Mayor Anthony Calderone unveiled a new plan the village will implement to boost local spending, while speaking to the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon last week.
The program does not have a name yet, but is, essentially, an effort to get residents to buy as much as possible in Forest Park. According to the mayor, residents will receive, with their water bill, a buy-local card. Forest Parkers can then present the card to local merchants participating in the initiative, and will thereby be eligible for any promotion or discount the business might be offering.
Participating merchants will affix a sticker to their store windows; they will also display, on a website created by the village, sales incentives. Businesses interested in participating will receive instructions on how to navigate the website.
“The actual deals and offers are completely up to the businesses,” said Commissioner Tom Mannix, who, during his run for commissioner, stressed the importance of shopping local. “They are able to change the deals as frequently as they would like. This ensures that each business is offering deals that it feels comfortable with.”
The mayor assured the merchants at the luncheon that the program will not cost them anything. In an email, Mannix stated that the buy-local program will cost the village about $14,000 to implement – money that has already been appropriated and approved in the budget for fiscal year 2012.
“We will be bringing this issue back up in front of the council in the next month … to have contracts approved so we can begin implementing our buy-local program,” Mannix said.
“As we do with all expenditures of taxpayer money,” he added, “we will keep a close eye on how this program performs and whether we are receiving a return on [the] investment. We expect to see increased economic activity that results in increased sales-tax revenues and economic growth.”
Mannix emphasized that the program is not designed to encourage residents to spend more money than they usually do, but to purchase items locally, instead of in other communities. That way, the sales tax revenue stays in Forest Park and residents support local commerce.
When asked if the buy-local program is a kind of economic stimulus, Mannix replied, “I think we have seen that government handouts and freebies do not create sustained economic growth. Instead, we need businesses, residents, and local government to work together to create programs that will help sustain economic growth. We believe that the buy-local program will help us achieve this goal.”