By Jordan DeWald
#EatLocal #ShopLocal #SupportLocal – we see these hashtags on ads and pictures. What does it really mean to do these things? Why should I drive to a store across town when I could just place an order while sitting in the pickup line?
There have been countless studies and research produced for how a community benefits when someone spends their dollar locally. To learn more about this I sat down to talk with Drew Pennywell, Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Burleson. Drew has also been the Old Town Tourism Coordinator for the city and has continued to be instrumental in the Old Town Business Association. Drew determined there are three primary ways a community benefits when its members spend their money locally.
The Local Economy is Strengthened
The Multiplier Effect can be applied to local economics. The local consumer has three primary locations for spending their dollar: at an independent local business, at a local but outside owned company, or online with an outside owned company. If someone shops at an independently owned and locally business, on average 48% of each dollar spent will go back into the local economy. If that same dollar is spent at a local business that is owned by someone outside of the community, 14% of that dollar will go back into the local economy. If that dollar is used to purchase something online from a business outside of the community, only 1% will go back into the community only if the delivery driver lives in the local community. So, let’s say there is an item I want to purchase, such as a throw pillow. If I buy one for $20.00 at Accents in Old Town, $9.80 will go back into the economy of Burleson on average. If I bought a pillow at the Burleson Target for $20.00, $2.80 will go back into our economy. If I shopped at target.com and bought that same pillow for the same price as the others, only $0.20 would go back to my community’s economy. The only reason that even happens is because I know that the UPS driver who delivers to my house also lives in my neighborhood.
How exactly does that money go back into the local economy? It happens in multiple ways.
- The independent business owner’s profits are spent in town. They make the choice in how to spend their dollar in the same way you do and when they spend in their community (which is yours), you both benefit.
- Local businesses hire local employees. It boosts the employment rate and keeps people working where they live. This then continues the cycle of that employee then spending their income locally.
- Local, independently-owned businesses give charitably to the community. A corporately owned company also gives charitably but at half the rate that an independently owned company gives. Also, consider the charitable beneficiaries of the local businesses. These beneficiaries are often the smaller organizations unknown to the larger corporate companies. For example, your kids’ sports teams are often sponsored by someone connected to a player or involved in the community. I have seen BYA baseball players with Alpha Omega Pest Control or House of Air on their uniforms. Bobby and Caryl Woolard, owners of Woolard’s Custom Jewelers, are extremely generous with their talents. Their names are often listed as a sponsor or donor for local causes, most recently donating a custom piece of jewelry to a benefit honoring a special person fighting cancer in Old Town Burleson. Local schools and community needs benefit from the charitable giving of the local businesses.
- Local and independent business owners will likely use other local resources and businesses. By supporting one business with your purchase, you are also likely supporting a local electrician, accountant, pest control, delivery service and insurance agent.
- The community benefits as a whole because the overall general tax burden is lessened by the sales tax received by the local businesses. That makes more city funds available for community building resources.
The Relationships within the Community Itself are Strengthened
I often hear people lament the growth of our community, worrying that it won’t be the town we once knew. My response is always the same. As long as I can still go to a local restaurant or to the grocery store and run into someone I know, it doesn’t matter how much the population grows because the town will remain “small” in my world. That can only happen if you are utilizing the local businesses though, and not going to neighboring cities or only shopping online. You can’t run into an acquaintance or catch up with a friend if you are sitting at your computer.
There is so much more to gain from shopping locally than simply the economic reasons. It is the relationships that are formed and the human interactions that occur.
- Community members can form friendships with business owners and employees. When you frequent a business, or communicate regularly with a representative, you can’t help but start to develop a trust and a kindness beyond what you would give a business you rarely interact with. My family has restaurants we enjoy eating at because we enjoy seeing the owners and the staff. Terry and Kristen Hodges with Mojo’s have watched my kids grow up because we started eating there within the first month of Mojo’s opening. I knew it was a new place in town and my family likes to support those. Little did we know that we would gain friends from that. Amber and Paul Rouse with Moontower Pizza and their staff have been the same way, even hosting a benefit concert for my organization.
- The consumer benefits from having the attention of a smaller business. The customer matters much more to the local, independent shop owner than he or she does to a department of a corporate business who has employees rotating in and out. The local pharmacist is more likely to know an individual customer’s medical history. A local landscaper pays attention to what the forecast is for the client’s area and might adjust their schedule to benefit the clients. A local shop owner might remember what the shopper was looking for during their last visit and will make sure to let the shopper know some more items came in. The dentist who sees the child for her dental care all through their childhood will build a rapport with the family. All of these are examples of how the customer or client gets personalized care in their experience.
- Community members interact with one another by utilizing local businesses. First, they physically see each other more often if they are frequenting local businesses providing opportunities for connection. I rarely go into Dwell or Stone Soup without seeing someone I know and can catch up with. Second, talking about local businesses is helpful for all involved. It gives a discussion point to the people talking and helps them to learn about one another’s interests. It also benefits the business significantly (if the review is positive). Word of mouth is the most important influence on a local business’ growth. For that reason, if you have had good service or like a local business make sure you tell people! For the same reason, be careful about sharing bad experiences. Consider if your bad experience was a possibly a single occurrence or if it is worth causing problems for the business owner by you talking about one experience.
The Character of the Community is Strengthened
Finally, the locally and independently owned businesses are what gives our community their character. The individuality of an independently owned business brings something to their city that cannot be recreated anywhere else.
Consider the restaurants of Old Town, and how special they make that area. No other place can recreate Old Town Burleson. Then consider “Restaurant Row” on I-35. There are several cities down interstates that look exactly like that. The only standout that makes it different? Our Place Restaurant. Our Place is the lone local business amidst all of corporately owned restaurants and because of that, and their great food, it is the one that always has the full parking lot! Travelers going through a town are looking for the nationally known franchises. People within the community will often choose to go to a place that is locally owned because it feels more like home. When the people in our community nominated restaurants for Local Love, it was the locally owned restaurants who interact with the community that were the overwhelming favorites.
When you drive through Joshua you see places with blue and white decorations and “Go Owls” on businesses. Those local businesses are showing support for the local schools because they likely have kids in the schools or may be graduates of the high school. In the seven square miles of Crowley, there are lots of memories within the walls of those local businesses. When you notice old pictures on the wall of one of those businesses, I would encourage you to take the time to ask about its history. The stories of your town, from the people who lived them, are treasures.
This Christmas season is the perfect opportunity to Live Local. The most obvious way is to Shop Local. You will be doing a lot of shopping over the next few weeks. Visit our wonderful local merchants and #shopsmall! Beyond shopping for gifts, use local retailers to prepare for the season with items such as groceries, paper goods, cleaning supplies, decorations. Utilize the local services such as salons and cleaning services. There is a great gift-wrapping small business advertised in the pages of this magazine! It is a busy season, making it a great time to Eat Local. Stop by any of the excellent local restaurants (if you need suggestions, visit the Local Love list on Local Life’s website). During this season and always, make sure to be generous with your tips! Living Locally extends well beyond the commerce though. At Local Life we want to help you truly Live Locally. This includes building meaningful relationships and taking time to enjoy the good stuff in life. You will find ways to do that in the pages of this issue. There is a calendar filled with events, many put on by local businesses, that are great for spending time with your family and in your community. There are several local churches in our community that will provide meaningful opportunities to help you to focus on what truly matters in this season and in this life.
Don’t stop after this season though. Through out this article have been pictures of some of our extended Local Life family, our clients. These are the faces of the people who make our community special. Continue to support our community by supporting these businesses through the year. Thank you for welcoming Local Life into your home and letting this small business help you Live Local.