Pennsylvania News Today

Growing up in Akron, Ohio, James J. Hardy remembers looking up at the sky and seeing the Goodyear airship, a hallmark of his city’s contribution to pop culture.

“We grew up watching airships every day during the warmer months,” recalls Hardy, Deputy Mayor of Goodyear’s hometown.

Therefore, as part of a year-old program that rewards people for shopping at local businesses, it is appropriate for customers to accumulate virtual “airships,” or points available to participating local businesses. ..

It’s part of everything Acronite, An app released by the city in August last year in response to the hits that SMEs received during the pandemic.

“Creating a city-sponsored app to incentivize local businesses wasn’t on our radar in early 2020,” says Hardy. “This was entirely driven by the hard pivot that we all had to do, and is still going on, because it’s related to a pandemic.”

Philadelphia SME Details

Akron SMEs like Philadelphia have been disproportionately affected as foot traffic has disappeared and people have turned to online retailers to meet their needs.As Bruce Katz Reported for citizens last fall, “Covid-19 Crisis [wreaked] A mess with small businesses on the main streets of the United States. Since February 2020, nearly 25% of all US SMEs have been closed, at least temporarily. In the most hit sectors such as restaurants, hotels and retail stores, the numbers are much higher. Katz further states that the impact was even more devastating for the company that owns it. black And Latin entrepreneur..

But for all the pandemic issues that Akron City couldn’t control policy According to Hardy, the challenges that the city has realized are: How can you encourage customers in the region to go back and shop at some of these small businesses?

“Every community has a group of people who strongly believe in local shopping, but we all sometimes fell into it, and certainly during the pandemic we all really struggled with how to do it. I think, “says Hardy.

Then his team Col, An app development company headquartered in Israel and with an office in the United States. Kol has announced an online product that will help dramatically revitalize the commercial corridor in Jerusalem.

Hardy and his team were impressed.

Akrons Blimps program doubles the amount spent locally

That’s why the city of Akron has partnered with Colu to create an “Akronite” that works as follows: Shoppers sign up for the free Akronite app and link their designated credit card to it. Whenever users shop at participating companies (so far, Akron has 198 and counts), they are collecting airships.

Suppose you spend $ 20 at a restaurant that offers 15% Blimp benefits. After that, $ 3 will be added to your Akronite account. The next day, you can go to a coffee shop participating in the program and spend $ 3 there.Best part: All redemptions are paid by city Akron’s — Airship Program is part of the city’s official budget!

“Every community has a group of people who strongly believe in local shopping, but we all sometimes fell into it, and certainly during the pandemic we all really struggled with how to do it. I think, “says Hardy.

The app also features a heartwarming story about participating companies as a way to stimulate the senses of the community beyond the nature of the app’s transactions.

When the app was released on Akron last August, Hardy said the goal was to attract a total of 1,000 users.It first had that number weekly, Currently 5,541. And as the program celebrates its first anniversary, Hardy undoubtedly provided a good return on investment. “So far, we’ve seen multipliers up to 20 times, which means that a dollar a city invests in a program can generate up to 20 times that amount in the form of regional economic activity.” Kol’s vice president said. Michael Mazur for business development. “It’s not like a sign without clues as to where the advertising costs will end up.”

Akron was the first city in the United States to start a program with Kol and is now with Boston.B-local, Youngstown, Ohio, and cities and counties throughout California, including San Mateo County, including Silicon Valley. Of course, other app companies are working on similar programs.

B-A local business owner wearing a mask at a tapioca tea shop in Boston
Boston’s B-Local program encourages residents to shop at local businesses

Harding says it has been win-win in every way since the program started. The city paid Colu $ 100,000 a year to run the app and budgeted $ 50,000 for Blimp’s redemption costs. Many cities are using CARES and ARPA dollars to cover their costs, according to Mazur.

“$ 150,000 a year isn’t really a huge sum of money from our budget for something that has clearly become such a cool and popular program for both businesses and consumers,” Hardy said. Says.

And he believes the program has utility beyond retail. “The use cases are almost endless. The city can use the Blimp system to reward users for the actions of other good citizens. Maybe it’s recycling correctly. Maybe it’s a vote. “He says. Currently, they are considering rewarding users who submit 3-1-1 requests to report broken things in the city.

Annaship, Executive Director Sustainable business network In Philadelphia, she said in an email that she was in favor of actions to support local independent businesses, especially those owned by people of color and other historically marginalized groups, as well as her group.

“Acron’s new program nods to a successful national’local first’campaign,” she said. “But without a favorable policy outlook, the ability of diverse SMEs to launch, grow and prosper remains unwavering.”

“People underestimate the industrial center, but there is a lot of innovation going on,” says Hardy. “And we have really good citizen leadership here-starting with our mayor-it encouraged us all to be better.”

Akron (and Colu) are aware of this.Mazur says it Equity Built into all Colu rollouts. “For example, it’s important for business owners who may not speak English or be tech-savvy to make sure that many business owners aren’t left behind in the end,” he says. ..

And in addition to providing additional airship rewards to supporting shoppers black- And Owned by a woman Akron will also develop future initiatives to create or expand 200 black-owned businesses over the next decade, with mentors. Supporting black entrepreneurs.. “We want to create a truly dynamic talent and mentorship ecosystem,” says Hardy.

For Mazur and Hardy to be successful in any city, it is important to provide them free of charge to business owners and residents, and to get the support of local neighbors such as the CDC. I agree with you. “Community Development Kosha is very helpful to us in getting companies involved and spreading the word” Hey, you can get cash back just by going to the same place you were going “in your neighborhood. I did. “Hardy says. “These neighborhood-level organizations were really great. Certainly the Chamber of Commerce [of Commerce] Please do not hurt. But what really succeeded was a neighborhood-based organization. “

It all sounds refreshing and progressive, especially from parts of the country that are often noted to be the opposite.

“People underestimate the industrial center, but there is a lot of innovation going on,” says Hardy. “And we have really good citizen leadership here-starting with our mayor-it urged us all to be better.” The mayor is Daniel Horrigan. Hardy said: “Since the first day of inauguration in January 2016, city staff have become more innovative and less afraid of technology and data. The idea of ​​encouraging local consumers to spend through smartphone apps during pandemics. I don’t know if all the mayors agreed, but I never thought about approving the project twice. “

Hearing that, Mayor Kenny?

Boston’s B-Local campaign encourages residents to support local businesses.Photo courtesy of Kol

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