A region-wide cooperative effort of chambers of commerce and a main street program continues to encourage area residents to shop locally.

“Shop Southern Illinois,” is an awareness campaign built around public service announcements, social media posts and prizes. The program is now in its fourth year, and includes media advertising featuring Southern Illinois University men’s basketball coach Barry Hinson, who urged area residents: “Don’t cross the river and don’t go online. Do your holiday shopping right here, where we all win.”

The program also enlists the help of area shoppers who use the hashtag “#IBuySI” in their Facebook and Twitter posts as a way of encouraging others to purchase locally. Each use of the hashtag gives the poster an entry in a local drawing for prizes donated by area businesses.

Last year, the campaign as named the second-most innovative chamber program in North America by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

“It’s very exciting to have our Shop Southern Illinois program recognized on a national scale,” said Jennifer Buckley, executive director of the Herrin Chamber of Commerce. “The effort is the ultimate in regional cooperation — chambers and businesses all over the region all working together with one goal: making area residents mindful of the importance of supporting our own communities and region.”

Buckley says while the idea of communities working together may be unconventional, it’s a great strategy.

“Any time you can get more than a dozen chambers to work together for the good of the region, that’s quite an accomplishment,” she said. “The bottom line is if for some reason shoppers are not going to make their holiday purchases in our own community, we want them to do their shopping somewhere else in our area. While I certainly want people to shop here, I’d much rather they buy in Harrisburg or Mt. Vernon instead of St. Louis, Evansville or online.”

Information on Shop Southern Illinois is available on the program’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/shopsouthernillinois.

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