As I move toward the conclusion of my first year as president of the Downtown Berkeley Association Board, I can look back with satisfaction on a number of partnerships we have formed in recent months which I think have made DBA increasingly influential as a molder of public policy in the downtown. One of the most important, I believe, has been the relationship we have crafted between the DBA and the group known as Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE)—an innovative economic development organization.”
The Business Alliance For Local Living Economies (BALLE) is a growing alliance of businesspeople around the United States and Canada who are committed to building strong, sustainable local economies. At the present time, there are almost 40 networks with a membership of over 11,000 members. Businesspeople organize into local business networks—each fully autonomous, with its own name, mission, and initiatives.
All networks share a commitment to Living Economy principles, including:
• Living economy communities produce and exchange locally as many products need by their citizens as they reasonably can, while reaching out to other communities to trade in those products they cannot reasonably produce at home.
• Living economy public policies support decentralized ownership of businesses and farms, fair wages, taxes and budget allocations, trade policies benefiting local economies, and stewardship of the natural environment.
• Living economy consumers appreciate the benefits of buying from living economy businesses and, if necessary, are willing to pay a price premium to secure those personal and community benefits.
• Living economy investors value businesses that are community stewards and as such accept a “living return” on their financial investments rather than a maximum return, recognizing the value derived from enjoying a healthy and vibrant community and sustainable global economy.
• Living economy businesses are primarily independent and locally owned, and value the needs and interests of all stakeholders, while building long-term profitability.
BALLE is an incubator of sorts which works to catalyze, strengthen, and connect these local business networks dedicated to building Local Living Economies. The long-term vision is to build a sustainable global economy that builds long-term economic empowerment and prosperity through local business ownership, economic justice, cultural diversity, and environmental stewardship.
BALLE members around the country, including the DBA, staged Shop Local First campaigns in December 2006. DBA encourages our community to shop locally and multiply the value of every dollar spent by keeping it circulating within the Berkeley economy.
Mark McLeod is a managing partner of downtown restaurant.