Amy Cortese


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December 12, 2008




Perhaps you’ve heard of locavores: people who eat only foods that have been produced within a 100-mile radius. Now some people — call them locavestors — are investing in much the same way. The idea is that, by investing in local businesses, rather than, say, a faceless conglomerate, investors can earn profits while supporting their communities. To help match mostly local investors with capital-hungry local businesses, regional stock exchanges are starting to spring up around the globe.

Consider InvestBX, which was formed to serve businesses looking to raise relatively small sums in England’s West Midlands region. In February, InvestBX’s first listed company, Teamworks Karting, which runs an indoor go-kart center in Birmingham, raised more than $735,000 to open a new track in nearby Reading. In November, Key Technologies, a high-tech firm with 232 employees and annual sales of some $26 million, floated shares worth nearly $3 million. To list on InvestBX, a company must be based in the United Kingdom and have a significant part of its operations in the West Midlands. Companies can raise about $3 million from “local and U.K.-wide investors.”

Local exchanges address a financing gap for smaller companies, which may not be able to attract venture capital and for whom the major exchanges may be out of reach. “Small businesses need funding options more than ever in today’s recessionary climate,” says Trexler Proffitt, a professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., who recently completed a feasibility study for a seven-county Lancaster exchange. (His conclusion: affirmative.)

In a way, we’re coming full circle. Until the 1950s, when they began to consolidate, there were thriving regional exchanges all across the country. “Globalization has been advantageous, but we’re starting to see the sacrifices we’ve made,” Proffitt says. “People are interested in figuring out how to connect to their local communities again.”



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