The Needs of Local Businesses Outweigh the Needs of the Chain, or the Internet
Elissa Hillary heads Local First, a Grand Rapids-based organization started in 2003 by Guy Bazzani in order to boost consumer support of local businesses. She was interviewed on a September 4 segment of "Stateside" on Michigan Radio.
|Meijer is a regional grocery chain that has been|
operating out of Grand Rapids, Michigan since
1934 and many of their products are local.
The internet provides another stumbling block, and this is particularly depressing, because unless you are ordering from a local business 100% of the proceeds from your purchase leave your community. Hillary suggests that when we view our expenses we shift from looking at price and start looking at cost. While the sticker price of a product or service from a chain or internet source might be lower than that of a local business, the cost to the community is egregious. Money leaving the community leads to stores closing and jobs leaving the community which leads to a reduction in government tax income - which you know they'll take from somewhere else. For Hillary, every dollar you spend is a vote, so if you spend your money at a local business, you are voting for that local community and the success of your community.
Grand Rapids has always been very entrepreneurial, and in the last decade or so it is a mecca for start-up businesses. When I moved out of state several years ago, I remember going to all of these interesting places and thinking: Grand Rapids doesn't have cool bars or restaurants; Grand Rapids is boring. When I moved back a couple years ago, everything had changed. It was like going from black-and-white to technicolor.
My future father-in-law Cliff Yankovich has been writing about this kind of stuff for at least as long as I've known him on his blog called Cliff's Riffs. I would be lying if I said I had any earlier influence on this subject than his writings and the life he leads. In 2009, he challenged his readers to spend $10 a week locally if we wanted an extra $36 million in the state economy and he subsequently provided example after example on how easy it is. Because he is connected to two local businesses, he's written articles on "the impact of doing small (micro) business" and "the net effect of doing business with a local shop." Cliff is telling the same story as Local First - people need to start thinking about where their money is going.
Visit Local First at their web site. After you're done learning about this community support group, buy a local coffee or ice cream cone. It is so easy, you'll kick yourself for not starting earlier.