(This guest column appeared in the Thursday, Nov. 17 edition of the Redwood Gazette.)
During the recent election season, we often heard the repeated phrase, “Every vote counts.” Similarly, a wise business entrepreneur once said, “Every time you spend money, you are casting a vote for the kind of community you want to live in.” It’s understandable that we might choose to do business where we perceive the best value for our time and money, but in an age where we are constantly subjected to corporate advertisements every day, perception may be many light years from reality. The emphasis on cheapness above other values leads many consumers to overlook the values independent businesses provide us, both personally and in our communities. There are many reasons to cast your vote here and Shop Local in the Redwood Area.
For instance, local owners, typically having invested much of their life savings in their businesses, have a natural interest in the community’s long-term health. Local businesses are essential to charitable endeavors, and their owners frequently serve on local boards and associations, supporting numerous causes. Also, local businesses donate to local non-profits, school groups and functions, and other local fundraisers, which directly benefits your friends, family, neighbors, and you. Many people don’t shop local because they think they can’t buy the things they need in a local store. That’s often times not true; small business owners are more willing to carry and stock special items their customers need in order to be more accommodating. Ask. Get to know the people behind the product. Many times, those are the people that call you by name when you walk through their door.
A study showed that for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 remained in the city. When you shop at locally owned stores, the money you spent stays within the community. Local businesses are more likely to purchase from other local businesses, the local tax base grows, and you help your local businesses keep each other growing.
Improved schools, better roads, and greater support for local police and fire departments are just a few of the data proven results of what a stronger tax base means to a local community.
Small Business Saturday, celebrated this year on Saturday, November 26, started in 2010 as an American Express initiative to encourage consumers to shop small and local during the holiday season. Sandwiched in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, small businesses stand out thanks in part to the national media attention Small Business Saturday generates, but also in part to the individual efforts small business owners nationwide contribute to make this day one of a kind. Redwood Area Chamber & Tourism has once again been designated a “Neighborhood Champion” and has access to a number of marketing resources and promotional items to help support activities on SBS, which can be found on our website www.redwoodfalls.org . We’re also hosting “Shop Redwood Area Neighborhood Parties” in participating businesses and encouraging everyone to #ShopRedwoodArea. So get out and kick-off the holiday shopping season this Friday, November 18, for Christmas by Candlelight, shop Small Business Saturday on November 26, and remember to shop local every other day of the year too.
But possibly the best reason of all to Shop Local in the Redwood Area is quite simple, really. Do you want that money to stay in our town, or someone else’s town? While some may argue the phrase “Shop Local” is becoming overused, its principal message is still very relevant and essential to our rural community. We must continue to encourage the values we want reflected in our communities for the future. Each time we spend a dollar, we would do well to weigh the full value of our choices, not just for today, but for the future we want for our area. So again, I would remind you, “Every time you spend money, you are casting a vote for the kind of community you want.” Vote wisely. Your community is counting on you.
Anne Johnson, Executive Director
Redwood Area Chamber & Tourism