By Chris Watson
“The real opportunity is to harness the inventive power of the world to locally design and produce solutions to local problems. –Neil Gershenfeld
We all want to buy local. We want to shop, support and spend local. We want to do local activities and go to local performances. Above all, we want small, local shops to be a success. Right?
Of course! National polling suggests that the majority of Americans (69%) prefer to try to shop locally and a full 84% acknowledge that shopping locally is good for the local economy (2017 AYTM survey). So, the question isn’t one of desire, it is one of action. Do you shop local?
No one would ever suggest spending every consumer dollar locally. We live in a globally connected world and let’s face it, Amazon Prime is awfully convenient. So is a drive through national franchise, a rented streaming movie, or a frozen take home pizza. However, local service providers, restaurants, and retailers are more eager for the opportunity to serve you some of the time rather than dominate your spending all of the time. They recognize that they are players in a symphony of spending options and not a solo act. All they are asking for is a chance to serve you…at least some of the time.
To truly begin to support local all we have to do is shift some of our monthly purchasing. Shifting spending is an amazing, dramatic, and most importantly, impactful way of supporting your local community. Start with something simple, like $20 per household per month. Shifting just that small amount per month to a truly local retailor or service has very little impact on our daily habits but tremendous impact on the local economy. It is, in general, a simple decision to make one…and only one, purchase per month from a local vendor.
The One Purchase Commitment
Making one purchase ($20 per household) locally is easier than you think. It will barely register on your megamart excursions and certainly won’t inconvenience you. In fact, it is more of an adventure than a trouble. Trying local products is the easiest. Many megamarts now carry at least a few locally produced items or staples. In our area one of the simplest ways is to buy locally canned or produced products. Dei Fratelli tomatoes and tomato products are readily available and are canned in Northwood.
How about coffee? We have at least a dozen great local roasters, many of which are carried locally. Sure, you may drink coffee by the gallon and buy an in-bulk national brand but why not treat yourself to the good stuff on the weekend? A once-a-month purchase of a local roast is a great way to shift a bit of income.
More of a coffee house person? Why hang out at Starbucks? Our local landscape is dotted with great local coffee houses. Having lunch with an associate or friend? Once a month skip Panera and rediscover Barry’s Bagels or a local diner. Going to Olive Garden? How about Mancy’s Italian, Sebastionos, or La Scola? Why drive through a fast food joint when a quick phone call or online order will get you take out Chinese.
Going to a movie? How about Maumee Indoor Theater…or Sundance Drive In…or The Village Players…or The Rep…or a local collage production? Feeling like a night out? Check out a local winery or brewery instead of a national chain. Want to do something with the kids? Our metroparks, museums, and libraries are replete with activities. Special dinner in for two? Skip the megamart and get your romantic dinner ingredients at Sofo’s or Walt Churchills. Shifting $20 a month is incredibly easy.
The Economic Impact
Just $20 per household per month? Really? How will that change anything? There are around 360,000 households in Northwest Ohio. A little math reveals the power of shopping, eating, or supporting local businesses at the $20 per month level: $7.2 MILLION per month or $86 million dollars annually retained in the local economy. With that kind of economic power the word “just” is a classic misnomer.
And how much does that affect our community? According to the American Independent Business Alliance 48% of dollars spent on a local, independent business is retained locally, compared with 14% spent on a national chain. And purchases on line? It goes without saying that only 1% stays local. Translation? If every household in our community shifted $20 of their monthly spending to a local, independent business or service we would retain over $41 MILLION additional dollars in our local economy.
Local is More Fun
Economic impact aside, shopping locally is just more fun. If we are honest, we would admit that most of us don’t (or rarely) have fun when shopping at a warehouse store or discount mart. And though shopping on line does have its charms, nothing beats talking to a real person about a real product.
Small stores, family restaurants, and local events engender conversation as well. It is difficult, almost impossible in some cases, to avoid talking with someone at a local farmers market or grocery. Economic strength, community involvement, and lots of fun all for the bargain price of $20 per month.
As you begin the new year, why not make it a local new year. Join the growing number of your neighbors who are actively seeking a way to shift their spending habits to support our local economy…$20 dollars at a time. It is a commitment that is easy to keep, responsible to support, and fun to exercise.