Sustainable Industries editor promotes Gorge BALLE network

20 Mar

I won’t name names, but the owner of a small business in The Dalles recently told my wife that he would really like to see development of the proposed — and, as usual, high-centered — Super Walmart. When I heard this story, I was aghast. “Why would he want that?” I asked Kathy.

“He said that a Super Walmart would help crush many of the small businesses in The Dalles, and open the door for new (and apparently more interesting to him) businesses to move into that empty space.”

Hmm? Now that‘s an interesting economic development strategy.

Which brought to mind a new initiative at the opposite end of the spectrum. But first, some history.As you may recall, a similar Super Walmart proposal for Hood River went down in flames back in 2005, thanks to a community uprising, a focus on the disconnect between the proposal and the language in the county’s design code, a gutsy 3-2 vote by the Board of Commissioners, and support at the Land Use Board of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court.

The underlying motivation of many opponents to Walmart’s expansion in Hood River was a desire to protect and defend small, locally owned businesses. Research shows that they do more to sustain the local economy — they’re twice as likely to shop local, more likely to support local charities, and spend $68 of every $100 in profit locally, vs. $43 for chains.

That’s a message that Becky Brun wants to highlight, promote and formalize.

Becky is the editor of Sustainable Industries magazine, a nifty San Francisco pub that covers the nexus between business and sustainability. You’ve heard the word (Now, see the movie), but what precisely does it mean? Not to oversimplify, but that’s the best way to start. It’s essentially about balance, between the interests of the environment, the economy, and the community (the people) who depend on both.

Brun spoke recently to the Downtown Business Council, about her desire to midwife a local network affiliated with a sustainability group called BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies).

Formed in 2001, BALLE now has 80 networks around the country, representing 21,000 independent businesses. “The poster child,” Brun says, is Sustainable Connections in Bellingham, Wash. It’s got 650 members, a $900,000 budget and recently secured a $2.8 million grant from the Department of Energy to retrofit buildings for energy efficiency.

Becky has been shopping around the idea of a Gorge affiliate to BALLE, and is hoping to form a steering committee to carry the mission forward. Interested? Call her at 503-821-9979, or write.

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