Support local economy this shopping season - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Support local economy this shopping season

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Posted: Thursday, December 9, 2010 3:15 pm | Updated: 2:02 pm, Mon Dec 13, 2010.

From a business standpoint, the month of December is filled with anticipation that shoppers will open their wallets wide. Holiday sales represent a large percentage of annual revenue for a majority of retailers; and when the transactions take place locally, there are added benefits to the community.

However, I’ll be the first to admit how challenging it is to break consumer habits. The convenience of shopping at large retail stores or making purchases online is undeniable. So, before we get too comfortable in front of our computer, with a coffee cup in one hand and a credit card in the other, let’s consider what’s at stake.

Our local economy is heavily reliant on sales tax revenue generated by transactions that occur within our city limits. The tax revenue from every dollar spent in Chandler helps support core municipal services such as police and fire protection, parks and recreation programs, road improvements, and much more.

It’s the same in every East Valley city. Money spent within the city benefits that community. Online purchases with out-of-state companies, on the other hand, don’t bring anything back.

Secondly, independent businesses are the backbone of Arizona’s economy and locally-owned businesses have vested interests in the region. They are more likely to invest in the community through corporate giving. In fact, many of our youth organizations, food banks and social service agencies rely on donations they receive from the private sector to operate.

Moreover, independent businesses tend to reinvest more of their dollars in the community by contracting with local suppliers. This may not be the case with chain stores that don’t typically rely on local goods and services and send a large percentage of their profits back to corporate headquarters, often in other states.

Numerous studies show that there is a multiplier effect for shopping at community-based stores. For each dollar spent at a local independent store, three times or more gets filtered back into the community compared to a dollar spent at a chain business.

Numbers set aside, patronizing small businesses also builds civic pride and community involvement. Residents are more likely to stay in a community if they feel connected to it. There’s nothing like a shop owner who knows his clients by name and has the expertise to provide for their needs. When such ties with the business community exist, people are more likely to volunteer, vote, attend events and contribute to charities.

The city of Chandler along with other agencies recognizes all of these benefits. A few years ago, we launched a marketing initiative called the Shop Chandler Campaign. The website www.chandleraz.gov/shop includes helpful tools and resources for residents to make choices about where they can shop. Users can subscribe to e-mail listings and receive special offers from Chandler businesses. On the same site, a search tool enables users to find local shopping, services and entertainment. Additionally, there is a “Local Bites” guide that highlights eateries in Chandler. It can be found at www.chandlerlocalbites.com.

Another agency called Local First Arizona has also taken the lead in educating the public about the benefits of building strong local economies. Their website — www.localfirstaz.com — is comprehensive and includes economic studies from various states, a local business directory for Arizona and several initiatives to incentivize residents to “buy local.”

If you’re like me, seeing vacant spaces in place of favorite shops and restaurants is motivating enough to get me off my chair and out supporting local businesses.

Yes, it is still tempting to purchase gifts from the click of a mouse, but the reality is, there’s more than meets the eye. At the end of the day, we can feel good knowing that we’re contributing in a small but meaningful way to the enrichment of our city, both economically and socially.

Rick Heumann is a member of the Chandler City Council

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