Last year, The Economist highlighted the persevering and hopeful spirit of Buffalonians. This zeal, referred to locally as Buffalove, is dedicated to reviving the industry that until the 1960s made Buffalo the nation’s 15th largest city — and the richest per capita. It’s also giving residents a renewed pride for Buffalo that is prompting a growing culture of Localism, one striving to improve the city’s economy and earning widespread attention: The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) chose Buffalo as the site of their annual BALLE Conference, which kicks off today at Buffalo State College. For the rest of the week, Buffalo business leaders and changemakers will join Localism experts from across the US to collaborate on the best ways to make our society better, one community at a time.
BALLE formed in 2001 with a clear mission: To foster viable local economies by encouraging small businesses to work together in their communities. The annual Conference, now in its 11th year, is the perfect opportunity for BALLE’s national network of entrepreneurs to help each other run profitable businesses through presentations of success stories and best practices, offering mentoring sessions for small business novices and connecting the right entrepreneurs with the right investors — and that’s only the beginning. BALLE attendees will also tour the city of Buffalo to get a firsthand look at its growing local economy and to see the architectural wonders of its hayday.
For those who cannot attend the Conference, here is a sneak peek at some of that Buffalove that attracted BALLE to Buffalo in the first place:
Buffalo First, a nonprofit that launched in 2006, strives to build a local, green and fair economy in the Buffalo-Niagara region. By hosting monthly mixers and providing resources like an All Local Coupon Book, consumers in Buffalo can’t help but support their local economy. Buffalo First’s executive director Sarah Bishop will present at the BALLE Conference on the organization’s ongoing efforts and vision for the future.
Urban agriculture is on the rise in Buffalo. Take for example the Wilson Street Urban Farm, a family-run, co-op produce garden that uses neglected land on Buffalo’s East Side. Or the Massachusetts Avenue Project’s Growing Green Farm, a nonprofit organization that teaches Buffalo’s schoolchildren to raise crops and chickens. Then there’s the Community Action Organization farm that runs several greenhouses to raise produce in the city for a number of Buffalo’s restaurants. Each farm is featured as part of BALLE’s Living Economy Tour today, where Conference attendees will see (and taste) firsthand Buffalo’s growing urban farm-to-fork movement.
As you may have read yesterday, our friends at Block Club want better: Better work, better design, a better Buffalo. In addition to its creative endeavors as a Magazine and Agency, Block Club fosters community engagement in Buffalo with its City Dining Cards program, which offers discounts to many local eateries. Block Club is also a major sponsor of the BALLE Conference and Patrick Finan, founder and principal of Block Club, is one of the featured Conference speakers.
A handful of the more than 80 BALLE Conference speakers are from Buffalo, each of whom will present stories of their efforts to promote Localism. The rest of the speakers and attendees come from all across North America to discuss Localism opportunities in a much broader sense, according to Jill Epner, BALLE’s Director of Community Engagement, who says, “People in this local economy movement come to the BALLE Conference every year to connect and learn from each other, and to get inspired to continue their work in their respective areas. This is the only conference focused on Localism, so it draws a wonderful mix of pioneers and newbies who are all focused on creating thriving, vibrant economies.”Tonight’s Conference opening — and many other presentations — will be broadcast live online for anyone who cannot attend in person. And we’ll be catching up with some of the Buffalo speakers after the Conference to learn more about their efforts to revive the city’s local economy. There is plenty more Buffalove to come on the NYSOM Magazine.