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When Local Isn’t: Deceiving ‘Buy Local Orlando’ Program Supports City Taxes, not Local Businesses

Farmers Market Local Produce FoodFlorida’s new “Buy Local Orlando” initiative, set to launch May 1, conjures up pleasing images of farmer’s market produce and goods hand-crafted by local artisans.  With the words “buy local” in the program’s title, it makes sense to assume that the participating merchants are locally-based. The widespread locavore movement, after all, is just that: local.

But Orlando’s local program is anything but. The first tip-off? It’s launched in conjunction with the Disney Entrepreneur Center. Not exactly the name that comes to mind when you think of supporting local businesses. But then again, neither is McDonald’s — but according to “Buy Local Orlando” program guidelines, the fast food chain qualifies as a local merchant.

So if McDonald’s is classified as local according to city standards, who isn’t? A backyard farmer selling his produce on the street corner, that’s whom. Last I checked, he isn’t going to have a “current city-issued tax business tax receipt number”, which is what it takes to be participate in “Buy Local Orlando”.

Participating businesses are also required pay the city $49 per fiscal year to participate — $99 if the application is submitted after May 1st. In return, merchants –who will offer discounts to consumers carrying a “Buy Local” card– are given free promotional materials as well as access to events at the Disney Entrepreneur Center.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who founded the program with Disney, “wanted to look at what it could do on a local basis.”   By local basis, it is clear that he means the local tax base, not the local laborer.

Image via Natalie Maynor on Flickr under a Creative Commons License

5 comments
  1. russ

    You sound like a hippy from the 60’s – who were useless for the most part.

    The owner of McDonald’s no doubt is a local merchant. Most cities will have a tax – that is how they get money to operate.

    Forget the ‘unwashed stuff’ and get on with life.

  2. Green Newb

    So Russ, you are saying that this program is good because it encourages me to buy from my local McDonalds at lunch break, instead of driving to… Georgia?… Cuba? Sounds like a useful, and in no way a deceiving initiative(sarcasm).

  3. Julie Norris

    Hey Russ,

    While McDonald’s do generate sales tax, the very figures that the City are using are from studies of local & independent business, not franchises or chains, so it is a very misleading program. Ia applaud you Gina for seeing right through it. From the truly local and independent business alliance (ourlando.com) comes this response:

    April Fool’s Day was the appropriate launch of the City’s “Buy Local” campaign and we’ve been getting lots of questions about what we think about it. On the surface, it sounds like a great program, but it has one fundamentally misleading element to it that consumers & small business owners should be aware of: their definition of local is the exact opposite of what “local first” campaigns around the country, including ours, are trying to promote. Any business with a sales tax receipt can be a part of the city program, including McDonald’s, Walmart & Best Buy. The Orlando Business Journal recently stated the program was modeled after the one in Austin – but one look at their website clearly shows they promote independent & locally-owned businesses – not any old chain store that has a tax id.

    Read more here: http://ourlando.com/2009/04/02/the-city-of-orlandos-buy-anything-that-generates-sales-tax-campaign/

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