All across the country, in large and small communities alike, there is a movement under way. The movement comes with many catchy titles, but essentially the message is simple: shopping locally improves the economic strength of individual communities.
“There’s a trickle-down impact to shopping locally,” said Dina DiPasquale, owner of Dina’s of Ellicottville and Dina’s at the Mont. “Local businesses hire local people, buy from local sources and pay rent to local building owners. The building owners then invest in their buildings using local contractors and service providers, who then frequent the businesses. It comes full circle.”
Meanwhile all of those people are paying taxes and contributing to the community in various ways. According to the Anderson Study of Retail Economics, “locally owned firms contribute more to local charities and fundraisers than do their national counterparts.”
An extensive amount of economic data supports this assertion. In Salt Lake City, for example, Civic Economics, an economic development and strategic planning consulting firm, found that local retail businesses recirculate 52 percent of their revenue to the community in the form of local taxes, payrolls and expenditures within the community. Large chain retailers, in comparison, recirculate less than 14 percent of their revenue locally. For restaurants, the re-circulation rate is 79 percent locally versus 30 percent for chain restaurants. These numbers change from community to community, but generally, studies find that shopping at local businesses keeps roughly three times more revenue in the local economy.
According to the Association of Independent Business Owners, “even modest changes in consumer spending habits can generate substantial economic impact.”
A study in West Michigan concluded that if people there shopped locally just 10 percent more often, the local economy would create some 1,600 new jobs and be able to keep $53 million in wages in the community.
The environment benefits, too. In a 2010 study in Iowa, reported by eLocal.com, a 10 percent increase in the residents’ use of local produce statewide would save 310,000 gallons of fuel each year and would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 7.3 million pounds.
While the numbers might look different in Ellicottville because of scale, local business leaders here agree that the community benefits from the independent shops and restaurants that make Ellicottville special.
“People don’t come to Ellicottville because there’s a fast food restaurant. They come here because we’re different,” said Gretchen Mendell, owner of Nature’s Remedy.
Mendell is a strong advocate for buying local – she purchases from local producers as much as possible, and is working toward building a whole “local roots” market.
“We sometimes have a hard time competing with the big corporations on pricing,” she said, “but we have many advantages over them when it comes to customer service, product knowledge and meeting the particular needs of both local residents and tourists.”
DiPasquale, who has been involved in numerous fundraisers in Ellicottville, says that “it’s much harder to get a chain to contribute.” Store managers don’t usually have the authority to approve such contributions.
Shopping locally means so much more than being nice neighbors and buying from people you know. Buying locally actually strengthens your dollar, your community, your quality of life. So this holiday season, stick around! You’ll be ensuring that your shopping dollars stick around, too.