HIBA encourages businesses to go green
Local small-business owners were encouraged to support each other and make environmentally friendly decisions in a pair of programs last week sponsored by the Hudson Independent Business Association.
Rick Brooks, a UW-Madison academic and co-founder of Dane Buy Local, an association of 400 independently owned Dane County businesses, gave the presentations.
Brooks spoke to about 30 interested community members Wednesday evening, Feb. 25, at The Phipps Center for the Arts on how spending money at independently owned businesses is good for the community.
The next morning, Brooks led a workshop on incorporating "green" business practices that was attended by about 60 business people. It, too, was held in The Phipps' River Room.
"We're in this together. We need each other," Brooks told the Wednesday evening gathering.
He encouraged people to promote and patronize each other's businesses.
"Know where your money goes. Spend it on people who care about you," he said.
A flyer promoting the program said each dollar spent with a local business circulates three to five times in the community. Dollars spent with businesses owned elsewhere leak out of the local economy more rapidly, it said.
Local independently owned businesses are more likely to use the services of local accountants, attorneys, contractors, printers, newspapers, insurance agencies, banks, financial advisers, suppliers and more, according to promoters of buy-local initiatives.
Local businesses, collectively, also employ the most people in a community and are the most generous donors to community causes, the HIBA flyer said.
Brooks gushed Friday evening about what he had discovered in downtown Hudson since arriving there two and a half hours earlier.
"Ten minutes ago, we were sitting in the royalty chairs at The Nova," he said in his opening remarks.
"The truth is, the meal I had tonight was one of the best I've had," he added later. "And the service was the superb."
Brooks and his colleague, Mark Stevens, had rooms at the Phipps Inn Bed & Breakfast. They had walked through the downtown business district, stopping in at various shops.
"I was almost magnetically drawn to your independent book store (Back to Books)," he said.
Hudson's uniqueness is its strongest selling point, Brooks said, and the same is true of its independent businesses.
"It's really hard to copy your people, your local knowledge," he said. "...We are surrounded in a wealth that is more than just money. Our two and a half hours here tell me that there is such a rich history of caring and respect (in Hudson). You are rich beyond your knowledge."
Brooks told of a recent trip to Sri Lanka where he worked with a community-building organization that infuses a spiritual aspect to its efforts.
"We build the road and the road builds us," was the motto for a village's construction project.
The message was that Hudson businesses also should look for ways to promote and patronize each other and improve the community as a whole.
Thursday morning's workshop was heavily devoted to promoting environmentally friendly business practices.
Brooks highlighted numerous ways to reduce energy use and cut down on the release of the pollutants into the environment.
The good news, he said, is that many green practices are also good for a business's bottom line.
"Our goal is not to make it harder. You don't even have to be virtuous," he said. "It's not a liberal or a conservative scheme."
Brooks asked the workshop participants for examples of energy-saving practices they were aware of.
Marc Putman of Putman Planning & Design said a study of a recently installed traffic roundabout in Minnetonka, Minn., found that it saved more than 250 gallons of gasoline a day that motorists otherwise would burn idling at red lights.
Hudson Community Development Director Dennis Darnold reported that the city has installed LED traffic lights that use a fraction of the electricity that the old incandescent lights used.
Vivian Hart of Youth Action Hudson said the organization now sends out meeting agendas by e-mail, so only the number actually needed are printed.
Kathy Newman of Et Cetera Uncommon Gifts & Home Accessories reported bringing Styrofoam peanuts that products come packed in to the UPS Store for reuse.
Brooks encouraged business people to practice what he called "community-based social marketing." He defined it as modeling behavior that is good for the environment and the community.
"Engaged employees, engaged citizens and children are the ones that are going to make this happen," he added.
He called the workshop a "triggering event" and asked the business people to think of one thing they could easily do that would be good for the environment and save money.
Anastatia Shartin, visual arts director at The Phipps Center and a member of the HIBA steering committee, said Brooks was invited to address local business people in order to introduce the concept of sustainability.
Brooks defined sustainability as actions that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
"We felt that we needed to incorporate that broader concept into the conversation about supporting locally owned independent businesses," Shartin said.
In the current economy, a lot of businesses are looking to cut expenses, and reducing energy costs is one way to do that, she added.
Steering committee member Ruth Misenko, owner of the Seasons on St. Croix Gallery, said Brooks' success with Dane Buy Local (www.danebuylocal.com) also was a draw.
"At 400 members strong, they're doing something right," Misenko said. "With those numbers, they've really been able to impact business in their community."
Brooks said Dane Buy Local has been able to persuade local governments and institutions to buy more from local independent businesses.
Brooks' visit to Hudson also served as the kickoff for HIBA's 2009 membership drive.
The organization, now in its fourth year, is a subgroup of the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau.
A full business membership in the organization costs $500. HIBA uses the money to buy advertising in the Star-Observer and promotional materials designed to encourage people to "eat, shop and play" locally.
Information on joining HIBA is available through the Chamber office, 502 Second St. The Chamber's phone number is (715) 386.8411 and its Web site address is www.hudsonwi.org.