It’s Not Worth It


It’s not worth it. That $2 you might save at a big chain or buy on the internet.

This notion struck me solidly the other day when I read about Spencer Brewer’s music store closing. I consider Spencer one of the community’s greatest assets. An excellent musician himself, Spencer has brought music into our valley in so many ways: his recording studio, a music school and performance space, Music in the Park, producing local music shows at his shop, piano concerts and his shop itself. Essential gifts for our community. But customers weren’t buying from his store because they thought the internet was cheaper.

Now I was an early internet fan and have purchased many things by catalog. But I’ve learned to adjust my thinking, because, well, it’s just not worth it. Cheap is not value. The lowest price is not the best deal. First of all, someone local will help you get it fixed if there is a problem. Secondly, the owner and staff of that store generally has some product knowledge and can help you make an informed choice.

On top of that, the dollars I spend on local goods has even more added value.

Here is the idea: Buying local products at locally owned businesses keeps money circulating in our community. This creates a ripple effect as those businesses and their employees in turn spend that money locally (we hope). Corporate chains send most of your money out of town.

The rule of thumb is that for every dollar spent at a local business 45 cents is reinvested locally. For every dollar spent at a large corporate chain, only 15 cents is reinvested locally.

Every local purchase triggers purchases by others within a community. For instance, a dollar spent on rent might be spent again by the local property owner at the local grocer, who in turn pays an employee, who then buys a movie ticket. This phenomenon is what economists call “the local multiplier.” The more times a dollar circulates within a defined geographic area and the faster it circulates without leaving that area, the more income, wealth, and jobs it creates. This basic concept in community economics highlights the importance of maximizing the numbers of dollars being spent locally.

I believe that supporting local enterprise should be part of any strategy for economic regeneration. Local enterprises are more likely to employ local people, provide services to improve the local quality of life, spend money locally, promote community unity and, by reducing transportation of goods from far away, will have less environmental damage.

More than employers and profit-takers, local business people are also neighbors, community builders, and the starting point for aligning commerce with the common good. Local business generally pays better than big box stores and seldom cut their hours so they won’t have to pay full time benefits.

The national and global economy has failed to live up to its promise of providing stable livelihoods and has placed our communities and our environment in great peril.

Especially now, we need to rethink our local economy and make it stronger. It is time to rethink that $2 savings and use your money with more effect. Let’s keep good community stores alive.

Local is worth it.