Mount Rainier Independent Business Alliance trumpets ‘buy local’ in Enumclaw

A new Enumclaw business association has hit the ground running, dedicated to the proposition that “buying local” will benefit the entire community.

“We’ve been very well received,” said Chuck Bender, speaking of the Mount Rainier Independent Business Aliance. The fledgling group has 32 members and is showing consistent growth, he added.

The association preaches that locally-owned, independent businesses keep the community functioning and are crucial to a healthy, vibrant city.

Bender, who has been the spark plug behind the MRIBA since its inception, is a realist, recognizing that shopping habits won’t be changed 100 percent. But if 4,500 Plateau shoppers directed an additional $100 per year to their hometown business, he pointed out, that would pump nearly a half-million dollars into the local economy.

“If we can make it so there’s a conscious choice, we can accomplish a lot,” he said.

Bender is quick to point out that the association’s efforts are not simply self-serving. When dollars are kept local, he said, neighborhood businesses are able to step forward and benefit the entire community. It’s primarily the local businesses who sponsor youth teams, help fund community service projects and donate to charitable efforts, Bender noted. Also, healthy local businesses generate the sales tax revenues that are a big part of any municipal budget.

When a dollar is spent with a local, independent business, 73 cents remains in the local economy, Bender said. Of every dollar spent with a national company, 42 cents remains local, he added.

The primary problem facing Enumclaw is the fact that it’s a commuter town and people have easy access to shopping elsewhere, Bender said.

“People live here but not many work here,” he said, a fact that does nothing to develop a sense of community pride.

The goal of the alliance is to convince shoppers that making purchases locally will pay long-term dividends for everyone.

Since talk of the MRIBA began last fall, Bender and other leaders have emphasized that the association is not in competition with the Enumclaw Area Chamber of Commerce, nor was it born out of any dissatisfaction with the chamber’s effort.

Just the opposite is true, Bender said, noting that he sees the two organizations working hand-in-hand for the betterment of all. The difference is that the chamber has a much broader scope of duties, while the MRIBA is content to focus solely on the “shop local” message.

“We’ve got one drum we’re hitting and it makes one sound,” Bender said.

As the association grows, it’s ready to become more visible. Bender appeared before the Enumclaw City Council recently to offer input on the new logo being proposed for the city and, a week later, spent an hour with the council’s Community and Economic Development Committee, discussing items of mutual interest.

In the works is a project aimed at raising awareness for the MRIBA and its members. A punchcard highlighting association members – and offering deals to card purchasers – will be provided to local, nonprofit organizations. Chinook Little League members will be the first ones selling the punchcards throughout the community, Bender said, adding that cards should be for sale by the first of April.

“If we can raise awareness just a little bit, it’ll make a huge difference,” Bender said, noting that everything the MRIBA does is based on the belief that a healthy local economy is good for all. “As a community, we need to stick together.”