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Coni McKay

Want to boost local economy? Here's how

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News Morris, 56267
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Do you want to know an easy way to impact the local economy?

According to Coni McKay, if every household in Douglas County spent an extra $10 each week locally, it would have an annual $2 million economic impact.

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The emphasis, said McKay, who is the executive director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, is on the money being spent locally.

McKay, along with Carol Wenner, membership coordinator at the Chamber, stopped by the newspaper Wednesday morning to discuss a new community campaign - "Shop Alexandria 1st" - that began this week.

The idea for "Shop Alexandria First" was started a while back by one of the local radio stations, explained McKay. But the idea or campaign, she added, needed to be bigger than what the radio could provide. It was a good match for the local Chamber of Commerce.

The idea of Shop Alexandria 1st is to remind people to shop locally before going someplace else for their retail or professional services.

"We want to encourage and educate the public to shop here first before going out of town," said McKay. "Our messages will be positive, not shameful. We don't want to put blame on people or guilt them into shopping here, but remind them to look here first."

Once the Chamber decided to move ahead with the idea, Wenner pulled together a focus group and the campaign started to blossom.

More than 40 Chamber members have jumped on board for the Shop Alexandria 1st campaign and have donated dollars for advertising and materials. Some have donated their time while others have donated other items, such as billboard space and logo design.

Paul Waggoner, Conlin's Furniture store manager and Shop Alexandria 1st committee member, is excited about this new adventure.

"One of the biggest factors," said Waggoner, "is the money that is spent locally and the number of hands it goes through. All the benefits that the money has - from local charities to local people - is going to help."

McKay said that when Waggoner jumped on board with the campaign, it made him more aware of keeping his dollars local.

She explained that each day at Conlin's, employees bake fresh cookies for their customers. Waggoner used to buy the cookie dough from a store out of town. But now, because of the Shop Alexandria 1st campaign, she said Waggoner realized there were local resources and he buys his cookie dough from Henry's Foods.

"It's those things that make a difference," she said.

McKay noted that there are two reasons the Shop Alexandria 1st campaign kicked off this week - the election season is over and the holiday season is beginning.

"It seemed like the perfect time," said McKay, noting that the campaign will run for 13 months and that there will be ebbs and flows with the campaign.

Right now, the tagline running with the Shop Alexandria 1st logo is "It's all right here," but McKay noted that the tagline will change throughout the year. Another tagline that will be used is "Think globally. Act locally."

There are many reasons for this campaign, according to McKay and Wenner, but the economic impact on the local community is one of the biggest.

Wenner also mentioned that the scope of the Shop Alexandria 1st campaign doesn't stop at just retailers; it also includes professional services, such as attorneys, electricians, plumbers, massage therapists, auto mechanics and more.

"We just want to encourage people to shop locally first, whatever that may be," said Wenner.

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