As the holiday season rolls along, Tri-Valley cities and chambers of commerce hope shoppers will head home for the holidays -- and year-round.
"Before you get in your car every day, think about what we have right here -- there's just something nice about supporting local business, and those dollars we all spend do go to support local services," said Leigh Boyd, an economic development consultant for the City of San Ramon. "It's a win-win-win."
The city, in cooperation with the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Advisory Committee, has relaunched its "Shop San Ramon First" project, designed to boost connections between local businesses and residents. The program's website has an interactive directory at which visitors can locate local businesses, print out coupons, look at menus, find store hours and ask questions. Any business with a license can enroll on the site for free.
Along with the website, residents can find links to social media and a demographic guide to the city. Newly designed shopping bags are being given out around town, and a mobile app is in the works.
"This is all part of a city doing business and part of economic development; we're just picking up the pace a little," Boyd said. "Most business people I talk to are really excited about it."
The Danville Area Chamber of Commerce, which also serves Blackhawk, Diablo and Alamo, works continually to encourage local spending, said chamber President Shelby McNamara.
"It's a constant struggle," she said. "Danville is right in the crossroads; you can go to Walnut Creek or Pleasanton. We have to stress shopping locally ... it's sales tax dollars back into our community. There's nothing worse than seeing a boarded-up downtown, and it can happen again. Online is here to stay, we know that. But online doesn't know your name. I have a bookstore here that calls me with recommendations on what I might like to read .... That's part of what makes your community your community. If downtown and the Livery (Danville Livery & Mercantile) went away, it would just be a subdivision."
Like other communities, Pleasanton has hosted special downtown events to encourage strolling and shopping. Residents can also find a business directory mobile app, as well as other resources.
"One thing that was spearheaded by the city in conjunction with the downtown association and the chamber and Hacienda Business Park is 'InPleasanton.com.' " said Laura Olson, director of the Pleasanton Downtown Association. "It's all about shopping, dining and doing things in Pleasanton. Everyone is given a basic listing, and businesses can then beef up their listing -- they can add photos, special events, coupons, links to social media and tweets."
Livermore also offers a comprehensive website, as well as extra incentives, said Rachael Snedecor, executive director of Livermore Downtown. "We have an Instagram contest where visitors can come downtown and upload Instagram photos of themselves," she said. "When they do that we collected that fun bucket of photos and everyone can see what they just found downtown. Every time you upload a photo it puts you into a drawing at the end of the season for a gift basket. It's a fun way for consumers to connect with shop owners and for shop owners to see how people are perceiving them."
Dublin is in its third year of promoting "Discover Dublin for the Holidays," said Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Feeley. The Facebook site allows merchants and shoppers to connect.
"Businesses can post their profiles, sales, promotions and events to increase traffic to the business," she said. "This year we've started something different -- shoppers can go to the site and 'like' it, and (be enrolled) in a drawing for a gift card."
Every local dollar kept in a city helps maintain that city, said San Ramon's Leigh Boyd.
"Every city is different ... but I think there is a common theme in economic development when it comes to supporting local business," she said. "When businesses do well, cities do well."