BUY LOCAL RI, a statewide campaign that Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts’ office started five years ago, made a good fit for the Rhode Island Foundation, since buying local emerged as a major theme in the organization's “Make It Happen RI” brainstorming sessions, Roberts said. The Rhode Island Foundation officially took over the campaign and its affiliated website last week.
PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Foundation is taking over the Buy Local RI campaign and website that Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts’ office started with help from the Small Business Advocacy Council five years ago.
After extended conversations with Roberts, the foundation officially took over the project last week and notified the more than 600 businesses affiliated with Buy Local RI, said Roberts and Chris Barnett, the Rhode Island Foundation’s senior public affairs officer.
The foundation also announced the news in an email newsletter to members earlier today.
Once the foundation conducts a “thorough evaluation” of what’s needed, the organization expects to add a business-to-business component, strengthen the website and try to increase membership and engage Rhode Islanders in support of the state’s economy, Barnett said in an emailed response to questions.
“Buy Local RI’s mission will remain the same,” Barnett said: “to build a strong economy and vibrant community by promoting locally owned independent businesses, strengthening our state’s merchant and commercial associations and providing a unified public resource where businesses and individuals can find and connect to local products and services.”
Roberts said in a phone interview Thursday that she was looking for a community partner to guide the next phase of Buy Local RI. Buying local emerged as a major theme in the Rhode Island Foundation’s “Make It Happen RI” brainstorming sessions aimed at finding ways to revitalize Rhode Island’s economy, Barnett said.
When the foundation convened the Make It Happen group in September 2012, Roberts said, “they were looking for approaches in a constructive way and we reached out to them. We wanted to share with them what we had been doing and how that might be a really good fit. They realized they could take Buy Local to the next level.
“We never intended it be a government program; the goal is for it to be a movement in Rhode Island,” she added.
Outreach and education will be critical, Barnett added.
“We know from Make It Happen that business leaders understand the value of buying locally, but it’s not top of mind,” he said. “Our challenge is two-fold. Create tools that make it easy for businesses to find the products and services they need locally and then drive them to the tools.”