Buy Local: What does it really mean?

Published 9:55 pm Friday, March 3, 2017

By Kathy Reagan Young

Here in “The Branch,” we’re working toward a revitalization.

We’ve lived through the original surge of interest in our borough, which was solidified with the building of the Chesapeake Square Mall in 1989. A hodge-podge of commercial endeavors with no apparent plan for aesthetic continuity followed. There were many national retailers and a few mom and pops.

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There is a call now to “buy local.” But what does that mean, exactly, how can it help to revitalize our community and why should it be important to us?

Well, here are some statistics that might help to shed some light on the answers to those questions:

  • Small businesses accounted for 65 percent of all net new jobs during the past 17 years.
  • Small businesses employ 77 million Americans.
  • Eighty-nine percent of consumers agree that independent businesses contribute positively to local economies.
  • Residential neighborhoods served by a successful independent business district gained, on average, 50 percent more in home value than their citywide markets.
  • Independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales than chain competitors. Independent restaurants return more than two times as much money per dollar of sales than national restaurant chains.
  • If independent businesses regained their 1990 market shares, it would create 200,000 new small businesses, generate nearly $300 billion in revenues and employ more than 1.6 million American workers.
  • If just half the U.S. employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.
  • For every square foot a local firm occupies, the local economy gains $179, versus $105 for a chain store.

(Sources: Small Business Administration; Intuit Small Business Innovation Study; American Express OPEN Independent Retail Index; Civic Economics/American Booksellers Association, U.S. Department of Labor)

Although it may be more expensive to buy local, that is just in the short term. There are a number of positive long-term benefits that may be overlooked.

By keeping our money in the local economy, a higher percentage of the money actually stays here, both in taxes and in local spending. Those local business owners not only pay taxes here locally, they spend here locally, maintaining those dollars right here where we need them. Additionally, this can mean growth in the number of local businesses and jobs.

And don’t forget, franchise owners are local businesses, as well.

More money in taxes can translate to more civic improvements, including investments made in schools, beautification projects, sponsorship of arts in the community and the ability to support our own friends and neighbors.

And those friends and neighbors that we’re supporting by utilizing their stores and services share our common interests and are therefore much more likely to contribute toward local causes.

By the way, these local businesses are owned by volunteer firemen, Little League coaches, church choir directors and scout leaders — people already involved in the betterment of our community. We should help them not only survive, but thrive.

It behooves us all.

Kathy Reagan Young has lived in Western Branch for 16 years. She owns PR Plus, a marketing company specializing in writing services and out-of-the-box business development ideas for small businesses. You can contact her at