Strategies for Creating a Strong Local Economy

Here's a thoughtful piece from Carol Bridges, Secretary of the Bloomington Cooperative Services Board of Directors. It offers a wide array of things we can all do to help strengthen our local economy.

Steve Stroup 

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It is part of the board’s job to stay informed about “the big picture.” With this in mind, we are currently all reading The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition, by Michael Shuman. It asks, “How do we support our local economy?”

 We tend to think that just buying goods from a small mom-and-pop store is the answer, but, in fact, depending on that merchant’s own spending practices, that could be the wrong choice.

For instance, a local storeowner may buy all her merchandise from China, rent space from an out-of-town landlord and bank, invest and have insurance with out-of-state companies.

 We can’t control all these factors in someone else’s life, but we can check where our own spending is leaving town. Here is a list of the best places to localize your spending and often save you money.

• Bank locally. They are the ones still giving credit!
• Cut up credit cards.
• Take a mortgage from a local bank, own your own home or rent from a local landlord.
• Use local building materials and furnish with locally crafted goods.
• Choose to support our local restauranteurs rather than the chains.
• Buy fresh from local farmers, bakers, chefs and caterers.
• Spend leisure time at local events.
• Target your charitable giving to local causes and non-profits.
• Read books by local authors; buy music from local musicians.

And if you have influence in any organizations, you might:

• Create a directory of local products.
• Set up a computerized “time bank” system for tracking volunteer hours as a way of legitimizing and expanding contributions for the community.
• Invest in your local cooperative businesses.
• Make local ownership a key part of marketing your business to consumers and investors.
• Create or join a direct delivery service affiliated exclusively or primarily with local businesses.
• Form a network of businesses that is ready and willing to seize manufacturing opportunities as they arise.
• Team up with other local businesses to create instruments that promote local purchasing, such as local credit cards, debit cards, loyalty cards, and gift cards.
• Create a scholarship fund that extends no-interest loans to college-bound people. (If they return to and settle in the community after graduation, they enjoy no- or low-interest provisions; otherwise, interest rates kick up to market levels.)
• Give a 5 to 10% bidding advantage to local businesses for any public contracting.
• Revamp zoning to permit most kinds of uses in most places, especially home-based businesses.
• Refurbish older, smaller school buildings instead of building newer, bigger ones. Make it easy and safe for children to walk or bike to school.
• Create a living wage ordinance to eliminate most working poverty in the community.

There are numerous inspiring stories in this book to show us what others have already done. If we all do just one more local thing, we can keep our fair city (and region) alive and well. As one city puts it, “Let’s celebrate our independents!”

 
                                       Carol Bridges, Secretary
                                       BCS Board of Directors