BY VAL YAZELL
PRESIDENT OF LOCAL FIRST SPRINGFIELD
“Think local first.” You have likely heard this phrase used by the independently owned businesses in our community. It is the calling card for Local First Springfield, a not-for-profit group of local independent businesses in the greater Springfield area. But what exactly does it mean to you, the consumer?
Did you know that when you spend dollars locally, a much larger portion of the revenue stays in the community, enhancing the whole economy? When you spend your dollars at a chain store or online, a very small amount of the money you spend stays local.
“Dollars spent at community-based merchants create a multiplier in the local economy, meaning that from each dollar spent at a local independent merchant, two to 3.5 (dollars) recirculate in the local economy compared to a dollar spent at chain-owned businesses,” according to the American Independent Business Alliance. “This ‘local multiplier effect’ means shifting more local purchasing to independent businesses is a key tool for creating more local jobs.”
Local independent businesses create the “character” of a community. One-of-a-kind businesses are what people talk about and want to seek out. The chain and big box stores have created cookie cutter communities around the world. Local businesses change that look and feel. When these businesses can select products based on their own interests and the needs of the local consumers, a shift happens which sets the community apart. Creating the opportunity to increase independent businesses will ensure innovation and encourage entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurs fuel America’s economy. Financial writer and business consultant Shobhit Seth notes that “Entrepreneurial ventures literally generate new wealth. Existing businesses may remain confined to the scope of existing markets and may hit the glass ceiling in terms of income. New and improved offerings, products or technologies from entrepreneurs enable new markets to be developed and new wealth created.”
Entrepreneurs also create social change. By offering new goods and services, entrepreneurs replace obsolete systems and technologies, creating an improved quality of life for their community.
Locally owned businesses build strong communities and are invested in creating a consumer-friendly environment. These business owners contribute to local causes, ensure that decisions stay local and understand the impact their decisions will have on the people they serve. They have a strong commitment to their business and their customers. Most are hands-on and truly understand their customers and their customers’ needs. For most consumers, there is nothing better than walking in and being able to shake hands with and speak to the owner of a business.
One of the most valuable reasons that Local First Springfield asks you to “Think local first” is that these independent business owners tend to buy and sell with other local businesses. We have heard story after story of collaborations between these local independent businesses helping and supporting one another. From buying supplies and products to collaborating on marketing, these owners are an example of what it means to support your local businesses. Not only do they “talk the talk,” but they truly “walk the walk.”
Local First Springfield is celebrating “Independent’s Week” from July 2-8 this year. We honor those local independent businesses which are such an important part of our community. We will be at the Farmer’s Market in downtown Springfield July 5 and 8, and we invite you to stop by and see us. If you would like to know more about our organization, contact executive director Bill McMahon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 652-2561. If you are interested in joining us as a business or as a local supporter, visit our website at www.localfirstspringfield.com.