"Buy Local"—you see the decal in the store window, the sign at the farmer's market, the bright, cheerful logos, but buying close to home may be more than a feel-good, it's-worth-paying-more-for-local matter. A number of researchers and organizations are taking a closer look at how money flows, and what they're finding shows the profound economic impact of keeping money in town—and how the fate of many communities around the nation and the world increasingly depend on it.
At the most basic level, when you buy local more money stays in the community. Many local economies are weakening not because too little cash comes in, but as a result of what happens to that money. Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the local economy going, when money is spent elsewhere—at big supermarkets and other services such as on-line retailers—it flows out, like a wound. By shopping at the corner store instead of the big box, we keep our community from becoming a ghost town.
What about that higher cost of local goods? After all, big-box stores got to be big because their prices are low. The difference falls away once you consider the increase in local employment as well as the relationships that grow when people buy from people they know. Plus, one could argue, lower transportation, and therefore environmental, costs, and you know what you're getting.
Another argument for buying local is that it enhances the "velocity" of money, or circulation speed, in the area. The idea is that if currency circulates more quickly, the money passes through more hands—and more people have had the benefit of the money and what it has purchased for them. That means more goes into input costs—supplies and upkeep, printing, advertising, paying employees—which puts that money right back in the community.
Here in Chanute, we are experiencing unprecedented growth. It is exciting, invigorating, and a great time to be a Chanute citizen. As I was walking through Hibbett Sports on my first shopping trip at their new location, I had a feel of panic come over me. What if, despite all of this growth, the Chanute citizens do not spend their money first in Chanute? That is a scenario we must avoid at all cost to continue our path upward.
Since moving home from Olathe, there has been one absolute and consistent truth. The customer service you get from locally owned companies is second to none. I have multiple examples of this, but the one that sticks the most out in my mind is our latest home improvement project. The new shutters my wife selected for our house required, of course, to be built from scratch. I was dreading the project as I knew it would take a large amount of time over multiple weekends. But, as luck would have it, I live in a small town, where customer service is king. I walked out of Cleaver Farm and Home with all of my pieces for the project pre-cut. When I got home, I just had to cut the trim, use my nail gun and a little wood glue, and walla! New shutters were up in one day. You would never get that service from the big orange home improvement store.
Even prior to my position at the CRDA, we have made it a point to buy local whenever possible. We make sure to buy our gas here before we leave town on a road trip, buy our adult beverages on our way to tailgate, and so on. It may seem small but those consistent purchases that don’t leave town add up.
Our growth has been one based on unity, and working together towards our common goals. It will take our continued unity to keep our local economy moving in the right direction by remaining loyal to our local businesses, both old and new.