Do you value a healthy, thriving, and robust local economy? Have you wondered about how you can do more, perhaps by investing some of your money in local businesses? You are not alone. Many folks in Ithaca and the surrounding area are asking, “Can I make a difference? …And how?”

Sustainable Tompkins has been hosting meetings on the topic of local green investing since last summer, and our working group is starting a local network of potential investors and emerging or established entrepreneurs working to create a more just and sustainable local economy. Many of us are tired of inadvertently funding the global casino through our retirement and investment portfolios. We want our savings and investments to be working in alignment with our values, and it seems the best way to make sure that happens is to invest locally.

Today’s SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) rules prevent people from investing privately in a business opportunity unless they are already in relationship with the owner of the enterprise. In several cities, supporters of the local economy movement have found a way to help people meet SEC rules by bringing them into relationship via fun social and educational gatherings called LIONs – Local Investing Opportunity Networks.

At a LION gathering, local residents come together, often over food and drink, to get acquainted, to hear each other’s stories, and to meet local entrepreneurs. Out of these relationship networks, new opportunities for local investing naturally arise. For example, if you are interested in supporting our local food economy, you might find yourself talking to a local farmer who is partnering with a young entrepreneur to start a food processing business using the farmer’s crops. Without an established credit rating, the young business owner might not qualify for a bank loan. But perhaps you could provide the loan and offer terms that give you a return on your investment without draining the emerging business of the profits they need to grow. Our local food system is strengthened. Jobs are created. You have the satisfaction of knowing your money is working in harmony with your values.

You can learn more about the Cayuga LION here. But we hope you will also join us in person on Tuesday, April 24 from 5:30-7:30 pm at La Tourelle Inn on Rt. 96B, just down the road from Ithaca College. We’ll get acquainted with each other, learn more about how a LION works, and start the process of understanding how to evaluate risk and learn what to ask for from a prospective business investment partner.

If things go well, we’ll meet again in late May to continue the process of coming into relationship with our local green entrepreneurs. We’re hoping for a good turnout at this first gathering. It will take time to build this network together, but we are excited by the possibility of co-creating a more vibrant and just future for our community by building an economy that works for all of us.

Please rsvp to so that we can estimate how many seats and refreshments to order from our good green friends at La Tourelle. There is an entry fee of $7 to cover refreshments.