Leaders, Businesses Owners Weigh In on Buy Local
by Brian Kingsley - Friday, November 8th, 2013

Live Local. Buy Local. Lead Local.

I am a proud member of SyracuseFirst. I am not a member of CenterStateCEO.  Yet.

Businesses that choose not to get behind an initiative to support local, independently owned businesses in our community are behind the curve in marketing strategy, I think. They should give serious consideration to becoming more actively involved.

If you choose to be actively involved, don’t just join and expect new business to start pouring through your doors. Get vocal and stay involved with the organizations you choose to be a part of. Let your voice be heard!

To pay more attention to the Buy Local movement, I encourage people to spend time on several websites, such as SyracuseFirst, CenterState CEOand the Syracuse Downtown Committee. SyracuseFirst and CenterState CEO are leaders in the movement. When CenterState CEO partnered earlier this year to provide more options, benefits and fulfillment needs to SyracuseFirst, I thought it was a smart move for both. SyracuseFirst does not have the financial resources, office support and other needed resources to help their members as they would like to.  The partnership has helped SyracuseFirst to do that, and it appears to be working OK.  In this writer’s opinion, I’ll hesitate at OK.

Both SyracuseFirst and CenterState CEO accept memberships or pledges from businesses outside of downtown Syracuse.  I believe more should be done to provide marketing support to the businesses that pay upwards of $400 to be a part of their organizations, even if that support is delivered via an “RT” on Twitter or a shared Facebook post.  I believe they need a stronger social media support system for members.  This initiative, if well thought out and specifically designed to give their members that much needed extra attention in the most affordable and effective way possible, would make for happier members and more business for those members.

I believe that with more financial and administrative support by their partners and  CenterStateCEO, SyracuseFirst would be able to move its initiatives further, faster and more effectively.

Don’t get me wrong; CenterState CEO has been a strong supporter of SyracuseFirst and has worked tirelessly to bring jobs and a better infrastructure to Syracuse and surrounding counties.

What I am saying is this; CenterState CEO, SyracuseFirst and the Syracuse Downtown Committee along with the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County need to do more for members, consumers, visitors and taxpayers. There appears to be “territorial disputes” in which these organizations want, in my opinion, to direct consumers to specific areas.  Armory Square appears to me to be receiving the bulk of the attention via these organizations’ websites and local media outlets, and I believe their focus of attention is disproportionate.

In brief, I’m asking all organizations, whether formally designated or driven by grass-root initiatives, to roundtable and discuss how to begin an open and ongoing dialogue on a monthly basis to more effectively help one another be better ambassadors to business members, local consumers and visitors.

I posed three questions to local leaders. Here’s a selection of the answers. Read them and you judge whether the Localist movement is headed in the right direction. Please feel free to add your comments or email me with your comments.

How have “Buy Local” initiatives, spearheaded by SyracuseFirst, helped local, independently owned businesses in Syracuse?

“Milton Hershey once said that “quality is the best form of advertising,” and he was right. Small, independent businesses in Syracuse offer a remarkable quality of product, and that is being recognized from local consumers to national organizations, exemplified by the recent inclusion of Empire Brewing at the “Great American Brew Festival.” To succeed as a small business today, you do need more than a great product, and Buy Local initiatives offer these great products and brands a helping hand. … This ability for Buy Local organizations to serve as a connector and networker is an important piece of the puzzle for many of these businesses and is a major component of our economic development strategy.”

– Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner

“This is a difficult question.  I simply don’t see much support for the local businesses in the suburbs, such as Liverpool.  I’ve mentioned before that more needs to be done to get the message to the outlying areas. As a member of SyracuseFirst and CenterStateCEO, I am hoping collectively they can cultivate ideas to those members in the suburbs who have contributed their dollars for membership.”

– Steve Thomas, owner, Pizza Promos

“By raising the consciousness that we consumers have of the economic impact of keeping funds local, the “Buy Local” initiative has been very helpful. This ability to see our dollars re-circulate in our midst must please any that see it.”

– Jake Barrett, Syracuse common councilor, District 1


Does buying at a locally owned independent make you feel good about your purchases? If so, why?

“My grandmother used to say that if you bought something from a small business, you won’t see yourself coming and going. I appreciate my grandmother’s words and think they go a long way to describing the buy local mentality we have in our community. When you shop at a big box store, you buy products which aren’t special. Shopping at locally owned businesses offers you the chance to buy quality products which are truly unique. You are also given the additional satisfaction of knowing your money is being put back into the community. You are paying the salaries of your friends and neighbors, your sales tax dollars fund the essential services such as fire, police, water, and trash and snow removal, which are critical to small businesses across the city. The businesses, in turn, reinvest in their community by expanding, hiring more workers, sponsoring a youth sports team or performing charitable service.”

– Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner


“When I make a purchase from a local business I know those funds are staying here and making an impact.  I try very hard to shop and eat at local businesses because I know that it has a direct impact on the local economy. It is great getting to know the owners of a local business. You know, when you buy locally, that you are helping a neighbor. If everyone just shifted a small amount of the shopping they do to local retailer, we would continue the upward swing that we are seeing in CNY.”

– Rebecca A. Resig, director of membership, WCNY


“My family members and I try to patronize the non-franchised restaurants, as a rule. It is our hope that they, in turn, utilize local growers to keep the chain going. Advertising that point would be an excellent draw in promoting their services.”

– Jake Barrett, Syracuse common councilor, District 1


“I feel good about my many purchases at locally owned, independent businesses for many reasons.  Locally owned, independent businesses are much more likely than a national chain to hire a local accountant, local attorney, local insurance agent, local marketing company, local real estate agent, local architect, etc.  Since more of the profits stay here, more spending will take place here, on things like automobiles, groceries, restaurants, entertainment, houses, fuel, etc.  You get to interact with the owner of the business, who takes a lot of pride in what he/she/they do.  The quality of the product you are buying will be better if the owner is directly involved.”

– Steve Thomas, owner, Pizza Promos


With the holiday season upon us, do you have any recommendations for shoppers thinking about shopping online from big-box retailers?

“I would encourage Central New Yorkers to take advantage of the fantastic small businesses we have in the City of Syracuse. Take a day to make the holiday shopping experience more personal: plan a “downtown day” by bringing friends to shop at small businesses in Armory or Hanover square and while you are there, enjoy a meal at a local restaurant or a warm drink at a local coffee shop. In addition to purchasing great gifts, the experience offered by the mere act of buying locally will be a gift in and of itself to any shopper.”

– Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner

“My suggestion would be to actually think about how much more fun it is to go down to Armory Square or anywhere with a local business. Think about the experience you will have. Think about the culture and the personality and uniqueness of independent businesses. You can’t get that online, and you cannot get that from big box stores.”

– John DeSantis, founder, Believe in Syracuse


“We are a nation driven by the fast food and immediate gratification desires. The difficulty in life is always the choice, and making a conscious decision to spend more time and energy on helping others sustain their livelihood by purchasing the same products here locally takes planning. If we all begin with the end in mind, it would be easier to understand how critical theses decisions are to our local economies. Let’s try to act this holiday season and not to react to the ease of shopping online and take some accountability for our choices.”

– Laura Serway and Cindy Seymour, owners, Laci’s Tapas Bar


As always, thank you for taking the time read the Buy Local blog, and please buy local when you can.

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Brian Kingsley is a marketing, advertising and promotions consultant and owner of Geo Dux Small Business Services.  Email him at geo@geodux.com.



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