By Lisa Bingham
When I first found out about BALLE’s conference in Denver, I jumped at the opportunity to attend. A conference on sustainability in Denver, my home town? Sure! Sign me up! Then I started wondering, just what is BALLE? And what are these living economies they are supporting?
BALLE, I soon found out, is the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, a national networking organization that provides opportunities for people involved in the business community to connect at a local level. It brings together small business owners, economic developers, government officials, and other interested members of an area, providing an opportunity to share ideas, give support, and work together to make their community a better place. There are chapters all across the United States and Canada, and they are all working to support their local economies in a more sustainable way.
BALLE came into being in 2001, a concept developed by Judy Wicks and Laury Hammel, both had been involved in the sustainable business community for some time – Judy Wicks developed the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia to support the concept of a sustainable local food network around her caf√©, the White Dog Caf√©. Laury Hammel is a serial entrepreneur and founder of the New England Businesses for Social Responsibility. Together, they founded BALLE to support the growth of small businesses and local economies. Originally a part of the Social Venture Network, BALLE became its own entity in 2003. The conference in Denver is their seventh annual conference.
BALLE networks champion the development of local economies by providing support and encouragement for the small business owners. Local businesses help communities because they tend to stay within the region, providing jobs and increasing the tax base. They keep local resources local, reducing the reliance on exported goods. Further, local businesses tend to support other local businesses. All of this results in a living local economy that is self-supporting and health. According to BALLE, local firms can have a multiplier of 2-4 times for jobs, taxes, income, and wealth.
But none of this is what BALLE really is. My experience at the Denver conference showed me that BALLE is much more. BALLE is passionate, excited, motivated people who care about their communities. BALLE is about people who are innovative and creative, finding novel ways to overcome challenges. BALLE is about people supporting one another, sharing knowledge and skills to create a new economic model for a better world.
Look for more posts about the conference over the next few days, and check out Scott Cooney’s posts on some of the highlights from Day 1 and Day 3.
Lisa Bingham recently graduated from the University of Colorado with an MBA and an MS Environmental Studies, focusing on sustainable real estate and environmental sociology. She is pursuing a career in sustainable community development. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.