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Unapologetic advocacy for local self-reliance

What does it take to make positive change in the world? How can an individual make an impact on a system that is so much larger than herself?

It certainly seems daunting, but one individual can indeed institute change, as evidenced by powerhouse Stacy Mitchell. She is the co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and has been working since the 1970s to defend communities against concentrated economic power. Mitchell is one of the masterminds behind the demise of Amazon – at least as we know it. She is an antitrust reformer and monopoly critic, and not afraid to look large corporations right in the eye and take them on. The world needs more women like Mitchell, along with the fearless nonprofit organizations and teams of individuals that support this type of leadership.

In 2016, Mitchell published a 79-page report, written with Olivia LaVecchia, called “Amazon’s Stranglehold: How the Company’s Tightening Grip is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities.” The title says it all. She is an advocate for local and independent businesses and known for her unapologetic stance against corporate monopolies. Mitchell has been one of local businesses’ strongest advocates in Washington. As an adviser to policymakers and grassroots organizations, Mitchell has developed and helped enact city, state and federal policies that level the playing field for independent businesses, curb corporate power and strengthen communities.

Her bold and unapologetic stance against corporate monopolies, including Amazon, landed her a profile in The New York Times. And Mitchell’s fight against big business monopolies has caused ripples across the country. She has been spotlighted in the Times, The Atlantic, Bloomberg, Washington Monthly and the Wall Street Journal, along with appearances on several national radio shows and podcasts, including NPR’s “On The Media.” She is also the author of “Big-Box Swindle.”

Are you interested in meeting someone who has so unabashedly advocated for local self-reliance? Well, thanks to Local First’s annual member meeting April 1, you will now have that chance. Mitchell will talk with our community on April Fools Day, and this is not a joke! Mitchell will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Local Celebration titled “Keeping Independent Businesses First.”

Reflecting on her April appearance, Mitchell said, “As challenging as this past year has been, it’s also marked a turning point. There’s a serious movement afoot in Congress to address the outsized power of corporate giants like Amazon and Walmart, and adopt policies that would level the playing field for Main Street businesses. I’m excited to be able to talk about these developments with Local First members and eager to work together on the opportunities ahead.”

We are fortunate to have our very own nonprofit organization, Local First, in this remote corner of heaven that advocates for local, independent businesses. Like Mitchell, Local First is also a fearless leader in support of independent businesses. Emily Bell, Local First’s managing director, said of Mitchell’s work, “It is undeniable that independent businesses are the backbone of this country, and that when we all band together, we are an unstoppable force.

“Stacy Mitchell and ILSR provide the data to help strengthen our movement’s momentum, so the stories, struggles, and triumphs of our La Plata businesses become part of the national conversation.”

If you are inspired by the work of these women, or “localistas” as we call them, and want to engage in the local independent business movement, join us from 11 a.m. to noon April 1 on Zoom. You will hear how the pandemic has impacted local business nationwide and what that means for our corner of Colorado. This virtual, COVID-19-safe event will include a delicious, local lunch voucher, raffle opportunities and award ceremony to recognize our champion local businesses.

For questions and registration, visit www.local-first.org/event/local-celebration-2021/ or call799-6618, ext. 1.

Monique DiGiorgio is executive director of Local First Foundation in Durango. Contact her at foundation@local-first.org.