Keep It Local Columbia County is reaching new heights this year with its Keep it Local for the Holidays 2021 campaign.

A record 81 businesses have already pledged their support to the campaign, which officially began Nov. 21, according to Keep It Local Columbia County Director Sierra Trass.

Promoting

Keep It Local CC Director Sierra Trass poses with a sign promoting the upcoming holiday campaign.

Keep it Local for the Holidays is a seasonal program under the umbrella of Keep It Local CC, an organization which provides free marketing and social media supports to local Columbia County businesses.

“Instead of going outside the county for the holidays, there is so much to discover in

Columbia County,” the campaign’s description reads. “Keep it Local for the Holidays is a campaign to promote the wonderland of Columbia County’s businesses and nonprofits. This campaign helps locals and visitors become aware (of) local gift ideas, drinks, food, artists, and more for the holidays!”

The idea for Keep It Local CC originates from the findings of a study developed by the former director Natasha Parvey in 2015.

“We were established back in 2015, because 73% of our county residents work outside the county, (which is) a really significant thing when we think about people dining locally during lunch hours or shopping locally,” Trass said. “So many people work in Portland, Astoria, Longview or Hillsboro across the county, which naturally leads into (the question) how do we support small businesses?”

The group works alongside the chambers, St. Helens Main Street Alliance, and Columbia Economic Team to best fulfill the organization’s mission of enriching local business.

“We’ve been described as the glue that keeps Columbia County together and helping bond each of the cities which have historically been kind of like silos from one another, not really knowing what each other are doing,” Trass said.

According to Business Oregon, Keep It Local CC is one of 20 beneficiaries of its Rural Opportunity Initiative ROI grant. The $45,000 grant for Columbia County was allotted specifically for the organization to “upgrade its countywide business directory website” and “provide marketing and web training to small businesses to increase their capture of local consumer spending,” according to Business Oregon.

Creating social media awareness was identified as one of the primary needs of local businesses.

According to Trass, the organization ran a survey prior to its announcement of this year’s holiday campaign to identify where businesses are struggling as they recover from pandemic losses.

“I was really surprised the top four out of five things were all social media related,” she said. “The top 82% (of respondents) said they would like us to feature them in posts.”

Trass said she intends to set aside some of the funds for building up Keep It Local CC’s web presence and making educational resources accessible to local businesses.

“One of the things I was looking at was the website and I was like, okay, this is something that definitely can use - new modern design, better search engine optimization, and just overall better usability,” she said. “Not does the ROI grant now cover helping our website business directory serve businesses better, but it also is going to be a project that's going to do more digital education for business owners throughout 2022 to June 2023.”

Benefits for shoppers

Trass said people who choose to shop from Columbia County small businesses can fill out “Wonderland Cards” through Dec. 31 provide participating businesses for the chance to win exciting prizes.

The Wonderland Card works similarly to a punch card, with 20 squares for business to sign after a participant purchases $10 or more worth of goods at their store. Entrants with all of their squares filled are eligible to win $1000, along with 20 other possible prizes.

Among the prizes are gift cards, certificates, and products from local businesses.

Contest guidelines state that the drawing will happen Jan. 5, live on Keep It Local Columbia County’s Facebook and the drawing’s winner will be notified.

Full details of the contest are available on Keep it Local Columbia County’s Facebook page and the Keep It Local Columbia County website.

Local shoppers can also look for the Keep it Local for the Holidays’ online catalog. The catalog can assist shoppers by directing them to local businesses carrying their desired product.

Keep It Local CC organizers will continue to advertise their “Shop Local Saturday” event taking place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, on their Facebook page.

Benefits for Business

Trass said Keep it Local for the Holidays 2021 has so far been well received by the businesses in the area.

“The campaigns have really good feedback, especially since a lot of business owners knew about it. The ones that do have really liked when I go up to them person. They’re like, ‘Oh, I'm so happy you’re doing this again.’ (They) don’t even question it, just sign up,” Trass said.

Trass expects that renewed shopping interest as the pandemic eases should help boost local business profits.

“I think we’ll see a lot of consumers purposely choosing local because I know we were trained to do that during the pandemic when we were trying to help businesses survive,” she said.

St. Helens radio station KOHI AM 1600 features local business topics Monday through Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 to 11 a.m. as part of the Keep it Local campaign.

The Chronicle and The Chief also feature frequent business profiles in our Who We Are and Our Where Live series. See those provides at thechronicleonline.com and in the Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle and in at thechiefnews.com and in the Friday print editions of The Chief.

Look for a special Keep It Local Small Business Saturday presentation in the Wednesday, Nov. 24 print edition of The Chronicle and in the Friday, Nov. 26 print edition of The Chief.

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