Shop Locally

A phrase I've been hearing a lot lately is "Shop Locally". I hadn't really thought much about that statement until a wonderful lady at a local business asked me to think about what happens each time a community business closes and how the effects of such an event trickles down through the town and its citizens.

Using an admittedly imaginary scenario, but one that occurs quite often in our area, I'll investigate just how this might impact each of us, in the long run.

Let's work with just the individuals this business might employ. In a medium sized establishment we'll imagine that six people worked full time.

The employees all have mortgages on their homes and have a combined 10 children attending local schools.

Okay, the stage is set. Let's see where this scenario will possibly lead.

A large store, a Wal-Mart or a K-Mart, moves into the general area. Due to the chain's ability to buy in huge quantities, they immediately price their wares below what the local establishment can profitably offer. Even though the customer service aspect of the chain is abysmal and one must travel a fair distance to shop, the local population begins doing the vast majority of their shopping there and revel in the savings. Eventually, though, this transfer of funds from the local economy to the chain's distant corporate treasury forces the smaller local business to close its doors and lay off its employees. We now have six employees without a job.

We'll begin by being realistic about the employee's chances of gaining new employment. In this area, that would work out to somewhere between slim and none. Save for the minimum wage jobs soon to become available at our very own fast food place (which will probably make this scenario a fact for some current restaurant employees) there isn't much chance for a new, large employer paying decent wages to start up here due to both local and out of town influences.

Therefore, we'll assume that half of the six people had to leave the area to find new jobs. Of the remaining three, only one finds a job to support their family. We now have one employed individual and two on Welfare (oops, no Welfare. The self-styled "economists" of America are in the happy process of destroying that option) or they try to live on unemployment benefits, at least until they run out of that limited option.

Of the original payroll that was percolating down through the local economy, only one person's income remains if that person obtains employment at their original salary (or much less if they can only find a minimum wage job, which is probable). The local school district will see the loss of tens of thousands of dollars yearly that the state and federal systems fund per each student who have had to move, as well as local sales and property taxes no longer being paid by those forced to leave. All of this begins to result in lower incomes for all local businesses which forces them, in turn, to lower their expenses by either not giving raises or benefits to their current employees or, worse, to lay off some portion of their payroll. The schools can higher fewer teachers and purchase less classroom materials and the county can provide even fewer services. This is a cycle which feeds on itself as less and less money is available to the system which produces fewer and fewer jobs and lower incomes for all involved.

Believe me, I'm not advocating a position that mandates all of your purchases be made locally. Most local businesses cannot stock the vast selections of a chain store nor match their prices.

What I am urging is that we, as consumers, look closely at our buying habits. Can we find ways to make our everyday purchases locally? Can we buy even our larger needs here, where customer service isn't just a banner over the door?

And you business owners; some of you are most assuredly pricing your products in such a way that customers can travel and still save money. Your responsibility is to the community you serve as surely as it is the responsibility of the local population to support you and your employees. When it comes to keeping jobs and income in the community that we live, we are all in this together. If either of us abandons our role then we will all lose the opportunity to keep our little area free of the generic strip malls other communities have found themselves overrun with, as well as watching the schools, county services and all of the other things we now take for granted slowly disappear from our town. Let's work together while we still can. Small town life is worth it, don't you think?

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