By LESLIE EIKLEBERRY
Local business and government leaders want you to Choose Saline County and they're offering an incentive to do so.
Late this afternoon, Saline County and the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce announced the launch of Choose Saline County, an app created to motivate consumers to shop at small businesses within Saline County.
How it works
The concept is a simple one.
1. Download and install the Choose Saline County app from Google Play or the Apple Store.
2. Securely link as many of your debit and credit cards to the app as you want.
3. Make purchases with participating Saline County businesses using the registered debit or credit cards, and by doing so, earn Saline Stars. The stars carry a one-star-to-$1 equivalency.
4. Redeem the stars for their cash equivalency at participating Saline County businesses.
"You don't necessarily have to be local. We have a lot of folks that come into town to shop here," Eric Brown, CEO and president of the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce said.
The importance of small businesses
"Studies upon studies have shown the positive economics of shopping local," Brown said.
He explained that small businesses play an important role as both economic and workforce drivers "by generating $68 of local economic return for every $100 spent with them." Additionally, businesses with fewer than 500 employees account for 99.7 percent of all employers in the United States, he said.
The origin of the app
The idea behind the app came about as local leaders grappled with how best to use a portion of the county's $10.532 million share of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)funding to help small businesses.
"When the Saline County Board of Commissioners accepted American Rescue Plan Act funds, we understood that the purpose of these funds is to help our community recover from the impacts associated with COVID-19 and its affect on our economy," Saline County Commissioner Rodger Sparks said.
By accepting the ARPA funding "we committed to using significant resources to address both the opportunities in our county, such as housing, child care, air service, and infrastructure, as well as the challenges that businesses and non-profits were facing in recovering from the pandemic," Sparks continued. "By pairing our federal funds with consumer choice and technology, county commissioners are making good on this commitment and we invite all Saline County residents and visitors to join us in helping local small business to thrive."
Earlier Tuesday, during their regular meeting, Saline County Commissioners proclaimed June 2022 as Choose Saline County Month.
How the business end works
Saline County will reimburse participating businesses for the Saline Stars they have accepted from customers.
County Administrator Phillip Smith-Hanes said the county has up to three years (2022-2024) to spend the ARPA money.
"We've set aside some funding for each year, and we'll vary that depending on the need and how fast people get out and spend," Smith-Hanes said. "One of the things that retail sales generate in the community is sales tax back to our local governments, and so, ideally, we would like to see this take off enough that it would justify continuing it from our local sales tax."
Brown said business owners who wish to participate in the app can still sign up to do so by contacting the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce.