In 2012, Energize Clinton County received a USDA “Rural Business Opportunity Grant” (RBOG) for our continued work with the Buy Local First Clinton County campaign. This grant enables us to work on a regional scale with seven rural, south-central Ohio counties – Adams, Brown, Fayette, Highland, Pike, and Scioto – to help them develop or expand upon their own Buy Local programs. Each of these counties experienced significant job loss with the fallout of DHL (the top employer in four of these counties) and, like Clinton County, each has recognized the value of a more localized, community-centered approach to future economic development.

Over the next year, we have the exciting opportunity to work with community leaders and local business owners in each county on – what we like to refer to as – the “Buy Local in a Box” initiative. Primarily working with Chamber of Commerce directors (who have great existing business networks) and other local development leaders, we are exploring topics like “consumer education,” “buy local branding,” “web development and presence,” “holiday promotions,” and “long term strategies.” While we are using our own Clinton County model as a foundation, we work closely with each community to make sure that their campaign fits their county’s unique personality. At the end of the day (or year), it’s our goal that each county has a viable, sustainable campaign – complete with networking approaches, individual Buy Local websites, marketing materials, new branding, Weekly Wednesday emails, a holiday promotion template, and long term strategy goals – that the partners and their networks feel comfortable and confident in running long after our participation.

While our goal is to build campaigns in each county, a focus on regional networking lies at the heart of this project. If DHL left us with anything, it was the vital realization that we’re all in this together. The success of the Buy Local campaign in Clinton County is growing because local businesses are now focusing on the well-being not only of their own business, but the entire business community. We are experiencing support and cooperation between local businesses like never before and this only strengthens our entire community.

With this grant, we see the potential of expanding this cooperation to a regional scale. Throughout the grant year, we are organizing regional training days that bring all of the county partners together to share successes, struggles, and solutions within their buy local experiences. By opening the lines of communication between counties and constructing a network of unique, but related Buy Local campaigns, we aim to create a strong and groundbreaking “Buy Regional” presence that will pave the way for future local economic development.