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  • Bruce Baker

Exploring Ways to Build the Takoma Park Local Economy

Takoma Park is building the new local economy right now. A panel discussion and more than 20 community residents met on December 5th to discuss current projects and ideas for new projects that create an inclusive local economy. This event parallels a joint effort of CHEER and IMPACT Silver Spring to build local economy in Long Branch.

IMPACT Silver Spring and CHEER prepared a resource document with inspiring examples of ways to build a more inclusive local economy. The learning journey to build a local economy started with the values and vision from the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). However, if it is to be made real, the community needs to make that vision its own.

The Event on December 5 showed how Takoma Park residents are making it real. Two panelists discussed projects well under way: Preston Quesenberry, Chair of the Economic Restructuring Committee for the Old Takoma Business Association (OTBA), and Lorig Charkoudian, representing the Takoma Park Community Kitchen located at the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church on Tulip Avenue.

Preston Quesenberry, described a two-pronged approach to creating local investment opportunities that produce a return for the investor. First, OTBA pools investments for specific Takoma Park businesses. Secondly, the Washington Area Community Investment Fund will have an agreement with OTBA to issue Takoma Notes, which would pay a specified return on investments in local businesses in the Takoma Park area.

Lorig Charkoudian described the three components of a local food network: local agriculture, distribution of local food to consumers (e.g. farmer’s markets), and local food processing by local businesses. The community kitchen provides an essential infrastructure piece that allows local food entrepreneurs access to a commercial kitchen to allow them to process food for sale. One example is the Community Kitchen, which facilitates the reduction of several barriers to local food use and production.

During the open discussion participants identified additional current and prospective projects or ideas for the Takoma Park local economy. These ideas fall into the seven categories below:

1. Green Energy:

  • Adopt the “Mosaic” model for investing in solar energy (crowd sourced funding with returns of 4% to 5%).

  • Look at Municipal power generation (as done in Milford DE, Boulder, CO).

  • Promote composting and retrofitting for energy production and efficiency

2. Local Investing:

  • In addition to the local investment models under development by OTBA, the Azalea Credit Union – a group of Takoma Park residents seeking to bring a locally responsive credit union to Takoma Park – is conducting a move your money campaign encouraging membership and engagement in an existing credit union, or finding a way to start anew credit union.

  • Find more funding for housing cooperatives.

  • Help existing local businesses find a way to finance expansion, especially because there is often a bias toward funding business startups rather than existing businesses.

3. Employment and Business Education for Youth:

  • Develop apprenticeship programs for youth that teach professional skill development and practical skills,

  • provide startup grants for training, and

  • connect local youth with employment, such as is done at Orion’s Attic in Long Branch.

  • Connect local businesses to local schools and youth. Promote changes in education that prepares or links youth to becoming professionals.

4. Employment and Business Education for Adults:

  • Provide basic business education for adults and ongoing mentorship and support for potential entrepreneurs.

  • Provide a brochure on how to start and fund a business.

5. Local Exchange:

  • Create a Takoma Park Time Bank or a network exchange where people can trade services and goods with each other.

  • Promote the Village Concept, a network of mutual care and support among neighbors, which was originally designed for seniors, but also has broad multi-generational community supports that benefit all residents.

6. Cooperatives and Worker-owned Business:

  • Promote the creation of worker-owned businesses to create Living wages and jobs beyond living wages in the community. These provide robust structures, and sustainable models for local economy that supports health and welfare.

7. Public Policy Research and Advocacy: Public policies are needed to support inclusive local economy. For example, Maryland does not have a straightforward legal structure for worker cooperatives.

  • New projects may require policy changes, such as stronger proactive state legislation for worker-owned cooperatives modeled after Minnesota and Wisconsin.

  • Local economy is often city and town based; state and counties often discourage the formation of new municipalities.

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