A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Localism and the Internet

by Ajax Greene   

At Re>Think Local, we have several criteria that we use for screening members:

• Do the business owners with a controlling interest (greater than 50% of ownership) live in Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan, Columbia, or Ulster County?
• Is the business registered in the state of New York, with no corporate or national headquarters outside of the previously noted Mid-Hudson Valley region?
• Does the business owner have full autonomy to make their own independent decisions regarding their unique business and its purchasing, operations and distribution, as well as the name and look of the business?
• Does the business owner pay all their own marketing, rent, and other business expenses without assistance from, or payment to, a corporate headquarters?  

Why are these questions important? It has to do in part with how money circulates. As a recent study Re>Think Local conducted here in the Hudson Valley shows, locally owned businesses circulate a dollar three times more than a non-local business, and this includes internet businesses.

Lets share a real-life example of Ray Greenberg and Yoga Life Style. Ray is a local yoga instructor living in Gardiner. He had a business selling art posters. Some years ago he had an opportunity to buy some yoga posters offering him the excitement of bringing his passion into his business. Over time Ray’s passion has morphed the business to where it is now: a wonderful full-fledged yoga company offering unique books, all kinds of gear, jewelry, CDs and more on their website— and of course their amazing poster collection. (Check out their Kickstarter campaign around some amazing new posters. Interested in buying directly from the warehouse? Check them out in Highland.)

Ray’s company Yoga Life Style is locally owned and independent; it meets all six of the Localism movement criteria: Ownership, Place, Opportunity, Nature, Measurement, and Relationships. And best of all, by selling on the internet he is importing dollars to the Hudson Valley and helping to improve our economy. (Check out his list of yoga studios in the region if you are looking for a class.)

Many “buy local” campaigns are very welcoming of the local chain store on the corner, but are anti-internet. This makes no sense to us. Localism loves the internet—when the sellers are locally owned and independent. Just because we are pro-retail does not mean we support large chain stores. And being pro-internet does not mean we support shopping at publicly traded mega-sites like Amazon.

Some folks ask about the sustainability of internet shopping. As with most things, well, that depends. If I drive the 10 miles from Gardiner to New Paltz for a single “cup of sugar,” local retail is actually less sustainable, since shipping companies are so efficient with their deliveries. Now if as in real life I bundle as many errands and meetings as possible each time I go to town, local retail and the internet are compatible.

Many local retailers are dependent on a weekend visitor coming into their store for the first time and then re-ordering their beloved hard-to-find local products from the comfort of their primary residence somewhere south of the Hudson Valley. More importing of dollars that we love.

One of the important advantages of having a website for Localist triple bottom line businesses is the ease with which you are able to explain both your values and your value proposition. Now I might not be your typical consumer, but when I first go to a company’s website, I want to know as much as reasonably possible about whom I might be doing business with. Transparency is now the ultimate competitive advantage. The big guys can’t copy you and a large growing number of enlightened customers want to do business with like-minded businesses. Personally, if you don’t have a website that allows me to “know” you, chances are I won’t do business with you.

Voting with your dollars has a huge impact on our communities. Most people have come to deeply understand the high cost of low prices.

In the 1800s the economy traveled on trains; today the economy travels on the internet. Yet based on some quick internet searching, only about 50% of American businesses have a website. We think all businesses should be on the internet.
Come on, you budding Localist business owners: Check out Re>Think’s member directory (on our website at rethinklocal.org, naturally) to find a website developer today and join all the Localists online.