Why local businesses count.

I was told once that a local retailer (not here) started to put fliers in their customer’s bags that showed how much of each dollar spent in their store that stayed in the community. They compared the number to their national chain competition. The results were astounding – $100 spent at local retailers retains almost $67 or 67% as opposed to national chains where $43 stays local – or in other words 25% of money spent in local stores stays in the local economy.

Why does all of this matter? In this day and age, large big-box corporations are becoming more prevalent in communities such as ours. And where they have their place, they are also crowding out some of the long-established local retailers. This is not a bash on the big-box stores, but a call to action to save our local retailers, and here are just a few reasons why:

  • Local retailers hire locally. Most big-box stores do hire locally, but also bring in a certain percentage of workers that either commute from other areas or relocate.
  • Local retailers buy goods locally. Most of the big-box stores are trending towards local purchases for produce and other goods, however their market share is still lower than local retailers.
  • Local retailers contract local services through well-established relationships whereas big-box national retailers will contract with national contractors who are not necessarily based in the local community.
  • Local retailers are usually members of the local Chamber of Commerce and immersed in the business community. Big-box retailers sometimes join chambers, but most of the time corporate policies prohibit local involvement.

Why does this all matter? Well if a local retailer were to have a 10% increase in profits, most of that money would then circulate its way back into the community allowing for more growth and prosperity.

Here is what you can do to help:

  1. Look at local retailers when you are looking to buy goods and services. The Manatee Chamber of Commerce maintains a detailed membership directory to assist you in this endeavor and provides tools such as the Local Quotes 4 U which gives anyone access to solicit proposals from Chamber Members.
  2. Ask your retailer where their goods are sourced from. In this area of the country, we are blessed with agriculture and manufacturing that is local and more diversified than you think.
  3. Split your money between the big-box retailers and the local retailers. You will find that you may pay more at the local retailer, but the quality and customer service as well as the savings on fuel will outweigh the savings at the big-box retailer.
  4. Encourage others to adopt the above practices or to look through the Chamber directory for local business contacts.
  5. Encourage businesses that are not members of their local Chamber to join. According to a Shapiro Group study, 63% of those polled would buy from a Chamber member over a non-member based on their investment in their own community.

If most everyone in Manatee County took just $10 a week and spent it at their favorite retailer, we could have an initial economic impact of well over $1 million dollars per week adding up to over $50 million per year. And that is money that stays in our community.

“Green” versus “Sustainability”

Everywhere you look, people are trying to be “green.” “Green” design, “green” products, and even “green” concierge services whose sole purpose is to procure “green” goods and services. “Green” is the current buzzword for all things that are good for the environment. A, noble cause given that our environment hangs constantly in a tenacious balance. And since it is the current buzz, everyone, it seems, is getting on the bandwagon from grocery stores to suppliers of everyday goods to service providers.

But seriously, why “green”?

Well, it’s a simple, single, unobtrusive word that can be synonymous with environmentalism. Ever since the green movement started in the 1960’s with the birth of Earth Day, people have been made more aware of their surrounding environment. Many people remember the commercials with Iron Eyes Cody crying at the sight of a ruined landscape. Being “green” meant doing right by the environment as it does to this day. Recycling, turning your A/C up to 78degrees, and other energy and water saving concepts grew from this movement.

Then enter the rest of the story, the balance of being “green:” consumables. It started small, with small groups looking for locally grown produce. Architects and builders started to look at local materials mostly due to cost, but also the reduced transportation costs and pollution. And it grew, looking at aspect after aspect of living and tuning it to be “green.” Even the United States Government got involved passing law after law regulating energy efficiency, water efficiency, and indoor environments. Soon the movement passed from shadow and into the limelight in the 1990’s when it was fashionable to be “green.”

Simple, right? Be “green” and the Earth will be better. Our environment will be preserved and even made better. But it is here where our story hits the wall of consumerism: enter “green washing,” or the practice of proclaiming an item as “green” but it is anything but. More on that in another post…

But back to the original idea: “green”

About the time that green washing came around, the “green” movement stated to evolve, as most movements do. It became apparent that just living “green” would not work with humanity as a whole. Seriously, being hardcore “green” meant giving up many of our guilty pleasures, something that the general public simply would not do. So what was the answer? Well let’s do something to sustain the Earth and humanity, something “sustainable.”

Sustainability helps to strike the balance between being “green” and everyday life. A prime example is paper. To be “green” meant not cutting down trees and recycling paper indefinitely. In theory this concept is a good idea, but in practice not so much. Why? Well, think about this:

Paper comes from trees, it grows in a forest owned by a person, group, consortium, you get the basic picture. That tree has value, so it is harvested by a lumberjack. It is hauled to a local mill, chipped up and processed into paper. At this stage, you could substitute everything up until the processing with recycled content, but let’s look at what happens if we were “green”:

–          The tree is saved

–          A lumberjack loses his job

–          The hardware store does not sell the chainsaw

–          The trucking company does not have a client

–          The trucker loses income

–          The mill reduces its staff, and eliminates machinery

What the basic rundown is the tree is saved, but at an economic price. And it gets exponential. But looking at this in a “sustainable” format, you get the same thing, a tree that gets harvested, but grown in a managed forest that encourages diversity. The trees are taken from a smaller area, and the forest is not clear cut. Environments are preserved while stabilizing the economy.

Balanced.

Sustainable.

And if you are curious about what you read above – check it out for yourself: www.fscus.org. That’s right the US Forestry Stewardship Council – a certifying entity who makes sure that the wood is being produced in a sustainable fashion.

So we could be “green” by being “sustainable.” And by being “sustainable” we can preserve our living environment and our business environment as well.