Change has never been more necessary than now. In light of the recent economic impact of COVID-19, it may indeed be mandatory if a community is to survive.
In recent columns, we have spent time discussing the solid financial reasons for spending our personal and local government dollars hyper-locally. Oftentimes, what gets lost in these conversations are the intangible community benefits that come from spending our funds at locally owned and operated businesses. Those benefits are immense and ought not be understated.
For those new to this column, hyper-local for purposes of these columns means businesses or chains that are locally owned and operated.
Recently, I came across a great info-graphic put out by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance pointing out many of the intangible elements associated with hyper-local spending. While this isn’t a complete list of reasons, it certainly provides food for thought and a great starting point for this column.
First, spending local is a great way to strengthen your own community and local economy. Locally owned and operated businesses tend to hire local people and utilize local services. While all businesses pay local taxes, locally owned businesses are far more likely to support local causes and nonprofits. This support comes in more ways than just financial; it comes through serving on local boards, volunteering, community pride and so forth. These intangibles should not be undersold. Your local community is only as good as its economic base, and we need to be pulling out all the stops 24/7, 365 days a year to strengthen and build our local economies.
Secondly, shopping local allows you a greater opportunity to benefit from local expertise in certain areas you wouldn’t experience when shopping on Amazon. An example might be informational things or the ability to actually try on a piece of clothing. It can also lead to finding other unique and locally made items you may not have found while shopping online or out of town. Those are pieces of information you forgo when not shopping locally.
Thirdly, when you shop at locally owned businesses, you are also casting a vote for the American dream. You are voting with your pocketbook and saying you believe in your community. You want to see it flourish.
Your dollars and real economic growth
There are many pathways for entrepreneurs to flourish, one of the most effective ways is for them to be pushed upward by their community supporting their locally owned businesses. Your dollars spent locally are in a true sense investing in enhanced local entrepreneurship, which then results in real economic growth.
Fourth, another of the benefits when spending hyper-locally is the connectivity you experience when shopping in your local brick-and-mortar locations. You bump into old friends; you might even make new friends along the way. As we have learned through the COVID-19 stay-at-home routine, we crave interaction and friendship, something we have found we miss. By being in the community and bonding with others, we add to the hustle and bustle that a local downtown or Main Street bring; something we find isn’t available when shopping out of town or online. Don’t underestimate the value to the community of this benefit.
Overcoming information starvation
Lastly, we live in a world where information has never been more available, yet many residents in local communities are information starved. While information is actually more available; due to the fragmentation of the endless media and information options, we have a tough time knowing where to find the right information for the right topic. Shopping hyper-locally, spending time in your community among friends and peers while sharing information with each other is a great way to start overcoming this information starvation.
In order for any community to survive and thrive over the long haul, it takes the local business base to flourish and prosper. Local governments, communities and residents alike can control and assist in this thriving opportunity by simply seeking as many ways as possible to support and shop hyper-locally.
The future of our small and medium sized towns will rely on the success of locally owned businesses. When we support them, we are building our own Main Streets and sending that much less to Wall Street. When we figure out ways to build our downtowns through a locally owned business base, we are building long-term sustainability and increased self-reliance. Those two items are what will assure our community survives the economic conditions, regardless of what they might be.
John A. Newby, author of the "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street " national column dedicated to helping communities and local media companies combine synergies that allow them to not just survive, but thrive in a world where truly-local is lost to Amazon, Wall Street chains and others. His email at: [email protected]