We all have a responsibility to our communities.  That responsibility includes a number of aspects, each of which contributes to our community being a safe, clean, successful and supportive place to live.  It’s important that we all do our part so that we as individuals, business owners, employees and parents can continue to thrive in our wonderful city.  Perhaps one of the easiest (and yet most important) things you can do to support your local economy is buy keeping your dollars you spend local.  This means not only shopping at locally owned stores, but also choosing service professionals from locally owned companies and more.  There are a number of reasons why this is so important.  Following are just a few of them.

Strengthen the economy  Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business rather than a nationally owned business, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms, which continues to strengthen the economic base of the community.  In fact, studies have shown that every $100 spent at a locally owned store recirculates an average of $32 through the local economy.  The same amount spent at a national chain recirculates an average of $16 back to the local economy.  When you shop online, none of that money supports your local economy (unless it’s a website from a store in your hometown).

Support community groups  Non-profit organizations receive an average of 250% more support from smaller business owners than they do from large businesses.

Reduce environmental impact  Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe.  This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.

Create more good jobs  Small local businesses provide jobs to residents.  By spending your money with them, you are ensuring they continue to keep the local employees they have and can hire more in the future.

Deal with business owners and invested managers  For the most part, you can find better service at locally owned businesses as you are generally dealing with the business owner or managers who are committed to the business.  They are truly invested in their business and will go the extra mile to retain you as a customer.

Encourage uniqueness in the community  Do you want to live in a community filled with big box stores that you can find in any other city or do you want your community to be a unique place filled with businesses you can find nowhere else?  We all want our city to be a city like no other, a place we can proud of.  Spending our dollars at these types of businesses is the way to do it.

Supporting Local Stores

When you support local stores, you are supporting small business owners who live right here in your community, like the Jacoby family who own Alpacas of the Heartland.  “We got started in the alpaca business after seeing a neighbor rancher leading an alpaca along the road and we were very intrigued by the gentle, curious and gorgeous animal that had such soft fleece,” says Sheri Jacoby.  “Once we researched alpacas we realized that this was an endeavor that would yield a unique, all natural product in a society that is “going green”, so we decided we could do this!”

“Alpacas are raised for their fleece, which is turned into yarn that can be made into rugs, hats, gloves, scarves and more,” Sheri continues.  “We immediately separate leg and belly fiber as this is not prime fleece, but can be used to make rugs and felt.  The rest of the fleece is sorted into different grades based on micron count.  The lower the micron count, the softer the fleece.  This is where Alpacas of the Heartland differs from a national company.  You can get alpaca yarn from a national company (and often times cheaper), but what is the quality of the yarn?  Did they mix in different grades of fleece together to make the yarn?  If that is the case, then it is not consistent, thus yielding a lower quality of yarn that is more than likely not as soft to the touch.  Alpacas of the Heartland offers all natural, 100% non-dyed alpaca yarn that is made solely from alpacas raised on our ranch.  We also have rugs available from our alpacas and other products (not made from our animals) including hats, gloves, sweaters, toys and alpaca felted soap.”

“There are a number of good reasons to ‘buy local’ whenever possible,” states Gerry Phelan with Midwest Woodworkers.  “As a consumer, I benefit by having a local store available so I can see and touch the items I want to purchase, utilize the expertise of the store’s staff and enjoy the assurance of someone right here to help me with problems or returns.  As a citizen, I also benefit by having my dollars stay in my community.  That business pays local salaries, supports other local business by purchasing supplies and services and contributes to the community through taxes donations and community involvement.”

Gerry also comments on what his store can offer that national or chain stores cannot.  “One obvious advantage is that we have a huge on-hand inventory so customers can see and touch the products and know exactly what they are buying,” he says.  “Our staff is also knowledgeable and enthusiastic about woodworking; they not only provide information, but they also help customers make better choices.  Our mission is to bring out the best woodworker in every customer, so we often provide advice that solves woodworking problems unrelated to a specific purchase.  We’re here when there are problems.  We handle returns of defective merchandise and back customers up on warranty claims.”

“Locally owned companies are owned and operated by your neighbors and friends, and they have a vested interest in “getting it right”,” adds Charlotte Ralston with Ah’roma Specialty Coffee.  “They care about what they are doing because they too are serving their neighbors and friends!  It is not easy to compete with national chains and international manufacturers, but these folks work hard to bring you products and services that meet local needs.  This is real productivity, keeping the dollars here rather than sending them out of the city and state.  Also, most local companies are quite generous in giving back to their communities through donations and fundraisers, because we care about the place we live.”

“In doing business with Ah’roma Specialty Coffee, you are getting coffee roasted right here in town.  We are quite particular about the coffees we roast because we want you to enjoy the best cup every morning to start your day right!  Unlike some of our competitors, we do not blend down our coffee beans, grind them up and then sell them as ‘gourmet’.  We roast and flavor only the high grown hand-picked varieties, often from 1-3 acre farms.  And unlike national chains, the coffee is roasted and on the shelf in just a couple of days, if not hours, after roasting.  As a family owned locally grown company, R.U. Nuts Company (the parent company of Ah’roma), we carry quality products that we enjoy eating, too, including nuts and trail mixes.  Our products are available in Hy-Vees and Super Saver in Omaha.  We really appreciate the community’s support of our products.”

Supporting Local Service Providers

Gwynne Wilson from Drug Test Services comments, “When you support local business, you are helping to ensure the economic growth of your own community.  Those resources stay in the area and help everyone in the community including the local job market.  Being local can save companies money in product shipping charges, flexible hours of operation for companies who operate around the clock, the ability to go on-site for problem resolution and the ability to network on behalf of your clients.  With excellent customer services comes referrals from satisfied customers!”

“Using a local firm benefits the local economy by providing jobs, infrastructure and a stronger tax base,” adds Arthur Brumfield with Leonum Advisors.  “The success of local firms is very attractive to foreign business entities that may be looking for areas to expand and/or relocate.”

“Being local allows us to serve the underserved small to medium sized businesses that generally have limited budgets and resources,” says Gwynne Wilson.  Every service we offer is completely customizable to fit any budget–no cookie cutter programs!  Local businesses also have a vested interest in the overall well-being of their community because they’re a part of it.  We are involved in the local community.  We volunteer our time and resources toward helping families dealing with the issues of drug and alcohol abuse.  I think sometimes there is a perception that if you’re local, then you can only serve that one market, which is simply not the case.  Even though we’re based locally, we offer all of our services nationwide including having access to over 10,000 collection sites for those companies with satellite offices.”

Arthur Brumfield adds, “Being a security firm, we understand better the local atmosphere, the trends and means of security threats in the area.  We have contacts and resources available to us that outside businesses, although larger, will not have immediately.  As a result, we can provide solutions faster and more accurately.”

“There is an ethical component to the customer/merchant relationship,” Gerry Phelan with Midwest Woodworkers concludes.  “As customers, we expect merchants to be honest and fair, provide complete information, live up to commitments and stand behind their products.  For merchants, is it ethical for a customer to browse the store to decide which product to buy, utilize the store personnel’s expertise and then buy from a catalog or on-line source to save a few dollars?  The customer who shops and strips – using the store with no intention of buying is, in effect, ‘stealing’ services.   Ultimately I see my business in terms of providing value.  If customers buy elsewhere it means that either we aren’t competitive on that item or we haven’t helped our customer recognize the value.   Either way we have to work harder to earn their business.”

We can all contribute to making our community a better place to live.  By supporting locally owned businesses, we are doing our part to ensure our job market stays active, our city continues to be unique in its own way, our economy thrives and everyone prospers.  Support your local economy and buy local first!