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3/50 project aims at downtown economy
      Think about which three independently owned businesses you'd miss most if they were gone. Stop in and say hello. Pick up a little something that will make someone smile. Your contribution is what keeps those businesses around.
      These aren't my words, they are those of the "3/50 Project," a national grass roots organization dedicated to saving those independent businesses that our nation is built on. In conjunction with the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority and the GSU Small Business Program, downtown merchants are joining the 3/50 Project encouraging local citizens to think about and take control of their local economy.
      Catching fire across the nation, the 3/50 Project is the result of a blog developed by a small business entrepreneur in March 2009 who wanted to promote awareness to the consumer that they have the purse power to save our nation's economy by building revenue for independent "brick and mortar" stores.
      Cinda Baxter, founder of the 3/50 Project, requests that shoppers become more conscientious by thinking about which local businesses they would miss if they were to close. She asks that you pick three independent businesses and commit $50 of total spending across those businesses in one month.
      According to Baxter, if one half of the working American public did this in one month, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. She reminds us that for every $100 spent in independently owned stores, $68 dollars returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. It is estimated that spending $100 dollars with a national chain would result in $43 staying in the community. Spend it online with a retailer outside of your community and nothing comes home.
       Wendy Woodrum, a spokesperson for the GSU Small Business Program, said that the project is not an "all or nothing" campaign that insists that consumers stop shopping in chains or franchises.
      "This is a message about balance of the money currently spent each month and a request to redirect some of the revenue back into the locally owned independent businesses that have been forgotten lately," Woodrum said. "The project supports one very specific and unique business model, that of the independent business which does not have the benefit of a preferred vendor list, specifically negotiated vendor pricing, corporate office access, and a regionally recognized brand name."
      Woodrum further emphasizes that hundreds of chains and franchises agree that supporting independent counterparts is critically important to the well being of local economies and are registered at the project's Web site.
      Tonight, a presentation will be given for downtown merchants and others who are interested in the 3/50 concept from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Averitt Center. Debra Chester, chair of the promotion committee for the DSDA, said after the presentation, materials including flyers, table top displays and bookmarks will be given to interested merchants.
      "We plan to have lap tops available so we can register those who may not have already had the opportunity to go online and sign up," she said. "Many people are already familiar with the national program. The gathering this evening is to launch the project in Bulloch County targeting Downtown Statesboro initially with the hope that it will spread county wide in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce "Shop Local" initiative. We want these business owners to leave the gathering this evening feeling empowered to take back and grow our local economy. No one can do that better than people who are determined to strengthen their businesses from the inside out with positive customer relations and helping their consumers better understand the social and economic realities of shopping locally."
      I think we are very blessed in Statesboro to have what we have, and I am going to take Chester's advice, and try and help as much as I can. We do have the power to keep our local economy vibrant - three stores at a time.
      To learn more about the 3/50 project, you can visit their website at The statistics cited by the project are based on the employment statistics courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from February 2009 and the Civic Economics Study done in 2008.

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