Shop local initiative is about more than retail
Numerous local businesses helped celebrate Small Business Saturday last month. Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country. Founded by American Express in 2010, this day is celebrated each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Communities across the country have the same chain restaurants, corporately owned grocery stores and department stores and we’re fortunate to have some of those retailers and service providers here to fit community needs. We are equally fortunate to be filled with restaurants and retailers that are one-of-a-kind. The presence of both national retailers and grocery stores combined with the vast majority of our businesses being locally owned helps make us different from many other communities. Supporting these businesses whenever possible adds to our community character and supports our local economy.
Consumers have the keys
As a consumer, you’re a key part in helping small businesses thrive. By frequenting small businesses throughout the year (not just on small business Saturday), you’re showing your support for the businesses and people in the community we call home. Of course, it is not always feasible to buy local and to shop small, but it is important to think local first when possible. Functioning economies depend upon successful local businesses in large part because local businesses give a community its character and helps money stay in our local economy.
Shopping local is not limited to retail and dining choices. Of equal importance in our effort to continue to build a resilient Eagle County economy and to strengthen our economic base is to support local professional service providers when possible.
This conundrum is further explained by Michael H. Shuman, author of the book “Going Local.”
“Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports. Control moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back into the community where it belongs,” Shuman writes.
Consider the Eagle County School District as an example of “shopping local” for professional service needs. Last month, voters passed ballot question 3B, a bond initiative to make key building improvements and expansions. School district Superintendent Dr. Jason Glass recently shared that the district will have “engineers, architects, surveyors and construction experts crawling all over our buildings and we’ll break ground on a number of projects in just a few months. Our bidding process also gave a preference for firms with a local participation plan, keeping money and jobs in the community.”
Kudos to the school board for utilizing local contracts and service providers when possible on the upcoming capital projects across the district.
Consider health and medical needs as an additional example of shopping local. It is well known that our mountain region has some of the highest health insurance premiums in the county and we’re fortunate to have increased competition; competition inherently makes everyone better and benefits consumers. Keeping health care services local has a tangible impact on our local economy; health and wellness is our second largest job sector.
Vail Valley Medical Center alone has 860 highly-educated employees who live and work in our communities, earning livable wages which allow them to buy homes, create roots, have families and make up the foundational fabric of a healthy community. If you add in the Steadman Clinic, Vail-Summit Orthopedics, Colorado Mountain Medical, Centura Health, Kaiser Permanente, HomeCare Hospice, Mind Springs Health, Castle Peak Senior Care Facility, Mountain Family Health, and numerous dentists, physical therapists, chiropractors and other health and wellness service providers, then the number of options and jobs created locally adds up quickly. Local health and wellness service providers are an under-recognized component of the shop local story.
Locally owned service providers offer many economic benefits to a community. These benefits are at risk of being measurably reduced by increasing national competition or using out-of-town service providers. After all, our local service providers, such as our locally owned retailers, are owned or managed by people who live in the community, are less likely to leave and are more invested in the future of our community. Using local service providers and local medical facilities creates more local jobs and supports our economy in much the same way that shopping at local businesses has a greater local impact than shopping online.
Shopping local is more than just for retail purchases. Supporting local service providers helps create jobs for your friends and neighbors and increases investment in our community both socially and economically.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, recently named Chamber of the Year by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com
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