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Local purchasing group organized

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By Roger Snodgrass

Locals Care, an organization that offers incentives to shop locally, is taking shape almost overnight in Los Alamos.A meeting of local business leaders, facilitated by Bill Enloe and Steve Wells Nov. 9 at Los Alamos National Bank, got a swift green light to engage local businesses in a “buy local” consortium that offers cash back to card-holding consumers who do business with locally-owned Los Alamos businesses. A share of the purchase price goes to the non-profit organization or charity of the card member’s choice, and another piece goes to designated umbrella community philanthropy.It was an idea that the LANB officials successfully helped launch in Santa Fe in August 2006, after about a year of development. After the first ten months, William Underwood and Kerry Gibbons, who developed Locals Care in Santa Fe, had their data analyzed.The project accounted for $2 millon in local revenue, according to Underwood. Of that, he said, the study reported $400,000 in new or additional spending at the participating businesses.Colt Brown, community organizer for Locals Care, said consumers respond to this kind of package of incentives.“Our program reaches out and grabs people who want to buy local, want to support a non-profit organization, or both,” Brown said.By using a card that also provides a cash-back incentive, the process is self-reinforcing. Each time consumers use it, they are making a set of positive choices. According to the principals in the new collective, participating service or retail businesses are rewarded by “increased frequency” of purchases and higher average “tickets” of sales. Local businesses have complained for years about the amount of money that “pours” off the hill into the region, and county government leaders frequently lament the gross receipts taxes that are lost. Then, as businesses are forced to close, the pattern grows worse.Locals Care proposes an alternative model.Dave Fox, owner of CB Fox, said he was among those at the recent meeting who not only wanted to support the project, but also wanted to see it started as soon as possible.“It just made utter basic sense,” he said, “and part of that idea is emphasizing how we help each other.”He added the Locals Care project benefited in timing and receptivity by having arrived shortly after the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce boards began their Community Matters Initiative.The Locals Care team said it was making every effort to have its website for Los Alamos up by Wednesday – at www.locals-care.com.