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REDI in Retrospect: Buy Rockville

How a 'buy local' program grew out of need as the recession took hold.

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth part of during the tenure of former executive director Sally Sternbach. Before her departure, Rockville Patch sat down for an interview with Sternbach and associate director Lynne Benzion, who took over as REDI’s acting executive director this month.

As the Great Recession began to take hold in 2008, took a closer look at the reality of the recession for Rockville businesses.

Each March, REDI holds its , during which “ambassador teams” of public officials and business leaders meet with about 50 companies of all sizes and sectors.

Part of that is what former REDI executive director Sally Sternbach called “a very short, but quite pointed” survey that asks businesses about their plans. Included are questions about expectations, said Sternbach, who left REDI last week to become deputy director of the county’s Department of Economic Development: “Do you expect to grow jobs? Do you expect to grow space? Do you expect to grow your top line and your bottom line revenues?”

In fall 2008, REDI checked back with the companies it had focused on six months earlier. What the city’s nonprofit economic arm found was a different reality for each of Rockville’s business sectors.

“The business-to-consumer [sector] was really hurting,” Sternbach said. “The business-to-business was sort of on the cusp. And the business-to-government was still wailin’. They were doing fine.”

With the winter holidays approaching, REDI went to the Rockville City Council with a proposal: A “buy local” program.

With support from the council and City Hall, REDI launched a six-week marketing blitz to capture Rockville dollars at Rockville businesses. It included banners, a database of participating stores and a drumbeat from public officials to support Rockville retailers and restaurants.

After the holiday season, as planned, REDI handed off the program to the , Sternbach said.

The Buy Rockville initiative spawned the program and .

“We don’t need to own things,” Sternbach said of REDI’s role. “We need to get good things started and turn them over to the people who can—and should—keep them going. So we’re sort of the test lab.”

Tomorrow: Selling Rockville.

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