Sure. You’re thinking I can’t spell and perhaps that does happen on occasion but not today. This 4th of July week is not only symbolic of our nation’s freedom but it’s a time for all Americans to celebrate the importance of our economic democracy by honoring the locally owned independent businesses.
In 1954, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas said, “When a nation of shopkeepers is transformed into a nation of clerks, enormous spiritual sacrifices are made.” Here more than fifty years later, we can celebrate the essence of his words by rallying around our local businesses.
Let me be clear on why I believe this 6 year old celebration makes sense for communities around the globe:
Big box stores are able to provide economies of scale by delivering a consistent appearance and business model wherever they are located. Yes that may mean that cheaper goods are available but that consistency also means that every community ends up looking the same. That “sameness” erodes what I call placemaking – those attributes and local businesses that create a unique look and feel for a city or town. And I will argue that placemaking is a basic tenant of economic development.
A couple of years back, a study from Grand Rapids, MI examined spending patterns in their community. The results were startling. They determined that if all 600,000 residents of Grand Rapids simply shifted 10% of their spending from national to local independent businesses, the result would be 1600 new jobs, an additional $130 million invested in the local economy and an increase of $50 million in local wages within one year. That’s in part due to the fact that those local businesses pay taxes and are more likely to also use local services than their national counterparts. The way I count, that is real economic development that can start immediately rather than any expensive and long-term business attraction campaign.
Local businesses build community because they’re often based upon relationship. Last night, my son and I ate dinner at Eddie’s House, a chef we know who actively participates in our town.
Local independent businesses help a community retain talent. This goes back to the placemaking. Those local businesses from coffee houses to copy shops and hardware stores are what give a community character. Character is one of the things that attracts talent. In a community such as ours, keeping that rich and robust talent as it graduates from the University is a great strategy. Ultimately, it’s what attracts and retains other base load businesses.
So please, stop by your local farmers’ market, sip a glass of pinot in an independent cafe, go to the butcher for your meat needs, and the knife sharpener and the yoga studio and a bakery for fresh bread and the tailor and of course, the candlestick maker.
If you live in AZ, please use this golden coupon to receive a discount at hundreds of independent businesses. If you don’t live in AZ, consider starting a golden coupon program and wherever you are, please, tell me the story of your experiences below.