Michael Laybourn: 10 Fun Things to do to Improve Our Local Economy


1. Use only local banks. Local banks and credit unions usually have lower overheads, lower default rates and lower fees on checking. Now we can add that these institutions also appear to be much less likely to engage in predatory lending and global securitization, and therefore are much less prone to the spectacular collapses we’ve seen. Finance, of course, is closely tied with two of the largest expenditures rural residents make – shelter and transportation. To put it another way, boycott those big banks that got bailed out with your tax money, but still don’t help small business with loans or help with refinancing mortgages. That’s the fun part.

2. Use only local credit cards. Savings Bank and Redwood Credit Union have cards, still Visa and Mastercards. Mendo-Lake does not. It would be nice for these local banks to administer their own local cards and generate more jobs, but they don’t. Maybe in the future.

3. Use local services as much as possible. Two-thirds o f the budget in every U.S. household involves some kind of service, whether health care, education, yard work, auto repair, or accounting. Most services are inherently local and can be competitively delivered by professionals working out of their homes. We need to identify these gaps, encourage existing service providers to expand into these areas and target entrepreneurship efforts on creating these kinds of professionals.

4. Have local fun. A rural community, or a network of proximate communities, can design a year-round calendar of festivals, sporting events, concerts, plays, etc. that display and nurture local art, music, and culture. This is essential for convincing young people, especially the best and brightest, to stick around. This will also bring visitors to spend money.

5. Invest locally. Small startups are the engine of for producing both jobs and return on your money.

6. Support local farmers by eating local food. Mendocino County consumers spend approximately $210 million of a total $230 million annual food budget buying from outside of the county. If Mendocino County consumers were to buy only 15% of their annual food budget on local food, another $20 million in local farm income would be realized. Encourage the schools to use local and healthy food.

7. Buy from local stores as much as possible. 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. Our economy gets better when more money circulates locally,

8. Patronize local businesses that use locally produced materials. Patrona, Bluebird, Oco Time, Westside Renaissance Market and the Co-op all sell or work with local food. Harvest Markets, Albion grocery, Anchor Bay Market and Mendocino Bounty are among others that sell local goods. Most art galleries focus on local art.

9. Ask our Board of Supervisors to create a local county utility. Marin County did this to give residents a choice of PG&E or the local utility. PG&E went haywire and Marin County got 50% green electricity and gas at the same prices with their new utility.

10. Buy $40 of Mendo Moola from Mulligan Books, the Ukiah Brewery or Oco Time. See how much fun it is to spend money that will never leave the county. It’s quite an experience. Here are businesses that accept Mendo Moola: http://mendomoola.wordpress.com/

Have fun.


A question: if local banks have lower overhead than the megsters like Chase, why don’t they pay higher interest on savings?

I add an 11th. Small crop farming is rough even in the best of times. Resellers almost always ask for blood – Scott and Holly are exceptions. Support local farmers directly by utilizing farmers’ markets and CSAs and contact farmers individually. Know and appreciate your sources. Use cash.

Somewhat of an answer for Jonathan: I talked to the prez of Savings Bank and asked him if it was true that smaller banks have lower overhead. He said it is possible, but not by much. Even though a small bank doesn’t have huge CEO salaries, some costs were higher because they were small. Be that as it may, the real point is that the big banks can be boycotted and the money circulates in our county if you use a small local bank. A better deal.