We all have to shop, it’s a part of life.  Small, daily items like groceries and personal care products, more infrequent purchases like clothing and gifts and large purchases such as vehicles and appliances are just a part of our lives.  Many of us don’t even think twice before we go shopping, especially for the small items.  We either go to the places we’ve always gone to do our shopping or we go somewhere that is convenient without stopping to think about the impact we are having on our local economy.  The recent economic downtown should have reinforced to everyone the extreme importance of supporting our locally owned businesses.  How many wonderful businesses had to close their doors because they simply could not afford to keep them open?  Would this have happened if each and every one of us made a concentrated effort to do all of our shopping with locally owned businesses?

If you’re wondering what good buying locally does, consider the following:

• It stimulates the local economy. A study done in Texas showed that for every $100 that was spent in a chain bookstore, only $13 of it was put back into the local economy. But that same $100 spent at a local, independently owned bookstore put $45 back into the local economy. Think of that next time you’re deciding to get your coffee from a large chain or the local corner coffee house.

• It helps locals keep their jobs. Most people who work in local businesses live locally. By buying from these places, you help your neighbors keep their jobs and that benefits your whole community.

• Local businesses give back locally. Do you know who sponsors the little league and softball teams in your town? The local corner coffee house, the corner bar, the independent ice cream parlor. By supporting these businesses, you help ensure that they can support the community.

“Think Globally…BUY Locally,” advises Mark Wehner with Reesults Coaching Networking.   “This is a spin on the old adage ‘think globally, act locally’.

Success in today’s market requires a new level of customer relations.  Consumers still make choices based on key factors like quality, functionality, and relationships.  Quality service really means a “real person” exceeds the expectations of the consumer.   When you match quality service with a quality product and the consumer knows they can get both down the street, small businesses and entrepreneurs have created a local market.

So…how do these individuals create a sphere of influence in a local market?  They combine effective forms of advertising from print to online with a targeted networking effort.  They have learned that success in a local market has moved from networking’s mantel of ‘It’s not what you know but who you know,’…and even beyond ‘Who knows you”…now all the way to ‘HOW they know you’!  This key networking factor of “HOW” they know you…and your product…is best earned face-to-face.  When you network locally, the consumer buys locally.  When the consumer buys locally, good things happen for all.”

Jim Tomanek with the Western Douglas County Chamber of Commerce adds, “I think a business establishes a location where they feel they will generate good business results and revenue.  When a business locates in a particular area, the community needs to support that business whenever possible.  The business should also support the community and give back if the community supports them.  In many cases, the owners of a local business are also members of the community—they live in the community, their children attend school with your children and they attend the same churches you attend, so it important that we support our family, friends and neighbors.”

Jim continues, “At the Western Douglas County Chamber of Commerce, we recommend that our members support other chamber members.  It may cost a little more or it may take a little longer to get what you need, but we want to support the businesses in our chamber and communities.  There is no question the community needs to support local businesses.  The WDCCC is made up of approximately 85% small to medium businesses and it’s extremely important to the community and the Chamber to use those small businesses or the businesses and the chamber would not exist.”

Business owners themselves know just how vital it is that consumers buy from locally owned companies.  Michelle Christensen with Papillion Windows & Siding says, “By buying from local companies, you are keeping income and jobs at a local level.  This helps keep the local economy robust as employees will spend their dollars locally versus a national company whose employees return to their home states once a job is complete.  Especially in the home improvement business, it is important that homeowners know that by buying local, the homeowner has a place to turn in case they any manufacturer or installation issues.  If a homeowner uses a non-local company, they many times perform the work and then disappear to other cities, making it nearly impossible to obtain assistance with any problems they may encounter.”

“As a local company, we can provide personal service that many times gets lost when dealing with a national company,” Michelle goes on to say. “Customer service issues can be resolved quickly, without going through the numerous levels of management to get a decision.  This ensures happier customers.  As a local company, we also can assist customers with numerous price points in their selection depending on their budget and needs, whereas a national company has access to only their brand of products.”

Charlotte Ralston with R.U. Nuts Co. also knows the importance of buying local.  “By supporting a local business, you generally know where your products are coming from, especially in the food business.  You support the local labor that it takes to produce it as well.  There is a ripple effect for the economy as well as building relationships within the community that you don’t get when you guy from international companies.”

Buying from a local supplier like R.U. Nuts offers many benefits for their customers.  “Since we don’t have a local outlet, our customers become that local outlet for us,” Charlotte explains.  “We hope that in having us as a supplier, they get personal service and it is easy for them ‘go to the top’ if they have a complaint.  You can’t do that with a national company.  Our coffee is roasted when they order it, so it is absolutely the freshest available and our trail mixes and salad toppings are made here, using unique recipes and fresh ingredients so the ‘pipeline’ to the stores is much shorter than with a national brand.  But we also customize order sizes, packaging and ingredients for special orders, giving flexibility to our customers that you won’t find with a national competitor.”

Knowing how important it is for local consumers to support her business, Charlotte also makes an effort to support other locally owned businesses.  “So much that we do on a regular basis is local: my salon, my mechanic, the plumber I call on, the home repairs or construction we need, the dog groomer, the list goes on.  Buying food at the farmer’s market and supporting Nebraska-made products at the grocery store are some ways I like to support local.  Even advertising in this magazine is local!”

An Idea to Buy Local for Father’s Day

With Father’s Day quickly approaching, why not make an effort to support local businesses with the gift you get your dad?  Consider gift certificates to a local golf course, products from a locally owned shop or, why not get Dad some classes that give him an opportunity to unleash his inner creativity and enjoy the pure satisfaction that comes from making something with your own hands?

Gerry Phelan with Midwest Woodworkers, Inc. says, “Whether your dad is a new woodworker or an accomplished craftsman, there is always something to learn.  Even better, this is a gift you can share with your father—join him for a class and share the experience and your time with him.  We offer classes on a wide range of woodworking topics from carving to turning to cabinet making.  You can go home with everything from a hand-made wooden pen to a small nightstand.  All of our classes are limited to five or fewer participants so everyone has plenty of ‘hands-on’ experience.  Choose from a list of classes that includes Architectural Carving, Carving Figurines, Chip Carving, Finishing, Hand Planes, Pen Turning, Router Basics, Intro to Scroll Saw, Jointer/Planer/Bandsaw Basics, Sharpening, Table Saw Basics, or Veneer and Inlay.  Also, nothing tells Dad it’s ok to spend time in your workshop like a gift certificate to Midwest Woodworkers.  We offer gift certificates by phone, on line or in store.  The best part is that they can be purchased for any amount and never expire or decline in value.”

Supporting our local economy just makes sense for everyone involved.  So go out there and learn more about all the wonderful businesses your friends and neighbors are operating and support them in any way you can!