Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Doing The Right Thing

I am trying this post her before I put it on my business blog. I feel as if it might be a little incendiary... so I am looking for feedback. My friends who love me despite my flaws, know my penchant for getting on a soapbox. I have tried to take the hectoring tone out of this post. Let me know what you think!

I have recently begun to read about the Buying Local movement. It is far more complex than I imagined bringing in the opinions of economists and talk of issuing local credit cards. It requires an understanding of how money works and moves through a community.

It is, nevertheless, an idea I feel whose time has come. It is an idea in response to the sprawl of markets getting larger and less responsive to its consumers and to the world they inhabit. It is something that my mother instilled in me as a young girl. She would have me walk down to the local clothing & shoe stores at the beginning of each school year. I picked out what I needed at these stores and they would bill my mother. She was buying goods and services from her neighbors.

I currently serve on the board of Main Street Concord, Inc., an organization that is devoted to the historic preservation of my city through economic development. Main Street communities can be found throughout the US. They are the more public face of the National Historic Trust. One of their basic tenets is to support your local businesses. People might recognize these communities by their updated building facades, noticeable hustle & bustle and a certain amount of je ne sais quoi ...... civic pride.

But buying local goes beyond civic pride, it is about economic determination. It is about taking the money you earn and making a difference. By buying local you can "maximize local ownership and minimize the leakage of income, wealth and jobs" in the words of a friend who wrote so eloquently about it. Locally owned businesses are owned and run by your neighbors, who in turn will spend their money supporting other businesses, and perhaps even buying your goods and services (thanks Mom!). That money also goes into the tax base which, as much as we might hate government we all love the services they provide- snow removal, garbage removal, street lights, educating children, fire & police protection and on and on. It keeps all that money circulating in your economic ecology instead of sending it away.

But what is local? Is it your town, your state, your country? I think it is all of those things, but more importantly it is independently owned businesses. It spans the market from your neighborhood farmer to your neighborhood bookstore and even art galleries! When your money is spent at small, independent stores it goes towards the employment of people at a fair wage rather than into the pockets of shareholders. Can you always buy this way? Sometimes it is really tough and occasionally impossible. I don't beat myself up about choices I make, but it is something I always keep in the back of my mind- money spent locally is money well spent.

There are lots of resources out there to tell you why buying local is important such as BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies), Worldwatch Institute, or National Cooperative Business Association. Check it out yourself.


Michelle said...

Sounds good, though the title is a tad condescending. Kind of heavy for the gallery blog? Maybe focus on local arts. no one wants to be guilted when buying luxury items

LYC said...

I didn't think it sounded hector-ee....I have been hearing more in the media about the importance of buying local...and I try too!

Anonymous said...

Concord so needs a group focused on supporting independents. Coincidentally, Concord, MA, just started an Independent Business Alliance: http://www.concordiba.org/

The post didn't mention the leading national organization in the movement: The American Independent Business Alliance - http://amiba.net - that networks local groups around the country. I see NH has just one so far (in the Laconia area): http://www.bibanh.org/

JAF said...

I think this is an important post for your business site. Culture is one of the primary determinants of downtown vibrancy, right? So you should be using your influence and pointing people in the right direction with regard to all of their left-over dollars...or, dollar. You might want to shorten it a little and make it a little more upbeat for your site though. My 02...WHICH YOU ASKED FOR!?!?! BTW, I've been trying to say goodbye to the big boxes for a while -- mostly because (as you know) I tend to get ticked off at things and my economic vote means NOTHING at the big boxes -- there's always another customer behind you (or at your feet if you're trampling).
Also, you must know Mary Beth from Hannah Grimes in Keene? www.hannahgrimes.com

JAF said...
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SMC said...

Michelle- Okay- I hear the condescending part. Will step off my pedestal and issue some apologies.

LYC- Every dollar is a vote!

Rosse- thanks for the tips! I will include those links.

JAF- Yeah the big boxes can be so dehumanizing- sort of the consumer equivalent of raising veal.