When Judy Wicks, owner of the White Dog Café in Philadelphia, learned about conditions in factory hog farming, she immediately removed all pork products from her restaurant's menu. Then she me ta farmer who raised pigs humanely on open pasture just outside the city, and she contracted with him to supply the restaurant.
Together with other restaurant owners, she
began to purchase meat, cheese, and produce from nearby family farms.
The restaurants not only got fresher food for customers, they supported
a strong regional economy that kept the farmers on the land, protected
against sprawl, and avoided the environmental costs of transporting
food thousands of miles.
Could other segments of the economy be “localized” to likewise create a more humane and sustainable economy? Wicks and otherbusiness owners founded The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies(BALLE) in 2001 to find out.
These locally owned businesses offer an alternative to the global corporations that now dominate our economy, powered by Wall Street-driven capital markets and controlled by absentee owners.
Today, across North America, 22 BALLE
networks composed of over 4,000 entrepreneurs are putting together the
“building blocks”of local living economies—offering food, clothing,
shelter, energy,healthcare, media, finance, and manufacturing to
customers, while influencing public policy, encouraging community-based
entrepreneurship, and educating citizens about sustainable purchasing
Among the current projects:
In Bellingham, Washington, business leaders created a “LocalFirst” campaign that encourages citizens to buy from local businesses as a way to keep money circulating within the community.
Members of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, a BALLE network whose members employ eight percent of the state's workforce, lobby for increased support for renewable energy and healthcare.
In Philadelphia, the network trains new social entrepreneurs in the skills they need to be successful through their Social Venture Institute.
BALLE networks are proving that coordinated groups of locally owned companies can stand up to some of the harmful forces of globalization and foster the health and vitality of a region.