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Guest editorial: Spending local pays dividends

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Posted on November 26, 2012 |
By Reed Prescott



When I look out across the economic horizon I feel concerned. The issues are so huge and advice so plentiful I hardly feel there is hope for change. Then I pull back and say “I’m not going to take in all the issue but what do I have control over today that in some small way has a positive impact?”

The simplest step I can take and I can start this holiday season is to shop locally. In supporting local businesses who are the job creators I can indirectly support families within your community. So how does the tiny amount I have to spend affect our local economy and can I really make any difference? This past summer I had a example of what this looks like. Now granted it has taken years to create the value my artwork commands but in this example it shows what a difference even a small purchase can make.

Consider this — when you spend money with a neighbor who does the same each dollar spent compounds to a value far greater than your initial purchase. Some statistics even go as far as every dollar you spend locally averages to around $5 in economic activity. During the Bristol Cash Mob last spring a few individuals came into my shop and purchased boxes of note cards for $25 each. I walked across Main Street to a merchant and spent $25 for a pair of medium size canvases. Once I painted on these two canvases they sold for around $2,500 each to people not from this community. This brought new income into the local economic mix.

With that money I spent a minimum of 70 percent locally by paying the rent, food at local eateries, gas, and many other bills. The landlord paid the clerk of the works and other expenses with my rent money spending at least 50 percent locally. The clerk of the works and all the local businesses who benefited spent locally as well. Because of the value added to the items purchased from the original investment of $25 for a box of note cards it might have created $8,000 to $12,000 in economic activity with some dollars changing hands locally five to seven times.

A second aspect of shopping locally that is greatly overlooked is the bond created when you support a local business. The owners of which are found often on community boards and have been know to be generous towards local fundraisers. It is not uncommon for artists visiting my shop to ask “you must buy a lot of art supplies, which website do you use?” I respond honestly with “actually I like to purchase at any of the local independent shops that carry art supplies.” They seem shocked that I don’t take advantage of the discounts found on the Internet.

It makes perfect sense to me because even to pay a little more the people who I purchase from all know me. When customers come into their store and ask “where can I purchase quality artwork?” they send a few of them my way. I once estimated that the sales made from customers sent to me by businesses I purchase from equaled three to four times the total of what I spend on all my art supplies each year.

So that television I could purchase at some box store and save $40, that local hardware store with a Radio Shack will in all likelihood take my money and compound its local economic value. If the vegetables I purchased from the discount, high volume outlet were purchased form that farm stand down the road where I could purchase a CSA, they too will probably compound its value. If the books I decide to purchase online were purchased at a local bookstore I am confident they compound the value of my purchase as well.

This gives me a clearer picture as to what I can do even in any economy to add to its health. When I make a purchase these days I will ask myself “How many local hands will touch the money I am about to spend?” For me the more hands touched the better the purchase. I will think about how many of my neighbors or family could see those dollars as they travel through the local economy. I also imagine that there is even a chance I could see some of those dollars again. I will look at those who can manufacture locally and send to markets in other economic districts differently.

When I consider where my money goes after the initial purchase I quickly realized that what I value had been short sighted. That I can contribute to creating local jobs just through a change in how I shop myself, which in the end only adds to strengthening the community I love.

Reed A Prescott III

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