Voting is open for the annual Most Loved contest allowing locals to recognize their favorite Santa Monica businesses.

The event is organized by Buy Local Santa Monica and voting runs through Feb. 28 online at www.buylocalsantamonica.com/most-loved. There are 26 categories available, one vote is allowed once per computer and an individual business can only win two categories. Following the close of voting, the results are tabulated by the Santa Monica High School statistics class (in partnership with the Buy Local Executive Committee) and winners will be announced on May 2.

Jennifer Taylor, Chair of the Buy Local Executive Committee said the annual contest an opportunity to bring positivity to the community.

“The annual Most Loved Santa Monica contest is a great way for our residents, workers and visitors to give shout-outs to the local businesses they most value and appreciate here in Santa Monica,” she said. “We all have our favorite local spots with local shopkeepers who bring a smile to our face, unique businesses that we are proud to support and want to keep in our community, favorite farmers from our SMFM that we can’t live without, etc.   This is a great opportunity to share the love…and it’s fun!”

The Most Loved event was created by the Buy Local Santa Monica Committee, a partnership of the City of Santa Monica, Downtown SM Inc, Main Street Business Improvement Association, Montana Avenue Merchants Association, Pico Improvement Organization, SM Pier Corporation, SM Chamber of Commerce, SM Travel and Tourism, and the Santa Monica Daily Press, all whom contributed funding to support the creation of the Most Loved Santa Monica contest and awards ceremony.

Taylor said the goal of the event is to celebrate local businesses and put a spotlight on best practices in customer service. The Most Loved Santa Monica Awards Ceremony is held at City Hall where the winners are announced and formally recognized. She said involving city leadership shows the business community that they are valued for the contributions they make to the city.

Taylor encouraged local businesses to participate and in turn, encourage their customers to vote.

“Who wouldn’t want to be voted as a “Most Loved Business” by the community,” she said. “It helps to validate that the winners (and runners-up) are doing something right – they are offering great customer service, a good mix of products/services that are needed and are truly valued by the community, a special place that contributes to the identify of our neighborhoods, etc. The winners receive plaques and window clings that they can proudly display on their shopfront and in their shops and they are recognized in your Most Loved SM Business Guide. It’s also a great way for our local businesses to attract more loyal, local customers. We all want to check out the favorites to see what we’re missing…including our 8 million visitors who want to go where the locals go when they come to Santa Monica.”

Organizers said efforts to promote local shopping have strong impact on community services. City Hall said purchases in Santa Monica raised $7.5 million for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District last year, helping to fund teachers, textbooks and school programs. The $45 million generated in sales tax also helped fund parks, libraries and emergency services.

“When we think local first and spend our dollars at a Santa Monica business, we are essentially reinvesting back into our community and making a real difference,” said Taylor.

For more information on the Buy Local Santa Monica campaign and the benefits of shopping locally, visit www.BuyLocalSM.com.

editor@www.smdp.com