A local shopping concept taking hold across the country has now taken root in New Milford.

Called the 3/50 Project, the program encourages consumers to pick three small local businesses they wouldn't want to see close and spend $50 each month at those businesses.

The plan was conceived by retail consultant Cindy Baxter of Always Upward, a national online firm, in response to the economic downturn that's affected the country since 2008.

The 3/50 Project is designed to save the "brick and mortar" businesses in local communities -- businesses that have one location operating out of a fixed building, owned by local people, be it a restaurant, dry cleaner, movie theater or retail shop.

The project excludes franchises, chain stores and chain restaurants but does include local business owners who may have three or four locations.

"It's the kind of idea we've been looking for to promote local shopping," said Vin Nolan, New Milford's economic development supervisor. "We're not saying national retailers aren't important. There's value in adding them to our community.

"But the concept of retaining local dollars in the local economy," he explained, "by shopping local is an economic development goal."

Following the 3/50 Project idea wouldn't mean a shopper would have to spend $150 a month in total at the three businesses each month. The idea is to commit to spending $50 each month at local businesses, in total.

"The holidays always find me stopping in at Play on Bank Street, or into The Book Nook," Mr. Nolan said. "Focal Point is another stop. They always offer something unique. I'd miss them.

"I'm sure if Swank on Bank or Sassy Shoes were gone, there'd be folks who would miss them," he added.

Ms. Baxter cites statistics showing that, for every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. Spend that same $100 at a national chain and only $43 would stay local.

Denise Del Mastro, the executive director of the Greater New Milford Chamber of Commerce, is 100 percent behind the 3/50 concept.

"Once I went to the website (www.the350project.net), I loved what I saw," she said. "It's one of those things you know, but when you read it , you go, `Of course.' "

Ms. Del Mastro, Mr. Nolan and Jayson Roberts, president of the Village Center Organization, are getting the word out.

"I have been promoting shopping in New Milford for so long -- 3/50 clarifies the message and puts some numbers to what I've been talking about," Mr. Roberts said.

"Pick businesses you occasionally shop at and redirect your focus of where you shop," he concluded.