needham said local independents aren't necessarily more expensive than large national players. He said his company, whose 50 employees install heating and air conditioning systems, is seeing more competition from national firms, whose prices are sometimes higher and sometimes lower than his.
"We have to do a lot of education for the region on what it means to buy from an independent business and where that money flows and how it benefits the local economy," he said.
Debbie Schaeffer, owner of Lawrence-based Mrs. G TV, Appliance and Sleep Center, is co-vice chair of the Alliance. In a sector dominated by national chains, Mrs. G's is a third-generation family owned business.
"As an independent business, our growth and success is a direct result of our involvement with the community," Schaeffer said.