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Monday, Nov. 2, 2009 01:59 pm

Eat, drink, shop, think LOCAL FIRST

You always have a choice where you spend your money. If you aren't already a believer in the cause of LOCAL FIRST, I urge you to consider what this town is going to look like in 10 years. Will there be anything on Veteran's Parkway that isn't regional / national?  Will there be anything (other than a road sign) that says we're in Springfield vs any city USA?

I’ve been in the weekly newspaper business for more than 30 years. In the course of my everyday work life I talk with dozens of local business owners each week. 2009 has been among the most challenging years ever - especially for local, independent businesses. It costs more to hire people, more to keep the lights on, more to advertise, more to provide health insurance, more to do just about everything … and yet if you have that entrepreneurial spirit there is little that is more satisfying than owning and operating your own business. We know all about that here at Illinois Times - this paper is one of a very small handful of locally owned media firms in central Illinois. It is only with the support of other independent businesses that our newspaper can remain free and available to the community - just as it has been for 35 years. But more than for our own survival, we want to see the community remain vibrant, interesting and local.

Over the years I’ve watched as hundreds of small businesses close their doors – mostly forced out of business because they couldn't compete with the mega stores that have been creeping into our market for the last twenty years. Most of these locals had a solid business plan … many operated a thriving enterprise for many, many years. But as Springfield got big enough to attract the 'mega' stores consumers got short sighted about what they find valuable. Is it more valuable to have 90 different types of bathroom light fixtures from which to choose or more valuable to keep 19 local people employed at the local hardware store? Is it really important to be able to buy a 48 pack of AA batteries, a case of tomato sauce or envelopes by the gross? Will the mega store owner support the local bank? Will they invest in the symphony or sponsor your son's little league team? What is going to happen to Main Street if all we end up with are national and regional mega stores ... and all the locals are gone?

The independent business alliance we've launched here in the capital city is similar to the hundreds of others that have formed around the country. Our mission is simple: we want to teach consumers that their dollar has 3x more spending power when it is spent with local, independent businesses.

Consider this: a local restaurant owner typically buys his food from a local vendor. When he wants to add a fence he hires a local fence company or local architect. He puts his money in a local bank, which makes mortgage loans to the newlyweds down the street, who in turn buy their plant and flowers at a local nursery. The nursery owner hires local folks who shop at the local hardware store, eat at local restaurants, buy tickets to the local theater company, send donations to the food pantry, drop money in the collection plate on Sunday. Forty five cents of the dollar spent with local independent businesses will stay right here at home, re-circulating from one hand to the other, keeping our neighbors employed, our tax money working to repair our streets, pay our cops etc.

Spend that same dollar with the mega retailer up the street ... it is pretty much gone by morning, when the receipts from yesterday are wire transferred to Arkansas or LA. Other than some fairly low wage jobs (although still important) only 13 cents of your dollar spent with that national / regional chain has any impact in our city at all.  

We're not anti anyone --- the CAIBA is pro independent local business.   We think it is just good business to Eat, Drink, Shop, Think LOCAL FIRST.   For more information about the Capital Area Independent Business Alliance visit www.iBuySpi.com.

Share this message with friends and neighbors.  And send your local business news to capcitybizbuzz@illinoistimes.com

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