Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Local First Wheaton uses Taste to launch outreach

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While residents of Wheaton will use the Taste of Wheaton to enjoy local fare and visit various booths and shops, one organization doesn’t want the focus on small businesses to stop after this Sunday’s celebration.

Local First Wheaton, an initiative involving business owners, nonprofits and county agencies aimed at promoting small businesses, will launch its Think Local First campaign at the Taste.

The campaign will encourage both longtime residents of Wheaton and young professionals new to the area to consciously frequent local restaurants, shops and services said Eric Aldrette, a business outreach manager with the Latino Economic Development Corporation. Local First Wheaton is a project of LEDC, which is funded by the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, and is part of the national Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.

‘‘If you spend money in your community, everything works better,” Aldrette said.

Aldrette said the campaign will closely mirror its sister program, the Local First D.C. campaign, which started in 2006 in the city’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. Local First Wheaton began recruiting two weeks ago, Aldrette said, and has already enlisted 15 businesses to the campaign.

Freddy Real, owner of Carmelo Bakery at Georgia and Price avenues, said he joined the campaign because it offered a strong, united voice for small businesses.

‘‘If you [speak out] as an independent owner, it doesn’t have too much weight,” he said. ‘‘If you do it as a group, we always will have more power.”

At the Taste, the campaign will have its own booth to distribute information and accept registration. The event was ‘‘perfect” to launch the campaign, Aldrette said, because of its focus on Wheaton’s unique, local flavor and because of talk about redevelopment in the downtown area.

‘‘We want to avoid what happened in Silver Spring or Rockville,” he said, adding that increasing the small business voice in redevelopment plans will be a top priority of Local First Wheaton. ‘‘[In those places] many of the small stores disappeared.”