The Power of Local

Back Commentary Mar 1, 2012 By Winnie Comstock-Carlson

Several years ago, I wrote in these pages about my enthusiasm for the Buy Local campaigns popping up in communities from coast to coast. Cities like Portland and Philadelphia were building support and sales for their hometown businesses and especially for local retail and service firms.

Since then, a number of communities in our region have launched similar campaigns with analogous success: Davis, Elk Grove, Roseville, Stockton and West Sacramento to name just a few.

Our leading business organizations, including the Metro Chamber and its local chamber partners, have stepped up efforts not only to encourage consumers to spend their dollars with hometown firms, but also to foster something even more important — local business-to-business spending.

I am absolutely convinced that this business-to-business spending could help us pull ourselves into renewed prosperity and employment gains. I believe it is more urgent than ever that we commit to finding sources for most of our raw materials, products and services within our own region and state.

Skeptics may argue that they simply can’t find what they need locally — or even in our own country. I challenge that assumption. In a recent ABC News presentation, a Montana builder showed he could source from American suppliers every single item he needed to build homes — and at only a 1 percent cost increase.

Here is my challenge to Comstock’s readers: Commit to buying the majority of your goods and services from local producers. Think of what we could achieve in terms of increased economic growth for the region as a whole. What could we create in terms of new employment?

I’m not proposing that we never buy outside our boundaries. But, I do propose we buy locally first, unless there are very strong differences in cost, quality or availability.

Every time we spend a dollar within our local economy, 60 cents is retained and recirculated right here, according to the Small Business Administration. That’s at least three times more than if that dollar is spent with a national chain or big-box store. Those local dollars directly strengthen our economy and, when spent within new sectors like clean technology, help build entirely new industries in the region.

If local businesses prosper, they in turn support the local community. We are reminded of that fact every year as we prepare our Capital Region Cares publication and see the strong support local companies give local nonprofits. In fact, research shows that nonprofits in our community average twice as much financial support from locally owned businesses than from large, national companies.

And, community support comes in other ways as well. Note, for example, the current effort by Modesto-based Save Mart Supermarkets to raise money to keep most of Sacramento’s cash-strapped public swimming pools open this summer.

A final thought: How can we ask our customers to buy local if we aren’t doing the same? I don’t think we can.

I hope you agree. And, I hope that thought will encourage you to join with me in building our communities, our region and our state by thinking and buying local.

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