When asked to name our favorite restaurant, cafe, bookstore, service or shop, locally owned businesses are the first that come to mind. Just look at the community’s “Best Of” polls as proof. These businesses define our sense of place, help us make memories, connect us to our local communities, and are often the destinations that locals proudly tour with their visiting family and friends.
All too often, though, we forget that the survival of these businesses depends on our ongoing patronage.
Each year brings more and more national chains displacing locally owned businesses. Austin Independent Business Alliance works to reverse that trend by assisting neighborhood business districts as destination locations in becoming IBIZ (Independent Business Investment Zone) Districts.
These Districts, located all over Austin, are home to an exciting variety of locally owned businesses promoting the neighborhoods’ unique blend of services and goods not found in big box retailers. Each IBIZ District reflects the culture, not just of Austin, but of the distinct neighborhood it is in.
We invite you to explore each of the IBIZ Districts and you’ll be speaking local in no time!
History of IBIZ Districts
In 2004, Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) embarked on a program to create Independent Business Investment Zones – IBIZ Districts – in furtherance of AIBA’s greater mission to promote the economic and cultural importance of supporting Austin’s locally owned businesses. The Districts are clusters of such businesses in neighborhoods throughout the city. The criteria for an IBIZ District include:
- At least 75% locally owned businesses—currently all districts host 95% to 100% locally owned businesses
- Contain between 20 and 100 businesses—our current districts range from 23 to 90 businesses
- No more than one mile in walkable distance—our districts range from .4 to 1 mile
Today we have eight IBIZ Districts. Nearly 400 businesses within the Districts benefit from AIBA’s efforts in organizing the merchants, increasing the marketing, and creating events. In 2011, the IBIZ District Program was recognized by the International Economic Development Council for Excellence in Economic Development.
IBIZ Districts are marketed to tourists, increasing the dollars spent in Austin. The Guide to IBIZ Districts is amongst the most popular pieces of information at tourist stops such as hotels, visitors centers, and throughout the districts.
We also assist the districts with problem solving, engaging the surrounding neighborhood and neighborhood associations when appropriate. Examples include:
• The businesses in the North Drag IBIZ District individually tried unsuccessfully to have the open container ordinance extended from 29th St. to 32nd St. AIBA organized these efforts and pulled together the neighborhood associations, UT security, Austin Police Dept. and city staff to accomplish this goal. After much review the ordinance was extended to 54th St. based on police recommendation.
• In the summer of 2013, some businesses in the South First IBIZ District experienced vandalism and break-ins. Using the District’s dedicated private listserv, all merchants were alerted and advised to be vigilant, prompting additional input and discussion among the businesses. The IBIZ District Director contacted the Austin Police Department representative for the District and arranged a meeting in which merchants got answers to questions and received recommendations on mitigating such activity.
• 2015 – working with the City of Austin on parking issues in the East Sixth IBIZ District, which has resulted in a Parking and Transportation Management District (PTMD) in which a portion of the revenues generated from parking meters is shared back with the district for infrastructure improvements.