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Think Auburn First: Your dollar will go further this season

Another View
By: Tony Hazarian, Auburn Journal publisher
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When you think of Auburn, what comes first to mind? Is it the historic Auburn Courthouse? Maybe the American River Canyon, spanned by the Foresthill Bridge? Is it the friendly people? Or that on any given weekend, there are so many things to do that you can’t possibly do them all? Or, is it that Auburn’s mix of businesses, public safety, environment and sense of community make it a unique place to live, work, play and shop, worth sustaining through our actions, attitude and pocketbooks? As the holiday shopping season beckons, more than a hundred Auburn-area business owners and civic leaders are galvanizing to elevate “Think Auburn First,” an education and marketing program to convince local residents that shopping locally is a deal today and a down payment on Auburn’s future. The movement, birthed under the wing of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, starts with the notion that a dollar spent in Auburn is a better investment than a buck spent elsewhere. That dollar turns over several times in the community, building businesses that employ our friends and neighbors, generating tax proceeds that pay for police, fire services and road repairs, and helping nonprofit and community groups provide programs and services that make Auburn feel like home. “A ‘shop local’ program in most towns is just a slogan and piece of marketing that does not always have meaning,” said Steve Galyardt, vice president at Community 1st Bank and Think Auburn First steering team member. “(Think Auburn First) is about our community holding hands, keeping things we love about Auburn alive from local restaurants to the Auburn Symphony, from a dress shop to the local Boy Scout troop,” he said. While “shopping local” has been a mantra of the chamber and local business associations, several attempts at organizing such a broader, community-wide program have come and gone through the years. Think Auburn First, launched during the deepest recession in modern memory, looks like it has traction. Members receive an educational packet for themselves and handouts to educate customers on the benefits of shopping locally. With volunteers and without administrative costs, TAF has signed 111 members – many of whom display the circular sticker on their front doors or windows. “The sticker is a merchant’s commitment to our community that they offer great customer service, fair pricing and the spirit to keep our town alive,” Galyardt said. It’s a promotional tool as well, said Cheryl Maki, another steering team member. “It’s an easy and inexpensive way to market your business,” said Maki, co-owner of Maki Heating & Air and longtime Auburn booster. “That sticker will only become more important in the coming years,” she said, adding that Think Auburn First plans networking activities, educational workshops and discount programs in the future. But there’s more than enough reason to join the effort right now, Maki said. Unity of community and business – especially during the holiday season that makes the year for many – can do nothing but build momentum locally as the economic recovery gains steam regionally and nationally. And that will happen. The National Association of Business Economists reported Monday the recession was statistically over, citing three-month to three-year estimates pointing to improvement in housing, employment, business investment and retail activity. Economic skies in California, and especially in the Sacramento region dependent on housing construction and government employment, are cloudier and may not see significant clearing until 2011, according to the University of the Pacific’s Business Forecasting Center. Nevertheless, thinking Auburn first can only help the community weather whatever the economy throws at it while positioning Auburn for better days ahead. “It’s much more about keeping Auburn the thriving community we all want to live in than ringing the registers of local merchants,” Galyardt said. “It’s about keeping Auburn ‘our town.’”