The winners emphasized the benefits of doing business locally.
There was enough community spirit at the Isthmus Independent Business Awards ceremony to power a city twice Madison's size.
Held on Monday, under high ceilings at Steenbock's on Orchard, the Indies honored eight local businesses dedicated to making Dane County a better place to live, work, shop, create, and eat organic ice cream. The winners looked like a cross-section of the region -- young and old, male and female, bearded and clean-shaven, wearing ties and t-shirts. They earned their awards by being innovative, environmentally conscious and community-minded, along with independently owned. "The independent spirit makes Madison what it is," said host Linda Baldwin of Isthmus, which sponsors the awards with Heartland Credit Union.
After tucking into a luscious Steenbock's spread, the several dozen attendees feted Marilyn Burke of Marilyn's Salon and Opera House; Milele Chikasa Anana, publisher of Umoja magazine; Chris Meyer, the driving force behind the hackerspace Sector67; Tim and Kevin Metcalfe of Metcalfe's Market; Jim Birkemeier of Spring Green Timber Growers; landscape architect Steven Ziegler; Timothy and Renee Farley of Farley's House of Pianos; and James Baerwolf of Sassy Cow Creamery. Baerwolf is the purveyor of the aforementioned organic ice cream, produced on his family farm north of Sun Prairie.
The winners emphasized the benefits of doing business locally. We learned that of every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $67 stays in the community, as opposed to $43 for a non-locally-owned business. When you buy over the Internet from a non-locally-based business, chump, precisely $0 stays in the community.
"Without local businesses, we wouldn't be in the top 20," said Chikasa Anana, speaking of the area's consistent placement in best-places-to-live polls. "Walmart doesn't put you in the top 20."
Ziegler, principal of Ziegler Design Associates, typified the business owners' save-the-world orientation. "We connect people to the land so everybody wins," he said. "We ennoble and empower people to get more out of life. Building communities is what we indies are all about."
Though only 26, Meyer is hard to beat as a community builder. His Sector67 is a tech center bringing together geeks of all kinds -- from young kids to retired engineers -- who want to make things, often collaboratively. "We give people access to tools and equipment to do really cool stuff," Meyer said.
I predict that no one who attended the Indies ceremony will ever buy a non-organic corporate ice cream cone again.