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The Austin Independent Business Alliance, a nonprofit organization of local business owners, has a long history of advocacy in giving voice to independent business at the local level. We believe that, as an integral part of our community and the foundation of our local economy, independent businesses are not only an economic powerhouse but stewards of our culture.
 
As such, AIBA has formed a team to find a better path to local governance policies that affect our local businesses and our community. Our local governance processes should be inclusive of our whole community, not just segments of it. Recent experiences have left our community damaged, especially the local business community, and it leads AIBA to seek a better process in addressing issues. Our work will include carefully selected issues, but the goal is not to predetermine a position on the issue but to chart a course that is inclusive, deliberative and leads to a collaborative conclusion.
 
In this process, we will always follow where our members lead. We will involve AIBA members and the larger local business community in the discussion of ideal approach, clear assessment and critical thinking in creating a better process. We want to be leaders in proactively discussing community issues, rather than reacting to short sighted solutions. We want to improve the approach to local issues by thinking critically and encouraging a better process. Our work will then extend to the community at large in order to build consensus.
 
We believe that working together is, in itself, a better process. The Better Process Team has already begun community building and will be looking to include you soon. 
BY Olivia Lavecchia
Originally published in ILSR Hometown Advantage Bulletin
 
In many U.S. cities, finding and keeping an affordable location has become a major challenge for independent businesses. Two years ago, we took an in-depth look at the issue in our report, Affordable Space: How Rising Commercial Rents Are Threatening Independent Businesses, and What Cities Are Doing About It. We examined what’s causing the problem — from real estate financing that compels developers to exclude independent businesses, to the declining supply of small spaces — and also outlined six strategies that cities were beginning to use to address it.
 
 
Now, one of those strategies is catching on: Set-asides for local businesses in new development. It’s a strategy that requires developers to reserve, or “set aside,” space for small or local businesses in new construction, and it can help ensure that a built environment that’s suited to small businesses isn’t replaced with one designed for chains. In three cities — New York, Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo. — there are new programs that offer examples for how set-asides can work. Here’s what they look like. READ MORE
Let the Armadillo Awards promote your business It's easy! And fun!
 
1. Donate your product or service to the Dillo Fundraiser Raffle 
We hold a fundraising raffle of themed collections full of great donations from our members. It's a great way to promote your business and so easy! The raffle winners are announced throughout the sho at the Awards. Since this is a promotion, only AIBA may donate. Contact Dixie Patrick to donate.
 
2. Sponsor the Armadillo Awards for as little as $250 
We have many levels of sponsorship available from $250 to $1,000. Sorry to disappoint but all the top sponsorships are sold. AIBA has a special sponsorship for members only that is only $250 and we promote your business all year long. What a deal! Anyone can be an Armadillo Awards sponsor. Contact Rebecca Melancon to sponsor.
 
3. Attend the 5th Annual Armadillo Awards Party
Thursday, April 26
Doors open at 5:30, show starts at 7
 
Come one, come all and bring your friends and family to the indie biz party of the year!
 
The Historic Scottish Rite Theater
207 W. 18th St.
 
Many of you have been wondering what’s happening with the Angel Funeral Home property. AIBA is working with Sayers Real Estate Advisors to populate a new development with local businesses that are compatible with the neighborhood and the South First IBIZ District. The new development will be retail on the ground floor with condos above and an underground parking garage. 
 
In an effort to help local business be involved in the early stages of opportunities, we are reaching out to local business first. If you or anyone you know might be interested in leasing some of this space, please contact Clinton Sayers, 512-484-0949 or clinton@sayersadvisors.com. The project is expected to be completed in early 2020. Let’s help them bring in the right tenants to this project!

Council Member Ann Kitchen has reached out to AIBA to see if any local business owners are interested in serving on two business committees. Both the MBE/WBE and Small Business Enterprise Procurement Program Advisory Committee and the Economic Prosperity Commission have openings. If you are interested on serving on either of these Council Committees, please contact Council Member Kitchen's office at 512-978-2105 or ann.kitchen@austintexas.org.

Public input regarding insect screen requirements is being collected through April 30. All input received will be submitted to the Austin City Council on or before June 30, 2018. Here are three easy ways that you can provide your feedback:

The Development Services Department (DSD) is seeking input on how to improve the demolition permitting process. This feedback will help draft a new process for consideration by the City Council. We encourage you to attend the upcoming meeting to discuss public safety, licensing requirements, and notification procedures.
 
If you are unable to attend the public meeting, please provide online feedback at SpeakUpAustin.org from now until Sunday, March 18, 2018.
 
A follow-up public meeting to view the draft proposal is scheduled for Wednesday, March 28 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Waller Creek Center (625 E 10th St. Austin, TX 78701).
 
For information about the current demolition permitting process, visit: austintexas.gov/page/demolition-relocation.
 
Wed. March 7, 2018
6:30 - 8:30 pm
Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex
1156 Hargrave Street Austin, TX 78702
 
TRANSLATION REQUESTS
Jaime Castillo
512-974-1575
 
Light refreshments & children's activities will be provided.
Mayor, Council Members and City Manager,
Last Thursday was a very sad day for Austin. Not because there were winners and losers in the Paid Sick Leave vote but because Austin itself lost. With the exception of Council Members Houston and Troxclair, the Council clearly displayed a total disregard for the local business community. In every way possible, you made it abundantly clear that the needs of local business doesn’t matter to the leadership in Austin, Texas. And the business community heard it loud and clear. I’ve been fielding emails from outraged small local business owners for four days, some of whom I don’t know and have had no prior contact with.  
 
I’ve also spent the last four days helping the businesses who signed our appeal despite threats of retaliation from Worker’s Defense Project (WDP). Note the irony that an organization who prohibits a business from retaliation by ordinance (Section 4.19.5,) doesn’t hesitate to use retaliation against those who oppose them. Threats which they have now made reality, advocating boycotts of those businesses who dared to speak up for themselves. They may deny this, but the record is clear and evident. In response, in defense of our local businesses – the engine that sustains our community – we have taken the high road, launching an “I Stand With Local” campaign on social media and through media outlets. We are using this platform to clarify that most of the businesses who signed the appeal DO offer paid sick days. As we’ve always said, it’s not paid sick leave or the employees we’re against, it was this policy and the process that spawned it.
 
The Result
Even though you were informed that these businesses were being intimidated and bullied by WDP, you tacitly encouraged this abominable behavior by accommodating the plan that they set forth. When someone the size of Hoover Alexander is intimidated in a public meeting, we clearly have a problem. The behavior on display Thursday night was some of the worst I’ve ever seen in City Council meeting. Anyone speaking in opposition to this was openly heckled by construction workers packed into the room. You, as leaders, did nothing to quell this outrageously disrespectful behavior. No one was removed, and the behavior continued. By allowing this hostile environment you aided and abetted WDP in intimidating and discouraging any dissenting voice. This is beyond shameful.
 
In addition, I had more than the maximum number of speakers cede their time to me so that I  on their behalf, and the behalf of others to afraid to come forward in public (rightfully so, as it turns out). Yet this was denied me at the meeting and I was cut off at three minutes. Nevertheless the proponents were allowed to add time on the fly to any speaker who wasn’t finished. In the beginning it was announced that the proponents submitted a list of 20 speakers to be called first. It was pointed out that we failed to submit such a list. I have never seen this done so questioned council staff on this. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know this was even a possibility. I had not seen this in more than 10 years of occasional council meetings. These may seem like small details in the greater scheme of things but they show a clear indication of those in opposition being treated with a different set of rules and thus limiting participation. Business owners are left shocked and now angry at both the process and the result.
 
The Process
While AIBA did let our contact list know that this was in the works in November, we had 17 days from release of the draft ordinance until the Council vote. At the time of the vote, most businesses in Austin had no idea this was happening. AIBA has a small mailing list of only about 4,000 local businesses. I have fielded calls from other businesses for days. Until the news media picked this up on Friday, they had no idea this was happening. We tried to slow this absurdly fast process down. We tried to protect the small businesses from such a heavy handed ordinance by asking for an exception for businesses under 100 employees. We even tried to find a way to help the small local businesses by suggesting a risk pool that would help the small businesses pay for this. All of our suggestions were summarily dismissed. The message was, “be happy with 8 days, it started as 21 days.” Again, the needs and voice of local business are completely disregarded
 
By pitting workers against business (the theme of WDP), you have divided our community in very damaging ways. Local business is not the enemy yet the parameters of the process and tone you encouraged vilified small business owners. We’re not Walmart. We’re small business owners who are an integral part of the fabric of our community. Most local business owners don’t have ‘workers.’ They have a team, a crew, a family or at the very least, employees. Yet you’ve positioned them as the enemy by embracing, encouraging and enabling governance by mob rule. 
 
The Problem
We identified a problem in our community. We can debate how large or small the problem is but it’s clearly an issue when someone who works can’t take a paid sick day. In my discussions with business owners, most do offer paid sick days. They also offer a host of other benefits, many that their staff finds more appealing than additional paid sick days. If this is a problem, let’s clearly identify the problem by numbers, industries or any other data that would help guide us a solution that fits the actual problem, not an overreaching policy that harms more than it helps. Then we can work together to find a solution for the problem - together. This broad, umbrella, one-size-fits-all approach has done nothing but move the pain point from one segment of our community and place it squarely in another segment. We haven’t solved the problem. This is an affordability issue, not a worker’s rights issue. 
 
There is a very real cost to this policy which no one wants to talk about and that is how this will be paid for. Continuing with the workers=good, business=bad mentality, the divisive dialogue says that all business owners are wealthy and greedy. They could provide 8 paid sick days but they choose not to. For most, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. But no help or consideration has been given them. Being law-abiding citizens, they will find a way to comply with this. But that path to compliance will lead many to lay off staff, cut back hours, not advance with planned new hires, cut services, close or move out of Austin. 
 
I have one business owner who was on the verge of a $100,000 upgrade to his retail shop. He’s now halted that and is considering relocating outside of Austin. Most of the consequences of this ordinance will never be truly known. There is no survey that a planned remodel covers. Another started his business out of his house and can now hire two employees and open an office. With the unsigned lease on his desk, he has decided to open in Cedar Park instead. I know, small stores. The sacrifice of the few is worth the gain of the many. But it’s not just a few. Multiply these by thousands. How many ‘workers’ are going to lose jobs or opportunities because small business can no longer afford them. How many won’t get raises they didn’t even know they were going to get because their employer can’t pay for both? We may never know.
 
A Better Solution
Instead of ramming a policy down the throats of local business in record breaking time and fostering a hostile environment for our local businesses, imagine a different scenario. What if, as our city’s leaders, you identified a problem and asked who is affected by this? What if we bring big business, small local business, employees across multiple industries and other local leaders together and ask how we, as a community, can solve this problem? What role should government play? Small local business, you’re going to be hit hardest by this. How can government help you help your employees? Wouldn’t that be progressive!
 
Where We Go From Here
Frankly this has set the tone for the next WDP initiative. We all know this is only the beginning and there will be many more. Will mob rule seize the day again? Will you be the leaders who unite our community rather than divide it? I would like to say I hope so. And I do. But the events of the last week tell a different story. And I cannot say that I expect it. I hope you surprise me, and show the courage and wisdom to bring all voices to the table, and find a solution that helps more than it harms. One that protects workers and businesses, and that makes Austin a better place to live, work, and do business. Because that’s the Austin I want to live in. I hope you do too.
 
Most sincerely,
Rebecca Melançon
Executive Director
Austin Independent Business Alliance
The City of Austin has proposed a policy that requires all businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees. The draft ordinance is now available and is scheduled for City Council action in mid February. Read the ordinance here.  AIBA polled our members to determine our position by asking for a support or oppose vote on the draft ordinance. If the respondent was against the ordinance, we asked what changes would make the ordinance acceptable. In addition, we asked for verification of business name to assure that the answers were being provided by existing businesses. The poll was conducted January 25 and 26. Read the results and comments here.
 
AIBA is a nonprofit organization of local businesses. Most of our members are small businesses who understand that taking care of their employees is both a philosophical value and a necessity. They cannot succeed without a dedicated, reliable and happy workforce. Turnover in any business is costly. We do not view the world as workers against business or business against workers. As small local businesses, we are the workers. We see all of us in this together. Businesses provide jobs and workers help local businesses to grow. We are a team. The health and well being of the team is important. But the team is the best source for business benefits, not local government.
 
88% of respondents opposed the ordinance. The vast majority who opposed had no changes that would make the ordinance acceptable. As the voice of local business, we will follow our members’ lead and oppose this ordinance. 
 
• This is a serious overreach of local government. The study supporting this was a national study conducted several years ago. There is no indication that the study eliminated independent contractors. Following a national trend, Austin has a large and growing number of independent contractors. Paid sick days cannot apply to independent contractors as it jeopardizes their standing as independents. 
 
• The study conducted by Public Policy Polling for Work Strong Austin interviewed 600 Austin voters. 49% of those interviewed aren’t even subject to paid or unpaid sick days because they don’t work. According to the study, 29% are retired, 13% are self employed and 7% are students and homemakers. Of course they have an opinion. But should our City Council make decisions based on the opinion of those unaffected by that policy? We think not.
 
•  Let’s assume there is a problem with some in our community not being able to afford to take a day off when they are sick. These are primarily construction, maintenance and lower-wage hourly workers. If this is a problem, let’s find a way to fix the problem. Mandating a citywide policy has the potential to degrade or destroy the systems already in place by the majority of employers doing the right thing. Doing the right thing for employees and employer is a benefits policy that works to the benefit of both. Many AIBA members voiced that they have a system in place that provides the benefits their employees wanted which may or may not include specified sick leave. A broad policy like this destroys the ability for Austin’s entrepreneurs to be flexible and accommodating.
 
• Since this cannot by law apply to independent contractors, are we opening up a loophole that will encourage unscrupulous employers to reclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid compliance? The unintended consequences could be the loss of benefits enjoyed now by their employee status.
 
• Small employers will be hit hardest by this policy. Many struggle with rising property taxes and unaffordable leases. A small employer must juggle all aspects of their business just to survive. Most have told us in our surveys that they would be laying people off or cutting back hours to pay for an extensive sick leave policy. How will this help the most vulnerable business and employees when they no longer have a job?
 
• The unemployment rate in Austin is so low that employers are having to compete to attract qualified employees. This policy will tie their hands in bringing innovation to that competition. Let the marketplace drive better benefits. As an employee, if you’re not satisfied with your current benefits, another job is not hard to find. Look at local businesses…they’re looking for you.
 
• Many employers utilize Personal Time Off. It’s flexible, it’s measurable and it’s honest. By mandating paid sick time, our local government is encouraging a deceptive relationship between employer and employee. Have sick days but haven’t used them? Why let your coworkers get time off that you don’t get? Just call in sick. It’s dishonest and a system that encourages this shouldn’t be forced on businesses who are building honest relationships with employees.
 
No  one wants to go to work sick. No one wants sick employees sharing their illness in the workplace. But this heavy-handed ordinance is not the answer. AIBA opposes this ordinance, as currently written, on behalf of local business. 

Happy New Year! As we close 2017 and look forward to 2018, AIBA is focused on ways we can bring more business in your doors, programs that educate the public on the values of shopping locally and becoming an even stronger organization for our members. 

We begin the new year with a new marketing campaign: LOCALIZEIt! You may have already seen billboards throughout Austin with this slogan on them. These billboards are generously donated by Regan Outdoor Advertising. (If you're thinking of using billboards to promote your business, go to the company that supports AIBA and you!). But this campaign goes much farther than billboards. Look for it in social media, print and broadcast. No matter what you're purchasing—LOCALIZEIt!

While we're getting customers to LOCALIZEIt!, we're asking you to do the same. So what about you, local business owner? Now that you see the value in your customers shopping locally, do you? Where do you buy all the goods and services needed for your business? Granted, you can’t buy everything locally but you can shift as much as possible to your fellow local businesses.

Need office supplies? Localize It. Need an accountant? Skip the national firms and Localize It. Same with employee benefits, insurance and payroll services—Localize It. Office furniture, vending services, decor—Localize It! Most of your needs can be taken care of by a local company.
 
And this is what the AIBA Community is all about—supporting one another and growing all our businesses. Before you make that next purchase, from paper clips to cars, Localize It!
1. Love Your Locals—Including You!
We're declaring February Love Your Locals Month. Share the Love! AIBA has created this Love Your Locals program to build identity and customer loyalty for you with February as the kickoff of a year of love. Take advantage of this free promotion now. AIBA members can showcase their business online! Send us a photo and 100 words to promote your February specials and offerings. We'll post it to the website and promote your business through all our social media. It's just one more benefit of membership in AIBA. This program is is for retailers and consumer services only. Email your photo and text to Rebecca to participate.
 
 
2. Donate products or services for the 2018 Armadillo Awards Raffle.
The 5th Annual Armadillo Awards are coming up fast on April 26. Nominating begins in February and Voting is in March. Donate something for the raffle from your business so we can promote you for months! This is a fundraiser for AIBA so give what you can so we can keep promoting you! This can be anything. We will organize the items into fun collections for the raffle. Just let us know what you would like to donate. Email Dixie and we'll take it from there. Your name and item will be listed for your generous donation. This is an easy way to support the organization that supports you!
 
What? Not a member! Join us now to take advantage of these great promotions and all the other benefits of membership.
 
You may remember last spring the City of Austin partnered with e-commerce giant Alibaba to help Austin companies get in front of Alibaba TaoBao store owners to see if there was interest in their products. The experience was a positive one by all eleven companies who participated! We are ready to do this high energy livestream event again during SXSW 2018 with more Austin area companies.
 
If you are a product based company or know one, please share and APPLY NOW! Applications close January 12th. It is a quick application. Couple important things to note: product type & process…
 
Products of Interest: Beauty, health & fitness, milk, baby & maternity, spirits/liquors, apparel (sneakers are of particular interest), electronics, and natural based products
 
Process: City of Austin & Alibaba teams will be entering into close support with you to get your product ready for export as soon as we make final selections in mid-January. We will be setting you up with an Alibaba SP (service provider) who will handle all your exporting and importing into China for Alibaba platforms; they will essentially act as your distributor. This work will be provided at no additional cost to you, but will require your time and participation. This work will be completed before the actual pitch night so you can accept orders right away after the pitch. More info on this can be found on our website.
The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website. 
 
When Ariel Zaurov first opened his pharmacy in downtown Jersey City’s Paulus Hook neighborhood, in 2005, he was one of just a few businesses in the area. It was a tough start — there weren’t a lot of people who lived in the neighborhood, and the store, called Downtown Pharmacy, didn’t get much foot traffic — but Zaurov dug in, joining the board of the neighborhood association, donating to school groups, and working with local vendors.
 
Now, 12 years later, Zaurov has opened a second location that’s one stop away on the light rail, and he employs 20 people full-time at both locations. The Paulus Hook neighborhood is thriving, too, with a growing population, increased development, and new businesses, many of which are independent. “Most places are run by the people who own them,” says Zaurov.
 
As the neighborhood has grown, chain stores have also become more interested in it. In early 2017, CVS signed a lease for a 20,000-square-foot location two blocks up the street from Zaurov’s pharmacy.
 
It’s a familiar story, one that plays out in cities across the U.S.: Independent business owners sink roots into a place, meet community needs, and foster neighborhood growth, and then, as the area becomes vibrant, chain stores sweep in to open their own locations.
 
What’s different about the story in Jersey City is that there, the city has taken proactive steps to check this common cycle, and instead, build a model that allows for more opportunity for local READ MORE.
The Austin City Council recently approved a resolution calling for the City Manager to collect input from stakeholders about policies that would require businesses to provide paid sick leave for their employees. A set of specific proposed policies has not yet been announced. 
 
As the voice of local business, AIBA is part of the conversation shaping this policy. We surveyed our members last week seeking opinions, ideas and concerns. We received 111 responses to the survey. Read the entire survey report. This policy would apply to employees only since applying it to independent contractors could jeopardize their status as independent contractors. The discussion does include part-time and seasonal employees as well.
 
A 2013-2015 study shows that 37% of Austin’s total workforce does not have the benefit of paid sick days. The vast majority of this is in service and construction sectors. The number drops to 29% for full-time employees. Most are low-wage workers. What is not clear is whether independent contractors were included in the study. In some sectors of construction and maintenance, an estimated 30-50% of the workers are classified as independent contractors. 
 
The majority of respondents said they offer some form of paid time off (PTO). Many offer PTO which could be used for any time-off needs. 51% offer specific paid sick days. Because the policy has yet to be defined, we did not ask for a yes or no in supporting a city mandated ordinance. Yet many people answered this in the comments. The vast majority are against the City of Austin regulating paid sick days in any form. 70% of those who did not already offer paid sick days cited cost as the reason they are unable to offer it. A few are in favor of the this regulation. Although most who are in favor already offer PTO. 
 
Many who do offer PTO are against a city policy. A consistent view was that the market should regulate this. That business needs the flexibility to offer benefits that best suit their employees. If an employee wants a benefit that is not offered at a particular company, they can find employment with another company offering the benefits they seek. With an unemployment rate of 3.2%, Austin is an employee’s market. 
 
The concerns about a policy were many.
• Cost was the biggest concern. Many businesses said that they would need to cut other benefits such as planned raises, overtime opportunities or schedule flexibility to pay for paid sick days. Others would lay off employees to comply with this policy. Some even stated that they would move out of Austin city limits, citing this as the final straw from a city they don’t believe supports them. 
• Some businesses have highly customized benefits packages. They are very concerned that a single-issue policy would infringe on their own benefits already in place.  
• This policy will destroy the ability for business owners to customize whole benefits packages.
• Compliance enforcement is a concern. How will this be administered and what kind of time and resource commitment will that require of the business owner?
• Concern about tracking, accounting and managing came mostly from businesses who have hourly employees. A restaurant owner commented that just calculating how much waitstaff earned per hour was difficult with tips.
• Some reported that they offer hourly employees the opportunity to make up the time taken off. How would a city policy address this?
• Some businesses, including retail and restaurants, must bring in replacement staff when an employee is absent. Requiring them to pay for the time off doubles their cost for the hours missed. 
• The estimated cost is .25 per hour per employee. One member surveyed his hourly employees and asked if they would rather have a .50 per hour raise or a .25 per hour raise with five paid sick days. 80% chose the .50 per hour raise.
 
The ideas were few.
• Small business (under 100 employees) should be exempt.
• The city should offer some assistance in paying for this either through tax rebates or other means.
• A policy should offer comparable options such as the ability to make up the hours missed.
• Perhaps this should be PTO and not paid sick days.
• This should be defined as earned time off, not given time off.
• Should be for full-time salaried employees only.
 
Our conclusions drawn from survey results indicate that this is a complicated policy due to the wide variety of businesses that would be subject to such an ordinance. We caution the city in approaching this as a “one size fits all” solution. It’s going to be nearly impossible to create a policy that serves everyone, even every employee. No one wants people to work when they’re sick but there is a serious cost to a policy that demands specific benefits to employees. A strict policy will preclude businesses from finding innovative ways to secure happy employees and force businesses to make necessary cuts to pay for it. We hope the City Council has listened carefully to all the comments gathered through all means and proceed cautiously.
 
We will keep you posted on the resulting policy details and developments on this policy.
While most independent retailers say the growth of Amazon is negatively affecting their businesses, a large share also report being better positioned than many national chains to weather the seismic shifts underway in the retail industry.
 
A new national survey of independent retailers finds that shifts in the retail sector are playing out differently for independents than they are for chains.
 
Click on the image to download the full report.
The survey, which was conducted by Advocates for Independent Business, gathered data from over 850 independent retailers in 49 U.S. states. Their responses yield valuable insight into how independent businesses are responding to the changing landscape — and about how they perceive the way their distinct attributes set them apart from retail chains and from Amazon.
The survey comes as national chains are declaring bankruptcy, malls are going dark, and e-commerce continues to grow. Headlines have started referring to a “historic tipping point” for American retail. Reporting on the issue, however, has focused almost exclusively on national chains.
The survey’s findings include:
 
Two-thirds of survey respondents report that, despite their smaller size, they have been able to respond to shifts in their sector as well as or better than national chains have.
Independent retailers identify distinct characteristics that they say give independents an advantage over chains as the retail landscape changes. Survey respondents cite four qualities as especially important: Personalized service, connection with community, product expertise, and ability to create experiences.
83% report that there have been chain store closures in their area that have left behind vacant spaces, and 17% describe the extent of these closures as “significant.” A majority of survey respondents — 51% — report that they see opportunities for independents in widespread chain store closures.
While respondents believe that independents are better positioned to survive Amazon’s growth, 90% of respondents also report that Amazon is having a negative impact on their business.
Despite the ways that these shifts are poised to impact local economies, only 9% of survey respondents say that there has been “a lot” of discussion and coverage of the issue locally, and 43% say that there’s been “very little” or “none.”
 
 
 
The survey report also includes vivid comments from independent business owners that capture their experiences in their own words. Advocates for Independent Business is available to connect reporters with nearby independent business owners for interviews about how they’re seeing these issues play out in their businesses and communities. READ MORE.
Did you know that where you spend your dollar counts?  Did you know that spending your money with local merchants means better schools, jobs, and services for your community?  
 
A new company, Spendindie (www.Spendindie.com) will help you redirect 13 trillion dollars in consumer spending back to your local community and the things you care the most about…All by shopping online.  
 
What is Spendindie?
Spendindie is a new online marketplace, connecting the incredible world of independent and local merchants with conscious consumers around the country.  By choosing to spend with independent and local shops, you build a much stronger economy and drive widespread prosperity.  
 
The Spendindie Impact:
Spendindie’s mission is to make local shopping accessible to everyone, everywhere.   This is the Spendindie imP.A.C.T.:
 
Partnerships: with local and independent social-minded businesses 
Awareness: for the communal benefits of local spending
Community:  Better communities through the economic change and widespread prosperity
Technology: that links local and independent businesses all over the country to conscious shoppers

 
This November 17th - Impact Your Community by Spending Indie 
On November 17th, Spendindie is open for local business in Austin.  Just go to www.Spendindie.com and shop like you normally would.  You’ll be making a difference in your community and enjoying the best goods and services from around Austin.
 

Spendindie is a proud partner of the Austin Independent Business Alliance.  think local, be local, buy local.

How much did your electricity cost you yesterday? Approximately 1,800 Austin Energy commercial customers are never surprised by their electric use and costs, thanks to their decision to use the Austin Energy Web App.This browser-based application allows you to monitor the energy usage of your business from your computer or smart devices. Usage can be viewed by cost or by kWh, and in daily or monthly increments – or even 15 minute increments if an interval meter has been installed at your business. You can also register for email or text alerts that will notify you of higher than anticipated usage.

The Austin Energy Web App can pay off in a significant way by helping small business customers avoid the demand charge, which is assessed when demand for power reaches 10 kilowatts or higher over the summer months. Even if that demand for power lasts just a few minutes, Austin Energy must purchase power and build its infrastructure to serve that demand. Tracking usage with the Web App, combined with minor changes in energy consumption habits – like unplugging coffee makers or staggering the time when the air conditioning system and other machines are turned on for the day – may allow commercial customers to avoid the demand charge.

Unusual spikes in energy use may also be a symptom of a malfunctioning air conditioning system or other large equipment. Regular usage monitoring with the Web App can give you a chance to find and correct the problem before you receive a high bill.

To use the Web App, just go to austinenergyapp.com and login using your City of Austin Utilities username and password or the account number and address on your utility bill. The Web App is also available for residential customers, so try it both at work and home!

AIBA, in partnership with Distance Learning Media, has been engaged to conduct a needs assessment survey of local businesses for the City of Austin. I’m asking that you take just a few minutes today and fill out the survey. 

You have the opportunity to shape the menu of business development tools the City of Austin offers small local businesses. What business development services do you need? What could you learn that would help you manage and grow your business? What information would help you thrive? Here’s your chance to help determine the services, resources and classes the City of Austin provides through the Small Business Program. Speak out now and reap the benefits.

The survey is short and won’t take much time. Help us help you by giving just a few minutes!

Take the survey now: HelpAustinThrive.com

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Last night’s City Council meeting (August 31) provided a big win for local business by unanimously passing the resolution that diverts Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds from Visit Austin to other community assets including local business. The resolution sets aside $500,000 for “Local Business Marketing and Programming.” 
 
While that is a significant amount of money, the real value of this vote was the groundbreaking, official acknowledgment of the value of local business to tourism. Equally important is Austin’s leadership in the nation for innovative policies. To the best of our knowledge, Austin is the first city in the nation to devote HOT funds specifically to local business. Across the nation, no other independent business alliance has been involved in such an achievement.
 
Thank you to our City Council for approving this resolution. A very special thank you to the resolution’s sponsors, Council Members Ellen Troxclair, Ann Kitchen, Leslie Pool and Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and their staff. Without their leadership and fight for this, the resolution never would have passed. 
 
While AIBA led the initiative for the local business component, the resolution also included parks, preservation and music. In particular, Bill Bunch, Director of Save Our Springs Alliance was a major force in propelling this to victory. 
 
AIBA members John Kunz, Waterloo Records; John Dorgan, Spiderhouse, I Luve Video and I Luv Vintage; Keith Miller, Authorized Credit Card Systems and Lynn Raridon, Forbidden Fruit came to City Hall to speak in favor of the resolution and in support of AIBA. The discussion began at 4:15. Four hours later, when we were called to speak, only John Kunz was able to remain and speak to the council. Thank you to all to came in support of AIBA.
 
What happens next?
This plan has a long way to go. It has to survive the rigors of upcoming budget discussions. It is not yet clear who and how this money will be administered and distributed. While we hope that AIBA plays a major role in the marketing and programming efforts, it is not designated to AIBA. The plan will be defined in the coming months.
 
But on this day, local business in Austin Texas won. 

As an independent business owner, making energy efficient upgrades to your space might seem too costly. Keep reading, because your luck is about to change for the better! If your business is on the Secondary Voltage 1 or 2 rates, it may qualify for an additional 30 percent bonus on 20+ standard commercial rebates through the Austin Energy Small Business Rebate Program. The rebated upgrades include air conditioning systems, roof insulation, reflective roof coating, window replacements, window tint, solar screens, Power Partner Wi-Fi enabled thermostats and much more.

 

Lighting system upgrades through the Small Business Rebate Program are a popular offering among businesses on the Secondary Voltage 1 or 2 rates. This program covers up to 80 percent of the cost of installing new energy-efficient lighting in your business. Below are a few more reasons to sign up today:

  • • State-of-the-art lighting can improve the effectiveness of your merchandise displays, attract shoppers and customers, engage employees and increase sales.
  • • Easy, convenient process with one contractor who will work around your schedule to avoid any disruption in your business.
  • • With Austin Energy paying for a majority of the project cost, your payback is usually around 12 to 24 months.

So, what are you waiting for? For more information about how you can make your business space more energy efficient and save money, visit austinenergy.com/go/commercial.  

I can’t help but notice the local change in Austin. Ten years ago, you might have seen an ad with “Family Owned and Operated” in tiny print at the bottom. Today, we shout “Locally Owned” from the top of our lungs in all forms of marketing. Why? Because local business owners recognize that local is a value embraced by their customers. Why? Because AIBA has been enlightening, educating and wooing your customers for more than fifteen years. 
 
So what about you, local business owner? Now that you see the value in your customers shopping locally, do you? Where do you buy all the goods and services needed for your business? Granted, you can’t buy everything locally but you can shift as much as possible to your fellow local businesses.
 
Need office supplies? Localize It. Need an accountant? Skip the national firms and Localize It. Same with employee benefits, insurance and payroll services—Localize It. Office furniture, vending services, decor—Localize It! Most of your needs can be taken care of by a local company.
 
And this is what the AIBA Community is all about—supporting one another and growing all our businesses. Before you make that next purchase, from paper clips to cars, Localize It!