Group supports ‘buy local’ plates

Published 9:41 pm Friday, December 11, 2009

Having begun a campaign to encourage folks to shop locally, a Virginia retail-support group hopes to take its message on the road.

The Retail Alliance, a 106-year-old group that works to help retailers throughout the state, is seeking support for a “Buy Local” Virginia license plate.

“We’re trying to support small businesses,” Carlene Bowers, membership development director for the Alliance, said Friday. “Small business is the backbone of the country.”

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Small businesses employ a little more than half of the nation’s private-sector workforce and about 99.7 percent of all employer firms, according to government estimates.

A “Buy Local” license plate would give Virginians a way to show their support for the small firms that the Alliance represents and that make such a large contribution to the economy — whether on a local, state or national level — according to a letter from Alliance President Susan L. Milhoan.

“[B]uying locally helps produce more income, jobs, and tax receipts for local communities than dollars spent with big box stores,” Milhoan states in the letter seeking support for the license plates.

“Local businesses are more likely to utilize local ads, banks and others services. Local businesses donate more money to nonprofits and are more accountable to their local communities.”

In fact, according to Bowers, when a person spends money in a locally owned store, as much as 65 percent of that money will stay in the community. Shopping at a big-box retailer, she said, returns less than 45 percent of a consumer’s money to the community.

“Supporting local businesses preserves the economic diversity of our communities and the unique character of our neighborhoods,” Milhoan’s letter states. “And, supporting local businesses is good for the environment, because it cuts down on fuel consumption. Buying locally produced goods reduces the need to ship goods from thousands of miles away and also cuts down on the distances shoppers travel.”

The Alliance’s lobbying arm, the Virginia Retail Federation has been working to get support for the license plate in Virginia’s General Assembly. Senator Yvonne Miller (Norfolk) has sponsored legislation to enable creation of the plates, but the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles must receive 350 pre-paid applications for the plates before any will be created.

Proceeds from the sale of the plates will help fund the educational and grant-making operations of the Retail Alliance Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports business training and grants for small, local merchants throughout the commonwealth.

But if fewer than 350 applications are received by July 1, all funds will be returned. If the plates are able to be ordered, delivery should take place by Oct. 10.

For more information, contact Shona Haven at the Retail Alliance, 466-1600.