The "Buy Local" campaign of 17 local chambers of commerce and The Times Media Co. got a rousing send up Wednesday at a Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the media company's main location in Munster.
"The local chambers are what truly unite local businesses," Times Publisher Bill Masterson Jr. told more than 120 Lakeshore Chamber members and others seated in the Times' advertising insert facility.
The publisher explained the three goals of the program are to educate local consumers, drive new customers to local businesses and drive local businesses to their chambers.
Chamber members throughout Northwest Indiana already have been displaying "It Pays to Buy Local" posters and stickers at their businesses. On Thursday, the program goes to the next level when the Times "Today's Deal" ad campaign transitions to a "Buy Local Deals" campaign, said Times Advertising Director Lisa Daugherty.
Those deals will offer customers 50 percent or more off on select products and services at participating local merchants and vendors.
Local business owners on Wednesday were interested in both the broad goals of the program and specifics such as ad rates and placements.
"Small businesses need to support each other," said Dana Booth, a third generation owner at Budd Mechanical Systems, in Hammond. "It will be strength in numbers because of the number of people and businesses involved. It will have a huge impact."
Getting 17 chambers to work together in a concerted fashion may already be one of the Buy Local campaign's biggest triumphs, said Lakeshore Chamber Executive Director Dave Ryan. The program now has the potential to bring 4,000 to 5,000 local businesses together in one grand coalition to increase sales.
Ryan said he hardly dares to go out of the area anymore to shop.
"If someone sees me not buying local, I feel guilty," he said. "It really does get in your head to buy local."