I have previously discussed some of the points in this week's column over the past three years. This week, however, I chose to put them together to help stress the critical nature of what being local means for a community. Never have our locally-owned businesses been under more pressure. As this pressure continues to mount, local businesses will come under even more stress.
Crisis is always the mother of invention, innovation, and change. Let this crisis be a clarion call to action for each of us. There is no better time than now for communities, chambers and businesses to come together to reinvent their future. We saw many shop-local campaigns during the holidays. While a great start, this needs to be a year-round endeavor on steroids. Now is the time to educate your community on the dire need for a truly local effort on a non-stop basis. The result of being local is so much more than just revenue. While revenue is important, it is the many other ingredients that elevate a community on so many levels. Being local needs to be in the DNA of your community. Here are a few other ingredients and by-products of being truly local.
First, numerous studies show dollars spent with locally owned and operated businesses recirculate throughout your community between three and seven times. This is compared to those same dollars being spent with national chains, which circulate only once. With a 10% sales tax, one million dollars spent with big boxes and chains will return $100,000 in sales tax to your community. That same one million dollars will return between $300,000-$700,000 when being spent with locally owned businesses. How will that impact the jobs and vibrancy in your community?
Second, additional studies show owners of locally owned businesses support local causes, local organizations and local charities by approximately a 3-to-1 margin over businesses with outside ownership. The foundations of many communities are often built through active volunteerism, non-profit organizations and civic groups. This is a vital component in any thriving community.
Third, owners and managers of locally owned businesses are four times more likely to be involved in leadership, politics, chambers, and so forth in their communities than are the owners and managers of out-of-town owned businesses.
Fourth, a recent study shows a community's poverty rate is directly linked to the percentage of prosperous locally-owned businesses. Put another way, the greater percentage of your retail dollars taking place with chains or out-of-town owners within a smaller or midsized community, the higher the poverty rate is expected to be. Bottomline, the more local innovation, creativity and entrepreneurs there are, the greater the average household income will be. Additionally, when this innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem is supported by the entire community, average household incomes will go even higher.
Fifth, the more local businesses your community has, the greater uniqueness it offers. Few people vacation in locations ripe with chains and big boxes. You can find that sea of sameness in any community around the country. Uniqueness brings tourism, tourism brings new dollars, and new dollars bring increased revitalization and growth.
How can this critical educational process improve? Demand that your local media go about the task of educating its community about the power of a truly local DNA. Explain that without a vibrant community with an expanding business base, the media company is also at risk. I have never seen a vibrant media company in a dying community. From there, news media companies and the community can build common synergies strengthening the foundation of both. You can't always control the economic climate in which you operate, but you can certainly control your direction and path by adjusting your sails to the economic headwinds in which you find yourelf.
Common synergies are a gift we can ill afford to ignore. By ignoring this gift, we are missing out on an opportunity that can change the dynamics within the communities we live. When a community, businesses, chamber, and media combine their efforts, victory can be had. When we ignore this gift, future generations -- our children -- are at risk. How we proceed forward now will determine our future.
John Newby is a nationally recognized columnist, speaker and publisher. He consults with communities, businesses and media. His "Building Main Street, not Wall Street" column is enjoyed by more than 60 communities around the country. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists community and business leaders in building synergies that create vibrant communities. He can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.