Shop Local Benefits Local Communities
Every time a local government provides tax incentives or waives development-related costs for a new big box development, it puts a thumb on the scale to the detriment of local, independent firms. Projects like these are far more common than you might expect, and are sold to policy makers on the assumption that all of the taxes and jobs produced at the new business are actually new to the local economy. I would suggest that market distorting government action like this is among the most destructive products of economic illiteracy in American communities.
Secondarily, independent businesses are asking consumers to consider local alternatives for a small portion of their eating, drinking, and shopping trips. Independents believe they can compete with chains in offering value for money. They are more price competitive than you may assume, and they offer additional value to the consumer that chains struggle to match. Distinctive products, a menu built around what’s freshest and most economical today, and the lost art of personal assistance are the hallmarks of many independent businesses.
“Buy Local” typically ask consumers to consider local alternatives for just 10% more than they do today, confident that small businesses will earn the loyalty of those new customers. No need to buy sheep and a loom, but there is some world class cheese coming out of Utah these days that your readers might be pleased to discover.
The Civic Economics study released in Salt Lake City last week provides area residents a compelling reason to consider those independent businesses and give them a chance. Local firms recirculate more money locally than their chain competitors, and that translates into concrete improvements in the local economy: a home on your street renovated; an extra something in the collection plate at your church; a sponsor for your child’s little school science fair and then a responsible job when that child grows up.
So, I would end by reiterating what we documented last week. A small change in the habits of local consumers can make a substantial difference in the local economy, to the tune of nearly a half billion dollars every year.
Dan Houston, Co-author of Civic Economics Stucy