Tough times spur ‘buy local’ campaign

The New Mexican

What supporters hope will be Santa Fe’s own economic-stimulus program kicked off on a windy Tuesday afternoon on the Plaza with a simple message: Buy local.

Backed by local media businesses, including Hutton Broadcasting, The Santa Fe New Mexican, the Santa Fe Reporter and Journal Santa Fe, as well as such commercial organizations as the Santa Fe Alliance and the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, the campaign is meant to bolster Santa Fe firms coping with a faltering economy.

Among speakers on the Plaza was Santa Fe Mayor David Coss. “I’ve been to the Plaza and stood on the bandstand many times, but this is the first time I’ve ever addressed a business group,” he said. “This is about keeping Santa Fe’s economy strong and keeping Santa Feans employed. Working together we can do that.”

While Santa Fe isn’t as bad off as many other cities around the country, there are plenty of sour economic indicators.

Unemployment has risen and tax revenues have declined. City gross-receipts tax collections were down almost 12 percent in February, compared with the same month a year ago.

Lodgers-tax collections were down almost 11 percent for the same time period. The city’s hotel/motel occupancy rate for January was a paltry 35 percent, well below January 2007’s rate of about 47 percent. That means far fewer visitors were in town shopping and dining.

Santa Fe’s recent over-the-year job growth was a negative 1.4 percent — the first time that’s happened since April 2001.

Among local business operators bemoaning slow sales was a Canyon Road gallery owner who said at a recent “Coffee with Coss” meeting that his sales were down 90 percent so far this year. A local commercial real-estate agent said recently at least three downtown landlords reduced rents for their tenants by 20 percent because sales are so soft.

In addition to feeling a price squeeze from big-box chain stores, local small businesses must compete with online retailers such as Amazon.com that don’t have to collect sales taxes or pay overhead costs here.

Vicki Pozzebon of the Santa Fe Alliance touted the importance of shopping locally by emphasizing the numbers 45 and 23.

“Every purchase made locally means 45 percent of that amount stays in the community,” she said, “while if you buy at a big-box store” based out of state, “only 13 percent of the purchase price stays in the community.”

She concluded her remarks with the exhortation to “buy local, eat local, hire local.”

A local purchase increases the number of times that dollars circulate in the local economy, multiplying their reach and impact and increasing overall demand, according to Kate Noble, of the city’s Economic Development Division.

Simon Brackley of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce praised the collaboration among the city and business groups, explaining that “if we can shop locally, our whole community benefits.”

In remarks made after the gathering on the Plaza, Brackley also said he is encouraged that the real-estate market seems to have bottomed out and that a federally funded stimulus package will soon kick in.

Santa Fe’s economy also will benefit from the new convention center and Rail Runner commuter train service, he added.

Ginny Sohn, associate publisher of The New Mexican, said the newspaper is 159 years old and has no plans to shut down, despite what is happening with other newspapers around the country.

“We’re locally owned, and that’s not going to happen,” she said, drawing a round of applause from the crowd.

For his part, ad man David Hayduk, who emceed Tuesday’s event on the Plaza, said Santa Fe had never faced such a challenge in the 30 years he has lived here. “It calls for some unique thinking,” he said.

The Santa Fe Buy Into It campaign will include special offers from businesses that join with complementary businesses to create package deals for customers.

The campaign Web site, www.buyintoit.org, will list the special offers and serve as a resource for individuals and businesses in the community who are looking for bargains.

Also planned is a photo and essay contest. Santa Feans will be invited to submit short paragraphs and photos of their favorite businesses to illustrate how they bought into Santa Fe. Awards of $250 will be given for the best essay and photo.

Names of individuals and businesses and their contributions toward a goal of a $1 million collective “buy-in” amount will be published and broadcast.