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Finding ways to cut costs, drive business

The City's Office of Neighborhood Development (DND) rolled out a new program this week designed to assist small businesses and non-profits in reducing the cost of their utility bills.

Dubbed "Boston Buying Power," the program creates a City of Boston-wide energy buying group, with the concept that by working in tandem, small offices can save money on their heat and electric bills by buying in bulk at group rates.

A Dorchester man, Steven Rumpler, DND's Acting Senior Business Manager, was contacting Dorchester and Mattapan businesses with the offer this week.

"It is the desire of the City of Boston to provide an opportunity for Boston's businesses to have much more control over their utility bills in this high market volatility and to obtain some certainty about their energy costs," Rumpler said.

"There are two ways to save energy dollars: either use less energy, or pay less for what you use. Boston Buying Power addresses both aspects and provides your business with the most effective purchasing and energy services the market has to offer through this City of Boston program.

"Boston Buying Power will combine the purchasing power of thousands of commercial and industrial customers across the greater Boston area, giving businesses a host of incredible benefits, including low pricing, and long-term rate stability."

Rumpler said his agency and Mayor Menino were pleased with the early results of the program: "The initial purchases for those businesses that joined Boston Buying Power were very successful. We were able to create significant savings on the cost of electricity for businesses that had enrolled. We will be executing the next gas and electric purchases over the next few weeks and believe that the savings will be close to the first group purchases."

For those interested in more detail, visit bostonbuyingpower.com, or call DND at 888-317-3923.

Meanwhile, the growing economic malaise continues to show ill effects throughout our neighborhood. Recently, several popular restaurants have discontinued their luncheon business, resorting instead to opening their doors at 4 p.m. At Ashmont, Dot Ave's new and popular Tavolo Restaurant is reaching out with continuing special-interest promotions as a way to entice locals to come out of their homes and enjoy their offerings. On Monday night, a first-ever "meet your neighbor" promotion brought together folks from Ashmont Hill, Adams/Ashmont and the new Fuller/Bailey Street neighborhood group for a meet and greet, hors d'oeurves-filled social. For a $10 cover, the event drew upwards of 80 people out of their homes on this mid-winter night, with one Tavolo regular saying the surprising turnout brought many new folks he had not met before. But that, of course, was owner Chris Douglass' intention - that and also to introduce new customers to his new menu.

This weekend, Valentine's Day specials abound across town, with Phillips' Freeport Tavern on Morrissey Blvd. offering a special price fixe "three course dinner for two" on Friday and Saturday nights, and Tavolo features its own Saturday night promotion, a "Swinging Singles Dance Party," billed as a "Lonely Hearts Club/Anti-Valentine's Day" buffet dinner and dance.

In this time of uncertainty, it's great to see the extra efforts underway - at the city government level as well as by local merchants 0 to help manage through these turbulent months. We are reminded that a strong and vibrant business community is essential to a neighborhood's vitality. It's a good time to remind one and all: Support our local merchants, and shop locally.

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