American Independent Business Alliance

In May, 2014, the Twin Cities hosted the national conference of the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA). Jennifer Rockne, the group’s co-director, spoke with the Minnesota Women’s Press about why buying local matters.

MWP: Why does buying local matter? What difference does it make?

Rockne: I grew up in a small Minnesota town that serves as a great example. I knew the business owners, played with their kids, saw how involved they were in the community beyond their business, got my first job with one and saw how their businesses supported the area. They were the backbone of community building.

And they did business with each other. They hired local attorneys and accountants and graphics designers, creating more jobs. They’re in business to provide for their families, not to appease stockholders.

I grew up in a four-generations-old business in that town. It was part of the fabric of my family to support your community because they are supporting you.

MWP: How is “buy local” a women’s issue?
Rockne: Women are in a place of power for purchasing and in shaping their families’ and friends’ habits and beliefs. We’re natural caregivers and nurturers, which makes it easy to look beyond ourselves to the impact our personal spending has on our community and keeping it a healthy place to live and raise our children.

We at AMIBA rarely use the term “consumer.” We are trying to reclaim the concept of “citizen” and help people recognize themselves as such. Then shopping becomes a matter of helping your community in some way, rather than just a superficial thing.

MWP: How do you assess the local, independent movement?
Rockne:We used to have to do a lot of explaining for folks to understand what we’re trying to do. A big milestone was when local governments started to embrace the concept. We now have a thriving Localization Movement – that includes local agriculture, farmers markets and CSAs [community-supported agriculture ]. We are all part of the same movement. The balance between putting out fires and creating positive change has tipped toward the latter – helping communities to build more vibrant local economies and helping people fall more in love with the place they live. It’s really a grass-roots phenomenon that is resonating with and engaging citizens to take a stronger role in shaping their communities.

MWP: Do you have a call to action?
Rockne: I want everybody to know that their decisions and actions matter. Whether it is conscious or subconscious, you influence others around you. You create patterns. If someone sees you doing something they think is good, hopefully, they will model that, too.

Make sure you are looking beyond yourself and realizing the impact of your spending and voting decisions. Dare to be your own person. Don’t wait for someone else. Put your own ideas into action by volunteering, running for office or starting that business you’ve been fantasizing about.

Jennifer Rockne co-founded the American Independent Business Alliance. She grew up in Zumbrota, Minn., and now lives in Bozeman, Mont. FFI: www.amiba.net