Each year brings more national chains displacing locally owned businesses throughout the country. We see clones replace unique establishments. People across the country are losing the sense of community in their town, and consider this trend a symptom, but could it be a cause as well?
Also, what are the impacts of this trend on our economic well-being?
It seems obvious that we do business where we perceive we receive the best value for our time and money. Perceptions, however, are not always accurate when we are lacking some of the essential information for fully informed decisions. We see and hear the omnipresent ads of corporate chains everyday, but are collectively under-informed about the many important values independent businesses provide us individually and as a community.
Some economists would call the chain encroachment a natural trend. Tough for the family who owns the small business, but it doesnt really affect the economy. Overall sales may even go up a little when a chain drives out a small independent, so whats the problem?
The disappearance of local businesses leaves a social and economic void that is palpable and real even when it is unmeasured. The quality of life of a community changes in ways that macroeconomics is slow to measure, or ignores completely. In microeconomic terms, the effect of the loss of local business is felt faster and longer. Put simply, buying local matters.
I believe there are 10 reasons why we should support Buy Local campaigns.
Local Character and Prosperity
In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character have an economic advantage.
Locally-owned businesses build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, linking neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships, and contributing to local causes.
Local ownership ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.
Keeping Dollars in the Local Economy
Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community.
Jobs and Wages
Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.
Entrepreneurship fuels Americas economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.
Public Benefits and Costs
Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls.
Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, pedestrian town centers, which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution.
A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.
A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based, not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.
Now that you know a little more about why buying local matters, Id like to offer kudos to Umatilla School District and their buy-local campaign the last week of October. This campaign and its results really makes you think of the impact each of us can have as an individual.
Mike Mathisen, 43, lives in Hermiston. He works at Two Rivers Correctional facility as food service manager. He is a volunteer for the American Red Cross and a Court Appointed Special Advocate. He is actively involved in the Umatilla Farmers Market. His catering company, Mad Mikes, uses locally grown produce.