Naked City

Indie-Biz Group Turns Pro

After a year of running on the fuel of volunteerism, the Austin Independent Business Alliance has hired a paid staff to run the affairs of the local-centric business booster group.

New AIBA staff members include: membership and program director Shannon Hornsby, who also works with Trans Texas Alliance and formerly served with Liveable City; communications director Karin Ascot, former Austin Sierra Club chair and member of both the city Environmental Board and the Save Our Springs Alliance board; and fundraiser and event coordinator Melissa Miller, a lobbyist for Cielo Wind Power, former staffer for U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, and veteran of several political campaigns.

Founding AIBA board member Rebecca Melancon, publisher of The Good Life, says the staff will help AIBA move forward on a slate of events and programs planned for the first half of the year, including an upcoming silent auction and a Celebrate Your Independents July 4 program. "Our goal is to substantially increase membership in AIBA beyond our current 235 members, so that we can accomplish even more to support and promote locally owned businesses," Melancon said.

Since its formation early last year, the AIBA has tripled its membership and has demonstrated its strength in numbers. It was at the forefront of efforts to prevent a Borders store from locating – with city subsidies – at the new Whole Foods-anchored office/retail center at Sixth and Lamar, across from AIBA founding members BookPeople and Waterloo Records. The group has also been active in the last year's efforts to counter the impact of invading big-box chain stores like Wal-Mart and Lowe's on local Austin businesses, organizing the "Austin Unchained" buy-local event held last November.

In addition to Melancon, AIBA board members include BookPeople's Steve Bercu, Wheatsville Co-op's Dan Gillotte, Planet K's Michael Kleinman, and political consultant Mike Blizzard of Grassroots Solutions. Bercu, the AIBA president, also serves on the small-business task forces organized by both City Hall and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. More AIBA info is available at

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Big Box, Austin Independent Business Alliance, Shannon Hornsby, Karin Ascot, Melissa Miller, Rebecca Melancon, AIBA, Steve Bercu, Dan Gillotte, Michael Kleinman, Mike Blizzard

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