Why Local Makes $ense

Shopping local this holiday season will benefit entire community says Otis

With the holidays fast approaching, Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye) encourages shoppers to buy local this holiday season. “Buying local is about so much more than the psychic pleasure of supporting your neighborhood business,” observed the Assemblyman. “It’s about helping our local economy, and in turn, our schools, our property values and our municipal services.” Studies show that every dollar spent at a locally owned business will circulate some 300% more in the community before it leaves. “Shopping dollars spent outside the community do not provide the same local benefit,” said Otis.

The Assemblyman’s remarks build upon ideas presented in the successful Small Business & Economic Development Forum he co-hosted last month with the Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC). The forum, which was held October 16th at the Mamaroneck Town Center with the support of Capital One Bank, focused on strategies that encourage the idea of buying local and the benefits to the community from supporting local businesses.

A diverse crowd of entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations and community representatives were present to hear from keynote speaker, Ajax Greene, Executive Director of ReThinkLocal, an organization he co-founded to raise awareness of the importance of localism and facilitate collaboration among local businesses for their mutual benefit. Acknowledging the price advantages that large, high volume stores can offer, Greene noted that for many customers – by some estimates 40% of all consumers -- price is not the sole determining factor in deciding where to make a purchase. Those consumers are motivated not merely by the bottom line, said Greene, but also by values – societal, community and environmental values.

Local companies need to share their values with their customers, so that consumers understand the full benefits of doing business with them. Collaboration among neighborhood businesses is also key. Business owners should be open to working together to foster a culture of local buying. As Greene pointed out, the entire community benefits when consumers choose to buy local. Citing a study of consumers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Greene observed that a 10% shift in purchasing from national chains to local suppliers generated $140 million in new revenues and 1800 new jobs. The National Association of Realtors has reported that areas with vibrant, locally owned business communities have 54% higher property values than otherwise comparable communities. And locally owned businesses, on average, donate more to support local community organizations than do other non-local firms.

Said Ajax Greene: “The world of business is in transition. Early adopters will benefit the most from the New Economy based on localism and the triple bottom line.”

“As a provider of small business development programs and services, we were delighted to co-sponsor this forum with Assemblyman Otis. Ajax Greene offered great illustrations of how strengthening local businesses does create more sustainable and prosperous local economies,” noted Anne M. Janiak, WEDC’s Executive Director.

Ryan McLeod, Senior Project Manager for the Mid-Hudson Region of Empire State Development, was also on hand to provide an overview of Governor Cuomo’s many initiatives to foster economically viable communities statewide. The regional office, for example, works hand-in-hand with local businesses to help identify funding options that make the most sense for them. The State’s economic development strategies also include financial and tax incentives to support business growth and job creation.

“I am glad that so many business and community leaders came out to hear Ajax Greene’s powerful and inspiring presentation,” said the Assemblyman, “and I’m grateful to Anne Janiak and the Women’s Enterprise Development Center for all their help in putting the forum together. Let’s all do our part this holiday season and support our local businesses. Our community will be stronger for it.”