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Portland Independent Business & Community Alliance 2016-17 Annual Meeting Report


Portland Buy Local’s tenth year has been a pivotal time of growth and capacity building, and there are many organizational, programmatic, and partnership developments to share.


Organizational Growth

In October of 2016, Portland Buy Local promoted Jenn Thompson, then part-time Program Manager, to full-time Executive Director, making Thompson the first full-time employee and first Executive Director in the organization’s history. This development has enabled a renewed focus on political advocacy, membership engagement, and program expansions.


Advocacy Forum

Portland Buy Local was awarded a Portland Economic Development Implementation Program grant for $2,500 from the Portland Development Corporation in order to host a community forum to explore policies that would strengthen Portland’s local economy. Portland’s business saw a 22% rise in commercial rents in 2015, and rising costs of rent is a top concern for 31% of Portland’s independent businesses. The goal of the forum is to engage the Portland community, including economic stakeholders, in a dialogue about protecting Portland’s local and independent business community as Portland faces an influx of chains and growth.


Guide to Portland’s Locally Owned Businesses & Organizations

Portland Buy Local’s annual publication has served as a resource for Portland’s community members, professionals, businesses, and tourists alike, and has proved a valuable tool for promoting PBL’s diverse members. Due to increased demand, distribution of the newly released guides has been increased to 25,000 copies, 5,000 more than were printed last year. Cover design by Chicken 3000.


Media Partnership Program

Launched in November of 2016, the Media Partnership Program encourages the use of locally owned media, provides PBL members with increased access to advertising, and promotes Portland Buy Local. Media Partnerships are open to media organizations and PBL members only, and participation is optional. Portland Buy Local has three Media Partners to date, and expects to grow the program in the coming year, expanding discounted advertising opportunities to PBL members.


Indie Biz Awards

The 2016 Indie Biz Awards was the most successful fundraiser and best attended event in Portland Buy Local’s history! $17,000 was raised with the help of 100 businesses who sponsored, donated to, and supported the event. Ten Indie Biz Awards were given to ten businesses, and the board-appointed Buy Local Champion award was presented to Mary Allen Lindemann. Produced by Knack Factory, ten videos featuring the 50 nominated businesses were debuted at the event, and later released online.   


Online Member Forum

Portland Buy Local launched a member-only forum, where members can communicate directly with one another in a closed Facebook group. Members have used the platform to seek advice, collaborations, and services.


Connecting Members

Member mixers provide opportunities for our members and community supporters to build connections and collaborations with one another over a Sebago Brewing Company beer. Member mxers were held at Caravan beads, Portland Conservatory of Music, Maine Historical Society, Portland Yoga Kids, and Bayside Bowl.


Elevating Localism

Sponsored by Coffee By Design, Knack Factory produced five videos featuring member interviews highlighting Portland Buy Local’s mission, which reached over 20,000 viewers on social media. One of the videos aired on ESPN and reached 670,000 viewers.  


National Representation

Executive Director Jenn Thompson was elected to the Board of the American Independent Business Alliance, the national organization which provides resources to and supports the work of local business alliances around the world. Thompson attended a conference in Bozeman, Montana with other Business Alliance Roundtable Development members, and attended and presented at the Local Sustainable Economies conference in Boston, Massachusetts, with local alliance leaders from around the world.


Engagement in Numbers:

  • 9326+ Facebook likes; 5,115+ Twitter followers, 2,284+ Instagram followers
  • 58,000 website page views, 20,000 new users (as defined by Google),
  • 670,000 viewers were tuned in to an ESPN ad featuring Portland Buy Local during the The PBA League Elias Cup finals which were filmed at Bayside Bowl


Holiday Membership Promotion

This past November PBL published their annual Holiday Gift Guide, and Executive Director Jenn Thompson joined Knack Factory and Downeast Magazine on air at Maine Calling (in their most beloved show of the year) to discuss unique local gift ideas submitted by members. Portland Buy Local also purchased underwriting from MPBN on behalf of its members, encouraging Mainers to gift locally during the holiday season.  


Directory Release Party

Portland Buy Local held the first ever volunteer distribution day to distribute the newly released 2016-17 Guides! Volunteers visited members of Portland Buy Local to deliver the guides, as well as Businesses Against Bigotry window clings.  



Portland Buy Local has 445 members, the same amount of members as the previous year. PBL’s membership committee put a lot of effort into bringing new businesses into the organization in the previous year, and this past year has been focused on more closely engaging with members. The second annual Local Hero card was released, giving members the opportunity to redeem discounts at 60+ participating member businesses. In addition, three graphic posters were distributed to members, educating the public about local economic justice, and enabling members to further brand themselves as local and independent.


Community Education & Outreach

From Independents Week at the Portland Farmers’ Market to Downtown Worker Appreciation Day (a collaboration with Portland Downtown) to Rosemont Harvest in the Hood, Portland Buy Local has been all around town. A group of Board members met with the Portland Planning and Urban Development Department to ensure local business voices are heard as part of the Comprehensive Plan development. President Tony Cox met with South Portland and Cape Elizabeth Buy Local presidents to share insights and ideas, and PBL members got together to share staffing challenges and insights.

Portland Buy Local puts a significant amount of effort over the course of the year to educate the public about the importance of buying locally. This past year, PBL’s message reached the Bollard, MPBN, WMPG, Portland Press Herald, Dispatch Magazine, Channel 8, The Forecaster, West End News, Portland Downtown’s Guide, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You’ve probably also seen “BUY LOCAL” on the Time and Temp building several times throughout the year!


Treasurer’s Report

PIBCA will have net income in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017 estimated at $5,000.  (The fiscal year ends June 30.)


Total revenues for Fiscal year 2016/2017 will increase by $15,000, or 33% to $59,600 compared to $44,600 in fiscal year 2015/2016.  Membership Dues were up 6.4% from the previous year, while earnings from the Indie Biz awards were up $7,740, or 80%. PBL also has a new earnings stream in fiscal year 2016/2017: ads sold in the new Member Directory accounted for $5,000 of the increase in revenues.


Portland Buy Local owes a big THANK-YOU to all its supporters!


Operating expenses are flat in 2016/2017 compared to the previous year.  The higher costs of creating an executive director position, Indie Biz Awards event production costs, and membership promotions were offset by savings in outside marketing expenses.


2017 Save the Dates!

July 1-7 – Independents Week – At Participating Businesses in Portland

September 28 – Why Local Community Forum – University of Southern Maine  

October 12 – 2017 Indie Biz Awards – Portland House of Music & Events



The Portland Buy Local campaign was launched in July 2006 by Portland business owners and citizens hoping to counteract the rising influence of national chains through collective marketing and education. After receiving an enthusiastic response from both businesses and residents, the initial working group incorporated the Portland Independent Business and Community Alliance (PIBCA) in September 2006 and formed the organization’s first Board of Directors and Advisory Board.


In its ten-year history, Portland Buy Local has welcomed more than 750 business members, with a current membership of 445 business, nonprofit, and individual members. Members proudly utilize free Portland Buy Local window decals, posters, and countertop thank-you cards, while supporters wear t-shirts, display bumper stickers, and carry canvas shopping totes throughout the Greater Portland area. We have so much to celebrate after our first decade, thanks to you: our members.


  • Established in July and incorporated in September.
  • Held a press conference with then Governor Baldacci to officially launch our campaign/organization.
  • The American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) Executive Director declares “[PIBCA has] come out of the blocks faster than any other independent business alliance.”
  • Established the logo and those iconic stickers and t-shirts.
  • Established the first concentrated holiday campaign to encourage locally purchased gifts.



  • Membership grows to 175 businesses and nonprofits.
  • Conducted first annual impact survey.
  • Launched the Buy Local Morning poster (a.k.a the “underwear” poster) – you can buy underwear locally!


  • Won the first of multiple Portland Phoenix Best of Awards for Best Local Cause.
  • Celebrated 1st Annual Independent’s Day, highlighting local food producers at the Portland Farmer’s Market.
  • Established annual Indie Biz Awards, a fundraiser and celebration of the many diverse businesses Portland attracts and supports.
  • July of 2008, City of Portland proclaimed “Independent’s Week.”
  • First printed directory was published in July 2008.
  • Introduced semi-annual Downtown Worker Appreciation Day, a collaboration with Portland’s Downtown District; a celebration of those who choose to work every day in downtown Portland and a valuable promotional opportunity for Portland’s local businesses who are seeking to connect with those workers.


  • Joined the national Shift Your Shopping Campaign, encouraging consumers to redirect 10% of their spending at national chains to locally owned merchants and service providers.


  • Published the first print edition of the Portland Buy Local Directory, printing 15,000 copies to distribute to visitors and locals.
  • Won both Portland’s Best Local Cause and Portland’s Best Nonprofit in the Portland Phoenix Reader’s Poll.


  • Launched completely revamped website with interactive member directory searchable by category, location, or name, allowing members to edit and maintain their listings.
  • Introduced the Buy Local Political Survey, inviting responses from candidates for office at the local and state level about issues most important to local entrepreneurs.
  • Distributed and publicized the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) study showing that $100 spent at locally owned businesses contributes an additional $58 to the local economy vs. $33 from national chains.


  • Welcomed nationally renowned economist, attorney, entrepreneur, author, and activist Michael H. Shuman to speak with our members and the public.
  • Introduced wildly popular theme-specific posters highlighting scores of local options to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the end-of-year holidays, or a typical morning at home. Posters continue to be popular to this day.
  • Successfully transitioned the organization to the next generation of leadership after original Board of Directors reached their 6-year term limit.



  • Grew membership to over 500 for the first time ever.
  • Introduced Member Mixers where various businesses host monthly gatherings for learning, networking, and celebrating as a community.


  • Introduced rolling membership renewal, providing members the convenience and ease of online renewals on their schedule. Raised membership rates for the first time in 8 years to allow Portland Buy Local to expand initiatives for our members.
  • Established first stand-alone office at 306 Congress Street.
  • Introduced Brown Bag Lunch series, tackling a variety of topics to educate small business owners.
  • Hosted gubernatorial sessions for Portland Buy Local members to sit down and talk with candidates for Maine governor.
  • Represented Portland Buy Local members on city’s minimum wage committee. Surveyed all members about their thoughts on minimum wage and shared with city leaders and the media.


  • Created a five-year strategic plan
  • Published a letter to the editor in the Portland Press Herald supporting a built environment that allows local, independent businesses to thrive in Portland, and spoke about the issue during an interview on Channel 8.
  • Worked with local business owners, community organizers, and researchers at the Muskie School of Public Policy to identify policies that Portland might consider adopting.
  • Met with Mayor Strimling to discuss PBL’s mission and political platform.
  • Participated in the Mayor’s Minimum Wage Task Force, and surveyed our members and released their viewpoints for discussion.
  • Increased membership by 26% over the previous year.
  • Launched ‘Buy Local Hero’ card, enabling members to claim discounts at 43 businesses.


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