The American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) is a 501c3 national non-profit organization created to help business owners and communities to launch and successfully operate Independent Business Alliances®, “buy local” campaigns, and other efforts to support independent local businesses and vital communities. IBAs have proven their effectiveness in helping independent businesses thrive and preventing chain proliferation and other trends from displacing local entrepreneurs.
AMIBA staff founded (in 1998) and directed the first IBA in Boulder, Colorado through its formative years. Its innovative approach and success prompted numerous requests for help from other communities. In 2001, AMIBA formed to unite these organizations and create resources to help businesses or citizens in other communities to organize successfully. Since then, more than 65 IBAs have formed in a diverse range of communities nationwide.
The Independent Business Alliance®
IBAs employ a four-pronged approach:
Educate the public and build a culture of support for local independent business
- raising awareness of the greater overall value local independents often can provide and the many benefits local independent businesses bring to our communities;
- helping community members view themselves as citizens with a right to shape their community’s future, not merely as consumers.
Facilitate collaboration among local independent businesses to help them thrive
- creating a powerful collective brand for local independent businesses—to raise the profile of IBAs and indepen- dent businesses locally and nationally;
- bringing to independents many advantages enjoyed by chains by facilitating group purchasing, cooperative ad- vertising and joint marketing campaigns; to make it easy for people to recognize and find IBA members and know they are supporting local entrepreneurs.
Build a potent and uncompromised voice for independent business
- working with local government and economic development committees to provide the perspective of established community-based businesses and advocating for policies that support local entrepreneurs, including shifting more municipal and institutional spending toward locals.
- becoming a trusted information source for reporters, government officials and others to make sure the interests of Wall St. and major corporations are not speaking for local independents.
Engage citizens in determining the future of your community
- shifting consumer choices is important, but inspiring democratic participation also is essential.
Independent Business Alliance is a registered mark of the American Independent Business Alliance. Use of the name is a privilege of AMIBA affiliation.
A few examples of local IBA successes:
- The Austin IBA’s (TX) landmark economic impact study, measuring how money spent at two independent businesses (Waterloo Records and Book People) and a pending Borders superstore impacted Austin, found that $100 spent at Borders generated $13 in local economic activity, while $45 was generated by the local stores. The results have been cited widely and sparked at least five studies elsewhere yielding nearly identical results. The IBA used the study results to rally public opposition and prevent a planned $2.1 million public subsidy for the proposed Borders develop- ment. Without the subsidy, Borders never went in.
- AIBA programs to identify and enhance unique business areas and another matching developers and hometown businesses are embraced enthusiasti- cally by City government. They’ve helped AIBA gain influence over policy decisions affecting independent businesses — before they’re made.
- The Portland (ME) Independent Business and Community Alliance. Just 7 months after PIBCA launched their educational activities, more than 60 percent of member businesses indicated a positive impact upon their business.
- Think Local Umpqua, which operates out of a Community Development Corporation in Oregon, is helping keep local dollars circulating among the region’s local independent businesses and food producers by galvanizing citizen support in a rural area far removed from the state’s population centers.
- Independent Business Alliances in Bozeman, MT and other communities have obtained up to $50,000 in annual funding from local governments by using AMIBA’s business plan and submitting proposals that explain why their cit- ies or towns would gain financially through the investment.
- Flagstaff IBA’s (AZ) founding director was hired by the City to be its first chief of business development and retention, helping institutionalize the culture of support for independent business. Increasingly, IBAs are gaining a say in local economic development and government policy.
- Stay Local!, our New Orleans affiliate, produced guides to local business that helped direct more post-Katrina spending to local independents. The US Office of Recovery Management committed federal matching funds to extend Stay Local’s program to 17 recovering neighborhoods.
- The Santa Fe Alliance developed a city-wide workforce development initiative linking local independent busi- nesses to Santa Fe’s youth. They also pioneered a program to help local farmers and restaurants by facilitating di- rect purchasing and are crafting a regional foods distribution network to create more local markets for the area’s family farmers and CSAs, generating great publicity for all involved.
- Remember — don’t feel you have to make the leap to launching a new organization on your own. In most cases, simply organizing a community presentation and workshop from AMIBA will generate all the support you need to start building a viable organization. Please talk to us about your specific challenges and goals.