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5.18.17 Luncheon Notes

SPOKES Notes written by Roger Morgenstern

Long-time Rotarians from any club will tell you at one time, attendance requirements were tightly enforced. I personally know of one West Michigan club which removed members who did not meet attendance requirements…those were the days!

One of the ways for busy Rotarians (and what Rotarian isn’t busy!?!) was (and still is) “to do a makeup” at other Rotary club, which counts toward your attendance record. This is a great way to see how other clubs operate, their priorities, traditions, etc.

Our own George Trowbridge can tell you all about visiting other Rotary Clubs. At our meeting last week, President Michael recognized George for 46 years, yes 46, of perfect attendance. George, who was, of course, at our meeting, explained how this milestone has included highs and lows, but it has also garnered 51 different Rotary International Club banners. He encouraged all of us to get a small Grand Rapids Club banner from Dawn Smith to present to a Club you’re visiting. Most times, you’ll get a banner in return. No matter what, George promised, “you’ll have an amazing time.”

George recounted his two best and worst visiting Rotary experiences…both overseas. The best, he said, was walking out of a European club meeting with a local member, who invited him over for afternoon tea. George immediately accepted. When he pulled up to the man’s home, it was a 120-room palace. The owner, unfazed, explained they only lived in nine of the rooms.

On the other end of the spectrum was Canterbury, England. He arrived early to a local pub, the meeting spot, and was told the members drink from noon to 1 p.m., have a business meeting from 1 to 2 p.m. and then drink again from 2-3…with no food served! George found another nearby Rotary Club with less cocktails and more food to keep his “record” intact.

If you’re interested in visiting other Rotary Clubs in our RI District 6290, contact Dawn, who can get you club meeting schedules.

Neil Marchand let us know about the next Rotary After Hours: 5-7 p.m. June 1 at his office, one of the newest additions to the Grand Rapids skyline, the Miller Johnson building, 45 Ottawa Ave, SW Suite 1100

Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Come enjoy a rooftop view, appetizers and cocktails and bring along another Rotarian or a prospective member! Complimentary on-site parking is available.

Event co-chair Alan Abraham reminded us again of the Rotary Open at Blythefield Country Club Aug. 7. It’ll be a great day of golf and fellowship but Alan reminded us “golf is the reason to raise money for scholarships,” especially through silent auction items and sponsorships. Please contact Alan, co-chair Randy Murphy, Dawn or any member of the committee for more information. Information is also available during our weekly meetings on the back table.

Our weekly speaker was Elissa Hillary, who has been president of Local First since 2007. The organization, founded in 2003 by local business owner Guy Bazzani, was one of the first of its organizations to actively promote, support and celebrate locally-owned businesses. Now, there are more than 100 similar organizations in the United States and others are starting abroad.

Hillary said Local First works to combat “disconnection” and “sameness” found more and more in today’s world. For example, “disconnection” can be seen in the Flint water crisis. People who were not in Flint were making decisions that resulted in a problem that didn’t affect themselves, but rather the citizens of Flint.

Hillary found an example of “sameness” when she had the opportunity to talk about Local First in Guam. While en route, she and her husband stopped over in Japan. While displaying a picture of an advertisement for The Gap (in Japanese and English), she told the Club  “the Japanese do not celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas but they do have Black Friday!”

She said whenever she travels, she wants to experience local culture, local products, etc., and not something that can found in almost any “big-box” store or shopping mall. “It’s all about how we can calibrate our lives on a more human scale.”

Local First’s focus is clearly stated in its mission statement:

 Local First leads the development of an economy grounded in local ownership that meets the basic needs of people, builds local wealth and social capital, functions in harmony with our ecosystem, and encourages joyful community life.”

Local First defines “local” as a business that is truly locally owned…the owner lives in the community; it is privately held and headquartered in the community.

The power of supporting locally owned businesses is significant she said. A 2008 study done for Local First showed for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 stays in the community in the form of wages, taxes, local support services such as accounting, supplies and charitable contributions. The remaining $32 goes to non-local supplies. In contrast, the same $100 spent at a non-local business results in just $43 staying local, with the other $57 spent on out of town goods and services.

“This means when you shop local, 73 percent more stays in a community,” Hillary said. “Redirecting just 10 percent of all Kent County retail sales to local merchants would result $140 million in new economic activity, over 1,600 new jobs providing over $50 million in new wages.”

Shopping local doesn’t mean spending more money, she said. An example is the well-known eatery Yesterdog, which keeps its prices reasonable while paying its employees a “living wage,” she said.

Many local companies find multiple advantages to be organized as “B Corps,” she said.  “B Corp” is short for “benefit corporation,” which is a designation earned by companies that are focused on environmental and social change in addition to monetary profits (the triple bottom line).

B Corps are certified by B Lab, a nonprofit organization that believes in unifying companies around the world with their goal of making high ethical standards for business practices the new norm. Think of B Corp certification like Fair Trade certification is to coffee.

Big and small, the Grand Rapids area “is one of the largest clusters of locally-owned businesses in the world,” Hillary said. Local First works to build supply and demand. For example, the phenomenal growth of Founder’s benefits the local community when those successful beer sales across the U.S. support expansion of a Grand Rapids company.

For more information on Local First, visit their website:

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