Buffa-Love From the Business Alliance of Local Living Economies
by Michelle Long
Of all the places we could have held the 11th annual Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) conference, it seemed like the right moment to be in Buffalo. When we were selecting a location for our annual gathering, the Buffalo community showed up—in an unprecedented way—and stated very proudly “We want BALLE to visit our city!”
The BALLE conference is anything but typical. For us, it’s about forming meaningful connections and relationships not only among attendees, but with the surrounding community as well. Under the leadership of Buffalo First!’s executive director, Sarah Bishop, and Program Director, Andrew Delmonte, the community welcomed BALLE with extraordinary hospitality, beginning with welcome signage at the airport and concluding with hundreds of Buffalonians having shared their pride of place with us.
As an immersive experience, one goal for the BALLE conference was to help to share the Buffalo story. While there, we learned that the concept of Localism—using regional resources to meet regional needs—isn’t new to the Buffalo community. Grain silos are being turned into rock climbing walls, cooperative stores are thriving, and cash mobs, which recruit citizens to spend money at independent businesses, are a Buffalo-born innovation.
With 30,000 small business owners across the country, BALLE believes that local businesses are key to solving our communities’ toughest challenges and the smartest way to create real prosperity. Our conference connects the best people, ideas and resources from across North America to weave a stronger, more resilient web of citizens that are building a new economy together, a concept that is exemplified beautifully in Buffalo.
Buffalo echoed a concept near and dear to our heart, that the new economy is built on a foundation of generosity, collaboration, and social justice. For example, the Oishei Foundation’s Paul Hogan, a speaker at and strong supporter of BALLE, generously provided scholarships that made it possible for more than a dozen Buffalo leaders to attend.
BALLE and the almost 600 attendees from across North America supported local businesses and services, and we expect the economic impact of the conference to be several hundred thousand dollars.
Localism is about building communities that are more healthy and sustainable—backed by local economies that are stronger and more resilient. We’re reconnecting eaters with farmers, investors with entrepreneurs, and business owners with the communities and natural places on which they depend. It recognizes that not one of us can do it alone and that we’re all better off, when we’re all better off. Buffalo reaffirmed our belief that a new economy is being built by everyday citizens around the country. Buffalo First! is a leader in the Localist movement and we encourage you to join their efforts—it takes each one of us to build a new economy.
- Michelle Long
Executive director, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE)
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