We hear the call to buy local quite often these days but what is often missed is the compelling reasons why.
Let’s start with the acknowledgment that making a commitment isn’t an all or nothing proposition. That isn’t practical. As wonderful as it would be for shoppers to buy a new, high-ticket product like an Apple iPhone® or iPad® made in Colorado Springs; this isn’t going to happen. There are countless goods and services that we depend on that are made better and more efficiently through the global economy of scale. This is why advocates for shopping local need to work harder at framing the conversation. Shopping local first is important to all people and businesses in our region, not just the early adopters among us.
Shopping local first is about making a conscious effort to shift habits and behaviors. We are too quick to opt out of the ‘shop local’ proposition because it isn’t convenient, items may be too expensive, or stores carry a limited selection. We overlook just how many goods and services are available from locally owned retailers. If one can be convinced that access and availability and even price is not a ‘deal breaker,’ then the compelling reason to buy local must next overcome the perceived evaluation of value. Value isn’t as simple as some big box stores and national franchises would like consumers to believe. No one wants or should have to overspend for anything, but how many purchases made are based on price alone? I think of the common phrase, ‘you get what you pay for,’ and what you get is measured in a variety of ways.
Certainly I’m not saying that everything that can be considered local is better nor cheaper, but in a competitive marketplace the demand is on the producer to provide goods and services worth buying. If price were the only defining factor Apple® would not be one of the largest and most successful companies in the world. Apple proves that when there is demand it’s based on the total value of the product or service, not just the price.
Now let me frame the proposition and add to the compelling reasons to shop local. In the last several years there have been many studies that show the economic impact of shopping local. In a recent article provided by the American Independent Business Alliance, it is stated that a dollar spent locally has 3 times the economic impact on a local economy than a dollar spent towards a business owned from outside any local economy. To make that relatable that means that your dollar goes into the pocket of your neighbor who hires employees who are your neighbors. These employees/neighbors pay local taxes and continue to cycle that dollar through our local economy.
It is important to consider local business owners as our neighbors. They share many of our perspectives and circumstances. They drive on the same roads, send their kids to the same schools and enjoy many of the same attributes that the Pikes Peak region has to offer. They also have the option to spend their hard earned dollars at a business you may own or work for.
All too often we think of community in a context of neighborhoods, houses and lawns, but communities are made up of the people who live in these homes and make sure their lawns are kept up and most importantly, look out for their neighbors. Why, because when everyone works to make their neighborhood better they enjoy the direct benefit of living in a vibrant neighborhood. Is this principle the same for our local economic community?
As much as you care and look out for your neighbor you should care and look out for the locally owned businesses in our community. When they do well we enjoy the benefits through an increased local tax revenue base, higher wages and salaries, property values and a lower unemployment rate, which decreases the burden on government.
As I’ve stated, shopping local isn’t an all or nothing commitment. It is about making a shift and it does affect the principles of supply and demand. Buying local increases demand, which improves supply. We want that.
Shopping local has a value that goes beyond price. It is the value of strengthening our community. Make a conscious decision to make a shift this holiday season and shop local.