by Lloyd Alter, Toronto on 11.15.10
Click image to enlarge; credit Local First
According to a study commissioned by Michigan's Local First, "when West Michigan consumers choose a locally owned business over a non-local alternative, $73 of every $100 spent stays in the community. By contrast, only $43 of every $100 spent at a non-locally owned business remains in the community." This year, a coalition of groups is promoting a holiday challenge to shop downtown and support local businesses.
Michael Shuman, author of Going Local and the Small-Mart Revolution, has written:
Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports. Control moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back into the community where it belongs.
The study shows some pretty dramatic differences between the main street and the mall. In restaurants, they found that "local businesses spend a higher portion of their income locally than national chains and also purchased many more local goods than a typical Olive Garden or Landry's."
The study concluded that in West Michigan alone, if just 10% of consumer spending was diverted from the mall to the main street, it would result in an estimated $140 million in new economic activity, 1,600 new jobs, and $50 million in new wages.
A coalition of groups in Michigan is encouraging individuals and organizations to do at least 75% of their shopping downtown, in support of local businesses. It is a good idea that should be tried everywhere, to help make our downtowns viable and vibrant again.