Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Questions & Answers

Session: Product Networks and Community Economies

 

From the audience (Jerome Hodos)

I really like what all the presenters have done, but I’m worried about a certain amount of conceptual slippage. Only Julie Graham gives a definition of community, and her definition is institutional and cultural rather than spatial. So I want to ask the panelists to discuss what is local, how big is local, and what a community is

Katherine Shea

This is the quick definition that we were using: it is the community that is included within the city, the dense urban area that is also low-income.

Linda Aleci

And I think it depends. When some people talk about a "community food system," for example, they use that word to refer to ethical outcomes of, as opposed to talking about local food systems in strictly material terms. I don’t mean to sidestep your question; but, as far as food systems go, your question is really interesting, because there are many ways to talk about it. Some people talk about it in terms of food sheds, which have to do with their bio-regions. Some people talk about it more in terms of market, or of geo-political boundaries, so to speak. So, I agree, I think that there is a lot of conceptual slippage, and I think that it depends on the context, in which one is operating. And I will say that there is currently underway, a little belatedly and after the fact, people are now trying to theorize these issues much more closely.

Antonio Callari

One more question, then we’ll have to take a break.

From the audience (Tom Dautrich)

Julie, I think you mentioned that the E2M businesses that are certified and eligible for low-cost funding and low-cost venture capital. How does that come about?

Julie Graham

Well, this is how it works. Businesses that are E2M certified pay their dividends to the local community, which is the community that creates the fund which is administered by the regional economic council. That regional economic council is a lender; and also, a venture capitalist; it is a community lender and venture capitalist. Right now the funds are coming from a local CDC to seed the project, $250,000. But they’re offering lower interest loans to small businesses and venture capital with lower requirements.

From the audience (Tom Dautrich)

So, they are funded by the CDCs?

Julie Graham:

Right now, it’s being seeded by CDCs.

From the audience (Tom Dautrich)

Who funds that?

Julie Graham:

Who funds that is a consortium of different funders, including government funders. So that’s just one of the local CDCs that’s doing it. Their small business director basically set aside $250,000 to invest into businesses…

From the audience (Tom Dautrich)

So presumably, that’s government funding coming from some taxes that were paid by…

Julie Graham:

Yes, there are all kinds of revenue sources there, but eventually the community fund will be the source for all the loans and the capital.

From the audience (Tom Dautrich)

One more question for Linda. Linda, some of the trends that you are concerned about are really caused by consumer preferences. How do you change that?

Linda Aleci

Well, I’m not sure that they are caused by consumer preferences. In fact, all the major national studies that have been done about current consumer preferences show that consumers are, more and more, preferring locally produced, locally grown foods. This is a trend that has been well under way for the past 10 years at least, but it has been accentuated after September 2001, with the recent concerns having to do with global sources for our food system.

Similarly, I had always heard that the product lines at Central Market had shifted because people just wanted prepared and packaged foods. But in fact, in our survey, we found that the vast majority of people we surveyed said that the most important thing for them is local foods. Also, when we interviewed City officials, what they quite readily said was that "it’s easier to get prepared-foods venders to come into the market than it is to recruit in the agricultural community." So, I would say that in fact Central Market is losing a lot of its potential customers because it actually seems to be moving away from consumer demands.

Julie Graham

I have an answer to Schirlyn’s question during the earlier panel today, which was about her difficulty with getting support for her worker-cooperative enterprise structure. And I’m thinking about that diverse economy structure and the diverse possibilities for enterprise structure and enterprise form.

Now, there seems to be so much support for entrepreneurship in Lancaster, and it seems to be focused on individual entrepreneurship. But some kind of support for collective entrepreneurship might also be a good idea in order to broaden the possibilities.