In conjunction with the Cities of Gering and Scottsbluff, Twin Cities Development (TCD) is launching Experience Local BINGO to remind people of the importance of shopping locally.

TCD Project Director Michelle Coolidge said the idea came from a recent business roundtable when a participant suggested a local version of the state’s Passport Program.

“The focus of our discussion was to make sure people weren’t getting too reliant on internet shopping,” Coolidge said. “Local business was at a disadvantage when so many of them were closed and had other restrictions as they were coming out from under the coronavirus pandemic.”

Communities in other parts of the state have been launching programs such as BINGO to encourage people to shop locally.

Coolidge said the Experience Local BINGO game is also geared toward getting people to visit local attractions they might not have seen for years.

“There’s a structured setup to giving businesses from Bridgeport to Morrill along Highway 26 the opportunity to participate,” Coolidge said. “That includes restaurants, shops, attractions and other venues.”

Businesses that want to participate contribute merchandise or gift cards toward the BINGO prizes. Cards are then distributed to the business’ customers. If the customer purchases $10 or more of merchandise, their card is marked with a sticker from that business.

By doing business with participating stores, customers go for five consecutive spaces, either up, down, across or diagonally to win a prize. If they get a blackout, that card goes into a drawing for the grand prize.

“We’re starting Experience Local BINGO on Aug. 1,” Coolidge said. “It’s scheduled to run through the month, but if the interest is there, we’ll continue the game through the fall.”

Starr Lehl, Scottsbluff’s economic development director, said the area has so many great shops to patronize and attractions to visit. They hope Experience Local BINGO will be a fun game that will help hometown commerce.

“People’s livelihoods depend on local shopping,” Lehl said. “During the pandemic lockdown, people got used to shopping online. We want the public to get back to supporting our local businesses whenever they can.”

Lehl pointed to a positive outcome when the COVID-19 pandemic caused restaurants to close completely for some time. Owners started offering curbside service, delivery and drive-through until they could reopen.

Even after dine-in service was restored, they continued to offer the services that helped them get though the crisis.

Coolidge said that as restrictions are loosened, it’s important for people to get back into the habit of shopping locally and supporting hometown businesses.

“People can sometimes forget they’re helping their neighbors by shopping locally,” she said. “They own the businesses that donate to the Little League teams and to school functions.”

Another important reason to shop locally is that sales taxes from those purchases go back to the town, helping lower utility rates and providing other city services that the public relies on.

“That little bit of extra revenue for your local town can have a big impact on their budget,” Coolidge said.

To sign up, business owners should contact Allie Battleson at TCD, 308-632-2833. Or they can email: for more information. Or reply to the email sent out to the business community earlier this week.

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