Bruce Harrell: Food Vendors, Unite!

[Updated with quotes from Harrell] The city's ban on styrofoam containers has been increasing costs for small businesses, say small businesses, so City Councilmember Bruce Harrell says those small businesses should unite and form a buying co-op. That way they could get the kind of deals the UW gets; because of its leverage as a high-volume purchaser, the school pays 4 cents for containers that Harrell notes might cost a smaller vendor 25-30 cents.

"Costco has made its profit on the concept of bulk buying," he explains, citing another example. "It's a very simple concept; it just requires some coordination." Small business, he adds, often find it difficult to coordinate. "Why shouldn't we as a council think about this aggressively, especially if we're the ones enacting the policies that raise costs?"

His press release says that "Harrell plans to work with the Department of Economic Development, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Conservation Voters, and the Washington Restaurant Association to build a network of small businesses in the food services sector."

Harrell estimated a roll-out sometime in the next 2-5 months. "This is something a small solo practitioner lawyer could put together pretty efficiently." He says he doesn't know whether other cities have tried the same idea, though it appears a group in Chicago has given it a shot, to mixed results, at least as of last January.

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