A campaign to persuade local shoppers to buy local goods and local vendors took shape Wednesday during a stakeholders meeting in Milford called by the Otsego County Chamber and the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce.
“We need to let people know what we have,” Patricia Szarpa, executive director of the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, said in her opening remarks.
The business community cannot “assume people know what our merchants have,” she added.
The Local First! campaign would begin May 1 and continue for two to three years, said Barbara Ann Heegan, director of the Otsego County Chamber. She said the campaign’s progress would be assessed after the first six months.
The meeting brought together marketing, advertising and business representatives — stakeholders in the promotion of Otsego County businesses and products.
The effort is a rare collaboration between the two chambers, several participants said. It grew from an ad hoc committee that started in Cooperstown, Szarpa said, and gradually brought in members from other parts of the county.
“There has been a lot of success in working with our local foods,” Szarpa said, citing an industry in which a buy-local campaign has worked well.
Szarpa said the effort was not an attempt to usurp big-box stores or Internet vendors, but rather an attempt to persuade Otsego County residents and visitors to “think local first.”
Heegan suggested that the Oneonta college population, in particular, could be targeted.
“We want to make sure that our students … understand the value of all the stores that are not only in Oneonta, but in Cooperstown.”
Public transportation would play a role in getting students who don’t have cars to Cooperstown, she added.
Psalm Wyckoff of the county Planning Department, which oversees the Otsego Express bus system, agreed.
“People don’t necessarily know what public transportation is available to them,” she said.