It is hard to imagine our small towns with no commerce, no stores, and no where to get a gallon of milk. This is all possible if Americans keep with the newest trends in shopping habits that will force our communities will become virtual ghost towns. Hundreds of thousands of business will have to close their doors, unemployment will continue to climb, and economy will further worsen as our country deficit continues to climb.
We all have seen the campaign for “Shopping Locally”; As a former locally owned business owner, I’ve heard all the excuses in the world for not shopping locally including: “I just can’t afford it”, “I am heading to the city anyway”, “It’s too rich for my blood”, and so on. I feel that many of these individuals don’t understand the importance of our local businesses – focusing more on their bottom lines forgetting about the community as a whole.
Shopping locally does not mean that you have to cut off the outside world – it means nurturing locally owned businesses which use our local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local customers. Alternatively it also means to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports and feeding profits from boardrooms of distant corporations and back into the community – where it belongs.
There are several people that take great pride in shopping locally (vs. buying online from some big e-tailer), they miss the point by hitting up a big name retailer. It may seem like the thing to do as these places employ local citizens and collect local sales taxes, but a significant portion of there revenue goes elsewhere.
Shopping local is more than just talking about keeping sales tax dollars within our communities; it’s about keeping jobs in our communities, keeping our schools functioning and feeding our local charity organizations.
A study from Maine in 2003, found that for every dollar spent at a locally-owned establishment, 45% of that revenue stayed in the local community with another 9% being spent elsewhere in the state. These expenditures include employee wages/benefits, supplies and services from other locally-owned businesses, state and local taxes and charitable contributions. The study contrasted that for every dollar spent in a chain store, only 10% of that revenue stayed in the local community, with nearly 100% of that amount is spent on payroll – the balance of the revenue flows to out-of-state suppliers and back to the main corporation.
Many of our locally owned businesses help support our local non profit organizations such as churches, girl scouts, boy scouts, and civic clubs. It was almost a weekly occurrence that a local non profit was coming into my business asking for donations, discounts, and other items that was gladly provided. As a business owner, I knew this was a great marketing strategy and showed that I supported my community – and I was proud of that; However, the business keeps giving contributions to these organizations, and the community returns the favor by shopping with large chain stores, big box online vendors, yet wanting a larger payout year after year. Soon enough the business will not be able to perform these types of transactions as they have to start surviving to keep their doors open. Later the business closes and its one less income source for our local charities – that will in return raise the cost of tickets or admission to compensate for the loss of sponsorship dollars. This isn’t always the case; however this is one example of the pyramid effect by not shopping at locally owned businesses.
Many shoppers have this conception that a business owner can buy products for pennies-on-the-dollar and resell them in their stores for high profits. This is a big myth and the most hated idea by all business owners. The fact is that most local businesses buy in low quantities of their products and supplies therefore they are charged a higher price by their vendors. Locally owned businesses also have to factor in overhead, state and local taxes and employee costs while large box corporations have contracts with local cities and states to have their taxes reduced, with the large amount of employees their cost per employee is lower, and the corporations can afford big fancy TV ads – to entice you into their stores.
Our locally owned businesses are owned and employed by your neighbors, friends, or a family member. It affects us all. Here is another example of what happens when a locally owned business closes its doors. Many small businesses may have fewer than five employees that will have to start looking for a job – a process that could take several months, and putting a strain on our state’s unemployment system. It is also a possibility that a couple of those employees or the owner may be forced foreclose on their home – which happens to live next door to you. The house goes on the market at a reduced rate lowering your homes value.
We all can agree that our economy is in dire stress and each day it gets harder maintain a positive outlook. There are several hundred thousands in financial strain due to job loss, hundreds of thousands of homes that have been foreclosed – many of those homes are not expected to be recovered until the late 2015 and some experts see it going as far as 2020. We all understand that shopping 100% locally just isn’t feasible with the lower incomes households are making today. The idea of shopping locally allows for the part of having to shop out of town for many things. Most importantly, in Colusa County when it comes to patronizing a locally owned business, there generally aren’t that many options either in products or within budget. The fallout of not shopping local is the person that does ALL of their shopping out of town.
My family does make trips to Wal-mart, Home Depot, Sam’s Club, on a regular basis but we still make the effort of buying from our local businesses whenever possible. I will often check with my local store if I need an item before heading on out to the ‘city’.
The costs with traveling out of the area for shopping can be quite the eye opener for many. Shoppers armed with their lists, coupons, and budget they make the drive to Yuba City. The drive alone will cost an average of $12.50 to $17 for a round trip – with fuel prices in the $3.99 range. With an average grocery bill of $175 per week, a study has shown that shoppers will spend an average of 25% more than their allotted budget when shopping at large retail-grocery combination stores – by purchasing impulse items and splurging on items that were not budgeted. I wonder how many readers have gone into Wal-mart for groceries and came out with a household appliance or item that was never on your shopping list because it “was a good deal”? So at the end of the day you have spent 33% over your budget.
It’s tough to “buy local” when there are just so few options. What can we do to improve this? Or the biggest question of all, “how can we grow and educate our communities to support our locally owned businesses and boost our local economy?”
The City of Colusa has recently been criticized for hiring a consultant at a staggering figure of $7,875 a month for providing a direction on economic development. This was about the most laughable mistake the city could have ever of made. The city was trying to head in the right direction with developing commerce within its city, however using public funds to pay a firm to dazzle the council’s imagination was like a bad mash-up of the Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The ideas that were expressed by the consultants are out of this world and would take dozens of years to even begin the process of such development. The citizens of the city are looking for a solution that will kick start jobs, and commerce right now and this is only can be done through small businesses, not big pocket corporations.
Just a few short years ago I was on our local chamber of commerce board of directors; the organization was in full swing and was making huge progress with the community. We were boasting with ribbon cuttings for new businesses, hosting special mixers, and working hard on marketing and developing our county into a thriving place for businesses. Yet, due to the economy, the lack of support and the media’s resort to sensationalism the organization has slipped back into its shell – hiding out of the public eye.
In a recent letter by the City of Colusa, it was mentioned that they were members of the chamber of commerce and had a city liaison – and commented that they have never seen progress of the organization itself.
When I resided on the board, both the City of Colusa and the City of Williams were $500-$1000 members – although they contributed through a small financial gesture, the organization never received any feedback from the two agencies – council members rarely attended ribbon cutting, chamber meetings or provided the group any kind of suggestions or feedback on the attempts the organization was making.
When you look at thriving cities such as San Luis Obispo, Chico, and Sacramento – they all have something in common a thriving chamber of commerce – in which the cities and businesses support and get involved. I have participated in many community development organizations such as the Arbuckle Revitalization, and the Citizens for a Better Williams and what I have noticed is that there are only a small group of people who are willing to do something about the issues – and an even bigger group to complain about the issues or complain about those who are trying to make a difference. If we all want to live in a better place we are going to have to work together as a whole.
I feel that everyone is driving race cars – they are driving at top speeds towards one finish line. Reality is that everyone should jump on a train and work together, laying out the tracks and shoveling coal into the engine. In addition, all this work is being thrown into the City of Colusa for economic growth when the ideal location for growth of commerce is right in the City of Williams, an excellent location with the intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 20.
The best vehicle to choose for economic development is with the local Chamber of Commerce, a non profit organization that is set in place to foster and develop a thriving and sustainable economy in order to enhance the community’s way of life. Quality of life is defined as an economic opportunity for all, an aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sound community with quality schools, and education programs with the proactive management of livability issues. Most chamber of commerce’s like our own are a non-profit organization just like your church or other civic organization. The board members are all volunteers and should be business owners of the community.
There is no real quick answer to boosting the economy, or improving commerce – and some may argue my points. However, the most important object is to shop locally within our communities and frequent these businesses on a weekly or monthly basis. If we fail to do so, it will only cost us more to provide for our families and take care of our homes. Take a moment and visit a local business, and make a purchase – after all it will be a sad day when you run into a local business owner at the post office and to hear the news that their business has closed – and for the owners sakes don’t say “I miss your store, I have been meaning to come in and [patronize your business] but I never had the time and I just got it done in Yuba City.” You might as well stab them in the heart now…
Lets all be proactive in this movement in shopping locally. I Lloyd Green Jr., the owner, editor and publisher of the Williams Pioneer Review – a locally owned business – born and raised in Colusa County, – I am going to start making the effort to help out our small businesses. Starting this very issue you will begin to see feature stories of our local businesses and read about ways you can help impact our local economy – let’s make our home a better place to live. ■