OPINION – I remember driving by Nissons grocery store in Washington City and feeling concern about the empty parking lots and obvious loss of customers to the big chain grocery store that moved in down the street. I would stop once in a while and buy groceries just to support this “legacy” of a business in downtown Washington City. But, in these hard times, it just couldn’t compete with the discount prices of the national chain and Nissons grocery no longer exists.
Do we have a duty to buy local or a moral obligation to help our small business owners make a profit?
There are over 9,000 businesses registered on a small business national network site, Manta, for the St. George area; the exact number of small businesses in Washington County may vary but for purposes of this discussion it is clear the number is notable. Just about 74 percent of those businesses employ only up to four people and most of those are considered small locally owned businesses. Our local economy is dependent upon these smaller businesses contributing to the job market.
It may not be a “duty” to buy local but we should realize that our support can benefit our fellow residents and neighbors. The owners of Wunderbar Deli came from Yaphank, New York, and opened the deli about six months ago. Local customers rave about their burgers and sandwiches. “We buy from local suppliers to ensure what we serve are the freshest ingredients,” said Beth Fitzgerald from Wunderbar, “it’s a win/win for everyone when our local customers support us.”
According to a study by Civic Economics Andersonville Retail Economics, when you spend $100 dollars at an independent business, the local economy gets a return of $68 as opposed to $43 with a national chain. Of course, national chains like Wal-mart and Costco do their part in contributing to the job market here and attracting many customers. While they add to the local economy, they are not the lifeblood of a local economy and it’s important to remember that.
In St.George, if every family spent just $10 dollars a month with a locally-owned business, over $3,721,205 would be directly returned to our community. This revenue would directly impact our schools, better roads and more support for local fire and police departments.
Buying local produce from local farmers can also make an impact on our city. Local fruit and vegetables taste better, are more nutritious and use less packaging. Farmers preserve open spaces by making their land profitable as they sell more local produce. Local produce does not have to travel 1,500 hundred miles to get here in cases and, frankly, it just tastes better when it’s fresh.
Yes, local businesses need to be competitive. Local businesses also need to work hard to earn our business by offering great products and services for competitive prices. The free market will weed out those businesses that cannot compete. Even those residents who locally own and operate large chains need our support because they do indeed live and spend money here.
Just over 40 years ago, in 1970, Washington County only had about 7,000 residents. Our growth has exploded and good, small businesses are one of the main reasons for our growth. People were willing to take a chance and start a business here. SkyWest is a prime example. Café Rio is a local favorite that also started in St.George and is now a national chain.
But, if we chose to even spend just one day a week buying local, what a difference it would make in our community. There is a movement on Facebook called “Small Business Saturday” urging of us to support local businesses at least one day a week.
Recently, we had a “Cash Mob” form to descend on several local businesses to raise awareness to buy local. People show up to spend money on a chosen business to show their support. It is great to see the outpouring of citizens support.
We may not have a duty to support local business, but maybe we should choose to support them or at the very least stay mindful that these small businesses contribute greatly to our community’s economic success. When the community thrives, the people who live and work in it are productive members of society and they continue to give back to their community- the cycle of giving goes on and on.
Because a stronger community helps us in so many ways, maybe it’s time to consider spending some of our dollars at these local businesses first and investing in our own cities when we can.
Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are hers and not representative of St. George News.
Copyright 2012 St. George News.