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Buy or Bye-Bye

Why it's important to support locally owned businesses

By Elaine B. Holtz

Our national and global financial systems are coming apart, and as a community we need to start preparing ourselves for some of the challenges that lie ahead. These challenges are an opportunity to evaluate how we can spend our dollars or trade for services while making sure that we are supporting our local businesses.

More than ever in our lifetime, we need to understand the importance of supporting our local merchants and farmers. According to the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), significantly more money recirculates in our community when we buy from locally owned businesses. More money stays because locally owned businesses tend to purchase from other local businesses, service providers and farms. Purchasing locally helps grow other businesses, as well as our community's tax base for public service.

Our area businesses provide the most new jobs. The cumulative strength of small local businesses make them the largest employers nationally, and in most communities they provide the most new jobs to residents. It is also important to recognize that one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of a community's character. Because local owners have much of their life savings invested in their businesses, they have a natural interest in the long-term health of their community. People who own local businesses live in the community and are less likely to leave.

Local businesses encourage investment in the community. A growing body of economic research shows that, in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest in and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

Competition and diversity lead to more choices. A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long term. A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

Research indicates that local business owners tend to support the nonprofits in their area. According to the BALLE research, nonprofit organizations receive an average 350 percent greater support from local business owners than they do from non–locally owned businesses. Various studies have also shown that our locally owned businesses provides better quality customer service.

An additional reason for buying locally is that these businesses have less environmental impact. Locally owned businesses can make more area purchases, requiring less transportation, and usually set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.

In addition to goods and services, we should buy locally grown produce. Almost daily we read about an outbreak of salmonella or other problems related to our food. The reason for this is that the food has to travel so far to get to the consumer. Regarding the transporting of food, it has been suggested that food be grown within 100 miles. Local farmers markets are important. We get to talk with the growers, find out what type of growing methods they are using and where the food comes from while having the opportunity to buy fresh produce which has much more nutritional value.

Shopping at locally owned businesses puts three times the dollars into our local economy. Researchers have found that the economic impact of shopping for goods and services at locally owned businesses is significantly greater than at nonlocal alternatives. In Austin, Texas, Civic Economics found that for every $100 spent at a local bookstore, $45 stayed locally, but for every $100 spent at a chain store, only $13 stayed locally. Transferring some of this money from chain or internet businesses to local businesses can have a huge impact.

Don't give your money away! Keep it in our community, and buy local. By doing this, we will build a stronger and more resilient community, one that can meet the many challenges ahead.


 Elaine B. Holtz is producer of 'Women's Spaces' on Public Access TV. Elaine is a sales and public-speaking consultant. She is available for presentations. Along with consulting, she and her partner Ken Norton run Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc. and GoSmallBiz, which offers plans to individuals and businesses.

Open Mic is now a weekly feature in the Bohemian. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 700 words considered for publication, write [ mailto:[email protected] ][email protected]


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