Shopping local will save your home, your health, and your community’s collective abundance. Local, independent entrepreneurs not only pour their earnings back into the places where they live and work—at a rate of almost 80 percent, as opposed to 30 percent for chain businesses—but share the common interest in building businesses that add value on every level. A campaign from Re>Think Local (GO LOCAL Hudson Valley) seeks to inspire us all to commit to increasing our local spending.
It’s the cumulative effect of many intelligent people working extremely hard in the Hudson Valley to keep the local movement viable—from the entrepreneurs themselves to the public servants, elected officials and volunteers devoting endless hours to the minutiae of planning and zoning, to organizing events and answering first-aid calls. And not least, the general public: every local purchase and rave review makes you a collaborator in what economist Nicholas Gruen describes as “a nested ecology of public and private goods.”
Local entrepreneurs, by definition, care about their communities. They and their families experience the landscape they are creating; they encounter their customer base at the bank or the elementary school concert. Stepping up and starting a local business is part performance art, in which you’re putting your dreams on full display, and part hard science, a thicket of regulations and practical necessities like space, promotion, and bookkeeping. It’s a huge commitment, and only half of all independent startups are still standing five years later; being a great baker, for example, does not automatically confer the business knowhow required to make it work.
Organizations such as the Rondout Valley Business Association and the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce play a vital role in helping entrepreneurs with that steep initial learning curve and beyond. Education happens formally and informally at meetings and networking events. Members have access to marketing and promotional opportunities beyond what any one of them could achieve alone, whether it’s a web directory, a community event, or a ribbon-cutting celebration, which both groups will organize and publicize for members.
Local business organizations, busy networking, educating and promoting, have a strong ally in Re>Think Local. The group brings together and makes available big-picture insights and tools of local economy-building by offering conferences, speakers and workshops that emphasize a triple bottom line in which a business benefits the owner, the community, and the environment. It serves as information clearinghouse and organizer, gathering and disseminating the many innovations arising from the burgeoning world of sustainable economics.
Concepts like collaborative consumption (reinvented bartering, trading, or lending) and local impact investing seek to apply the triple bottom line to the very core of capitalism. Entities like benefit corporations, Certified B corporations, and Low-profit Limited Liability corporations are demystified and made part of the local conversation.
For independent business owners, the future has arrived just in time. The growing awareness that collaboration and competition can work together as drivers of creative placemaking and success points the way to a sustainable Main Street.
And as customers, we should consider this: The Indie Impact Study done by Re>Think Local on our area in 2013-14 revealed that shifting 10 percent more spending to local businesses would keep $475 million in the region. Just 10 percent. Save the world, get better stuff, and have more fun—keep it local with us.
For more information, visit Dcrcoc.org, Rethinklocal.org, Rondoutvalley.org and UlsterChamber.org.