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Dollars spent at local businesses build economy

  • Published Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010, at 12:03 a.m.

Buying local seems to be on everyone's "to do" list these days. Local farmer's markets have become a popular place and appear to have grown to include several locations in response to the desire to buy local, fresh produce, meat and handmade crafts.

But buying local isn't just about food. Consider going local for your business or personal needs.

Does your business print materials at a local printer? What about technology? Do you outsource your website to a company outside of the community? Do you use a local firm for your advertising and marketing? Do you bank at a local credit union or other financial institution? Do you frequent a locally owned bookstore or diner, or head straight for the mega book store or chain restaurant?

Buying local is almost like recycling money into your community, and the dollars you spend locally stay in the community longer than dollars spent at a national chain.

Your $15 lunch at the locally owned deli helps that deli owner pay employees, buy products for their business or even support a local charity. That $15 might also allow the owner to hire a local contractor to expand the business. The owner probably uses a local accountant to help with finances, and a community bank or local credit union for financial services. Maybe a local firm does its advertising.

Your hard-earned money is never sent to the "corporate office" across the nation. Their corporate office is right in your very own town.

Buying local goods and products also cuts down on fuel costs, which in turn can help the environment.

Several national organizations exist to promote buying local. The American Business Alliance, 3/50 Project and GoLocal Cooperative are just a few.

According to the American Independent Business Alliance, when a consumer spends $100 at a locally owned business, $45 of it stays in the community. When that same $100 is spent at a national chain store, only $13 remains local.

Here's another way to look at it. The 3/50 Project reports that if half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned businesses, it would generate more than $40 billion in revenue.

The national GoLocal Cooperative gives six great reasons to buy local:

* Buying from locally owned businesses rather than chain stores keeps your money circulating three times longer in the local economy.

* With that money, local businesses create the majority of new jobs.

* Local businesses are, by far, the best supporters of community projects and nonprofits.

* Because they live here, local businesses provide the best customer service and support.

* Buying locally helps protect the planet, because fewer products are shipped from far away places.

* Most of all, supporting local business and products preserves our unique place, not just cookie-cutter Anyplace, USA.

I'm not suggesting boycotting organizations and businesses that are not locally owned; that's unrealistic. Just consider spending a few more dollars a month at a local store, or contact a local business and see if it makes sense to work with them. Our Main Street merchants are the foundation of a thriving local economy, and each dollar we spend with them protects our community and ensures its survival.

Marla Marsh is president and CEO of the Kansas Credit Union Association.

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