Economic Development, Small Business & Startups, and Sustainability

Local First partners with state's marketing arm

January 29, 2013
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Grab a fork and dig in, Fork Fest brings the farm downtown
Local First's offices are located in Grand Rapids' East Hills neighborhood. Photo via Facebook

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Local First have partnered to form a two year pilot program to increase awareness of the economic impact of supporting local businesses, while gathering data that could lead to new or improved small business support programs.

Grand Rapids-based Local First partners with about 600 independent businesses and community organizations to support sustainable economic development in the region.

As part of the pilot program, Local First will expand its developments into Grand Haven, Holland and Portland. The nonprofit will also hire a new staff member who will collaborate with the new locations’ community leaders and business members.

Local First will work with the local chambers of commerce, main street programs and economic development organizations to engage and support small businesses for a marketing campaign.

“There is a strong history of successful business entrepreneurialism in this region that has been lost in many other places around the country. We need to retain this culture,” said Emily Loeks, director of community relations at Grand Rapids Celebration! Cinema and Local First board vice chair. “We can do this by naming it, by asking business leaders to share best sustainable business practices with each other and new entrepreneurs and by making the choice more clear to consumers. Local First champions each of these objectives.”

MEDC’s job in the partnership is to track the program’s success rate, measuring aspects such as business growth — in terms of sales and jobs — startup success rates and public awareness.

MEDC will use the data to either create new small business programs or support existing programs.

“Locally owned independent businesses are the foundation of a healthy, vibrant economy,” MEDC President and CEO Michael Finney said. “We are pleased to support Local First’s efforts to strengthen Michigan-based businesses and to grow our regional economies.”

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