You’ve heard the phrase hundreds of times, have seen ads across the country and probably shared a post or two on Facebook to encourage fellow shoppers to support locally-owned businesses. In 2009, the Chamber launched our own version of a shop local campaign—”Trade in Troup”—to encourage cash flow throughout our county. As part of our 5-star member program, we ask each of our members to recommit to the effort and to take our “Trade in Troup” pledge.
We are a community blessed with a diverse mix of business, and it is that mix that makes our economy work. Through the “Trade in Troup” campaign, residents and business owners are encouraged to spend dollars locally. When a community collectively holds back on spending or takes our hard-earned dollars to another city or town, our local cities have trouble paying for basic services, and we see people—our neighbors, our family, our friends—lose their jobs. This is not a cycle we can break at the national level, but it is a cycle that we can break in our local community if we all make a concentrated effort to buy goods and services locally whenever possible.
Susan Witt, Executive Director of the E.F. Schumacher Society, says that buy local campaigns are also a great way for a community to identify gaps in its business mix. Studies of Troup County show an annual retail leakage of $325 million. That means our residents are taking hard-earned dollars to other communities to buy goods and services because the items are either not available locally or consumers are in the habit of shopping in neighboring communities. That’s why the Chamber engaged Retail Strategies, a consulting firm based out of Birmingham, to help us attract and retain retailers in Troup County.
Shopping local also enhances the “velocity” of money—the circulation speed. David Morris, Vice President of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit economic research and development organization, says “The idea is that if currency circulates more quickly, the money passes through more hands—and more people have had the benefit of the money and what it has purchased for them.” He adds, “If you’re buying local . . . chances are that the store is not making a huge profit. That means more goes into input costs—supplies and upkeep, printing, advertising, paying employees—which puts that money right back in the community.”
We are often asked why the Chamber’s $hop at Home gift certificates have a six-month life span. When the program was created in 2002, the Chamber Board of Directors wanted to jumpstart local spending and benchmarked other programs that showed certificates would be redeemed—money would be circulated in the community—within that time frame.
David Boyle of the New Economics Foundation, an independent economic think tank in London, sums it up best: “It’s not about how much money you’ve got, but how much you can keep circulating without letting it leak out.”
As you make business—or personal—buying decisions, first ask if you can find the goods and services from a local vendor. If you’re not sure, give the Chamber a call! We’re happy to refer fellow Chamber businesses.