Accessible Localism: It’s an Actual Thing

September 14, 2013 |

Relax. It’s ok. So you ate at a chain recently. You shopped at a big box store. It’s alright. Really. Well, if it was at that one big box, I’ll need you to provide a proper and viable excuse.

But, really, it’s ok. You see, as much as I absolutely, positively support all things locally owned – it’s the name of this dang column, after all – I also live in the real world. And I practice a specific brand of localism that I like to call Accessible Localism. Yeah, I made that up all by myself and, yeah, my wife pretended to be impressed with me.

But I say it really is a thing. So, after googling it first like a big dork to see if I can really annoy my wife and claim I coined it, I created a definition for it:

Accessible Localism (akˈsesəbəl ˈlōkəˌlizəm) n. A non-hipster, guilt-free approach to localism that encourages the entire population to participate in the building of a movement to grow and strengthen independent, hometown economies rather than celebrate as an exclusive, elitist club of do-gooders.

In other words, get over yourself, do the best you can and don’t judge.

Chances are, you may run into me at some point walking towards my truck with a set of keys in one hand and a venti-capa-frapa-moca-poca-loca in the other. Again, don’t judge. If my mother-in-law wants a venti-capa-frapa-moca-poca-loca, I’m going to get her a venti-capa-frapa-moca-poca-loca. She is a bona fide, professional Nana, with curandera-like powers. I mean she is a 3-year-old-whisperer who loves and takes great care of my son so the least I can do is pick up whatever damn drink she wants.

You see, it’s like this: If we really want to convert localism into an actual, viable, national movement, we need to admit that you and I are the weird ones. I am talking to you, the one holding this awesome magazine in your hands. And me, the nerd writing this column. We are the crazy ones, not the rest of the mainstream population.

You and I are obsessed — or at least inspired — with being independent and hyper local, as Zócalo’s own mission statement puts it. And we are freakin’ proud of it, as we should be. But we are outnumbered by normal people. Most people want to do the right thing, if not for the world, at least for their themselves and their families.

It’s not like anyone says, “I would love to eat food delivered to my grocery store that has been frozen in a truck from Michigan for the past five days. Yes, I prefer that to something local and fresh.” Right? Normal people just don’t see it that way because normal people are tired after work and alternative stuff is just too damn expensive and too complicated to think about.

Now, if you want a real localism movement, find a way for these normal folks to participate. Tear down economic barriers that make it hard for them to join our hipster club and push elected officials to pass localism policies with teeth.

If you want a real localism revolution, recognize that it is us who should join them. We should join small business owners, every day Republicans and Democrats, the young and old and build accessible ways for everyone to participate.

Ironically, the corporate world already gets this. While many of us have been celebrating our indie cred within a limited sphere, national companies have spent millions on consultants and focus groups to find out that localism is catching on and does, in fact, resonate with the masses. So now, more and more, you find “locally owned” this and “independent that” in much of their advertisements.

Meanwhile, our credit unions, our local mom and pops – in fact entire cities and towns – have actual, authentic, built-in, locally owned assets that go unused. National chains have to spend millions to manufacture localism.  We, on the other hand, are made up of the essence of localism and don’t need to manufacture anything.

Do we allow our movement to be co-opted? Will we let them beat us to the punch and reach everyday people with our own cause before we do? Think about it.

So the next time you see me rushing to my truck at 5 a.m. with a venti-capa-whatever or coming out of a pizza chain with my kid, just hug me. Obviously, I would rather have a much better, locally owned cup of joe or slice of pizza, so life must really be kicking my butt to have to break-corporate-glass-for-emergency situation!

Miguel Ortega is an independent business development consultant. His radio program, “Locally Owned with Miguel Ortega”, airs on KVOI 1030AM every Saturday at 11 a.m. You can also listen to his radio columns on KXCI 91.3FM and follow his blog at



Category: Business, Community