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‘Buy local’ organization adds a green-business group

John Plestina

The Reno-Sparks Local Business Co-Op continues to work toward its goal of a 10 percent shift in consumer spending in the Reno-Sparks area from national chains to locally owned businesses.

And now its organizers have widened their focus through the creation of a “Green Business Chamber of Commerce.”

Dave Asher, executive director of the groups, said the Reno-Sparks Local Business Co-Op and Green Business Chamber of Commerce are separate components. Green Business Chamber of Commerce membership costs $250 annually and includes a pledge to market products and conduct business in an eco-friendly way.

He said benefits of paid membership include an enhanced Reno-Sparks Co-Op directory listing and the development and hosting of Web sites that allow members to list entire inventories online. The Web sites also offer shopping carts for online purchases.

“I have an incredible Internet marketing system,” Asher said.

Those paid members must take a pledge to be stewards of the environment and state how they have aided the protection of the ecosystem.

Asher said there are currently about 50 paid members, but his goal is 500 to provide ongoing financial support to maintain the organization.

At the same time, the group continues to build its directory of locally owned business. Benefits of a buy-local campaign, he said, would include the retention of $350 million in the local economy and the creation of more than 2,500 jobs.

Asher said the group has compiled a directory that currently lists about 2,000 locally owned businesses in the Reno-Sparks area and continues to grow.

Goals of the directory include promotion of local businesses, educating consumers to choose local businesses, job creation and improving the Reno-Sparks economy.

While he worked to compile many of the names and contact information for businesses listed in the free directory, Asher said some businesses contacted him requesting inclusion in the directory.

The Reno-Sparks Co-Op now about two years old is the first of its kind in the nation, he said.

“Locally, I am my own organization,” Asher said. “I invented it.”

He said benefits come in three parts. The program encourages consumers to shop local, encourages local businesses to do business with other local venders, and encourages government agencies to procure bids from Reno-Sparks area businesses.

Asher and his staff are visiting Reno and Sparks businesses, offering business owners “Locally Owned Business” window posters to identify the establishments as locally owned and the best places to shop.

Asher is also seeking input about how the Co-Op could help merchants increase sales and the sizes of workforces.

The Co-Op is also offering business-to-business networking with free social media workshops on Mondays, beginning this month.

“Support for locally owned businesses is the No. 1 way to turn our economy around and create jobs,” Asher said.

The local Green Business Chamber of Commerce is affiliated with about 40 other organizations across the nation that call themselves Green Business Chamber of Commerce. The nearest are located in Las Vegas and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Reno-Sparks Local Business Co-Op and Green Business Chamber of Commerce is not affiliated with The Chamber that serves the Reno-Sparks area business community.

“I was a member of both chambers until recently. I thought it was impolite to recruit members at their events,” Asher said. “I appreciate what they are doing. I just have a different program.”