County readying ‘buy local’ campaign

Burlington County Times

By Danielle Camilli Staff writer | Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013 5:00 am


MOUNT HOLLY — The idea is simple: Live here. Shop here. Spend here.

A small investment and commitment to spend more money locally could yield big returns, officials say. If each of Burlington County’s 180,000 households spent $20 more a month in the county, more than $40 million would be injected into the local economy, officials said.

Now, the Burlington County Board of Freeholders and its partners, the Burlington County Chamber of Commerce and the Burlington County Bridge Commission, are ready to roll out their plan to promote local business and encourage those dollars to stay close to home.

They unveiled their “Shop Burlington County First” campaign at last week’s freeholder conference meeting.

The initial campaign, including a soon-to-be-launched website and a new marketing logo, is part of what officials say will be an ongoing, coordinated countywide partnership between government and business. The initiative aims to support in-county business, promote downtown and business districts, strengthen the local economy, and improve the conditions needed to spur job growth.

“It’s really to support, promote, strengthen and improve, not take the place of any of the efforts that were taken by the Maple Shades, the Mount Hollys and the Bordentown Citys,” said Mark Remsa, the county’s director of economic development and regional planning. “It’s really meant to augment them and coordinate them on a regional basis. It’s a business development and retention strategy and business attraction by building better partnerships.”

Remsa said supporting local businesses is essential if they are to remain open and expand. He said the “buy local” effort is also key to attracting new businesses and investments to the county.

The county and its partners will model the program after other successful local initiatives and vibrant business communities, including Maple Shade, Mount Holly and Bordentown City. Freeholder Director Joseph Donnelly lauded the efforts of those towns that have downtown business districts, and said the county needs to tap into and build on their successes.

“What we have in so many of our jurisdictions are towns that don’t have main streets, and we thought maybe we need to look at this more globally and do something countywide that would support their efforts and expand,” he said.

The hope is to partner with local business organizations, local chambers of commerce, municipal economic development committees and other stakeholders to create a “Shop Burlington County First” program that will offer coordinated marketing, promotion and incentives to both businesses and shoppers.

Once the county has its local partners in place, Remsa said the plan is to start a “Burlington County Bucks” program, in which consumers can buy gift cards redeemable at participating local shops, restaurants and other businesses.

Maple Shade has a similar program that has been popular with customers, officials said.

In the third phase of the “Shop Burlington” plan, officials would develop a consumer rewards, or loyalty, program to keep shoppers and their dollars at local businesses.

Remsa said the county and its coordinating partners are now holding informational sessions with local groups to build the network of businesses that will participate. They are also finalizing the logo, slogan, website and marketing materials.

The website will include a directory of “buy local” businesses, special offers and events, information about the gift card program, and other quick reference items for consumers, officials said.

All the work is being done in-house by staff of the coordinating partners, including the Bridge Commission, which is the county improvement authority and economic development agent.

When ready, the “Shop Burlington” development committee will hold special events in Maple Shade, Mount Holly and Bordentown City and add others as warranted, Remsa said.