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Wed, Sept. 18

Chambers of Commerce, downtown association promote 'shop locally'

The tri-city area chambers of commerce and the Prescott Downtown Partnership do not offer formal "gift finding" programs to direct consumers to specific businesses for the holidays.

However, they maintain "shop locally" campaigns in which they direct callers or drop-ins to member businesses that provide merchandise, services or both. The chambers operate the campaign year round, and the Prescott Downtown Partnership runs the campaign during the holiday shopping season.

"We routinely get calls throughout the year," said David Maurer, chief executive officer of the Prescott chamber, which has more than 1,050 members. "We try our best to help them."

Chamber members come first, Maurer said. "If there isn't one (business that the public seeks), we search the phone book for them."

The Prescott Valley chamber directs callers to retailers and other businesses that belong to the chamber, said Marnie Uhl, president and CEO of the 750-member organization.

Uhl said the chamber staff "absolutely, first off," refers callers to chamber members, but will direct them to nearby businesses that are not members if the members do not provide the particular merchandise.

"If they can't buy it here, go to Prescott," Uhl said. "Keep the dollars in the tri-city area instead of going to Phoenix or Flagstaff."

Uhl said tri-city area chambers are participating in a radio advertising campaign to promote local shopping.

The Chino Valley chamber also recommends patronizing its members, Executive Director Ab Jackson said. The chamber has about 350 members.

"We would love to keep tax dollars in Chino Valley - obviously," Jackson said.

Jackson said the chamber this holiday season will launch a member-to-member discount program for the first time. Participation entitles members to obtain discounts when they buy from each other.

The Chino Valley and Prescott Valley chambers also are working on a "chamber bucks" promotion for upcoming holiday seasons, Jackson and Uhl said. Chamber bucks would enable people to buy a gift card that they can redeem at participating businesses.

Maurer said, "We tried a gift certificate program two years ago, and it did not catch on. It was (offered) year round."

He said about 80 businesses participated in the program.

"I think the business community was supportive," he said. However, the public did not buy into the program.

Maurer's office is in downtown Prescott, where about 80 businesses belong to the Prescott Downtown Partnership.

The partnership is using a $5,000 grant from the Arizona Main Street program of the Department of Commerce for advertising during the holidays, manager Pat Forrest said.

"This is following on the heels of the shop locally campaign" of the City of Prescott, Forrest said.

She was referring to a $5,773 grant the city received in March from Commerce's Rural Economic Development Initiative, according to Wendy Bridges, Prescott's economic development specialist.

The city is using the grant to pay for cable television and newspaper advertising as well as posters to promote shopping in Prescott.

Contact the reporter at

khedler@prescottaz.com

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