The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Going local supports economy, people in community

Have you ever been to the farmers market in Phoenix Park during the summer or fall? It’s fantastic. There are fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables, candles and homemade dips, among many others things. You can get fresh raspberries for $3. The vendors are friendly. And, best of all, you can shop outside in the sun.

How about downtown? You can grab a delicious meal at local restaurant Stella Blues, pick up a few books for half the cover price or less at the used bookstore Crossroads Books and then stop at Infinitea and choose from more than 160 different teas and play a quick game of Scrabble.

The great experiences you can have at the farmers market and downtown Eau Claire are just one incentive of many to buy local (and not just food either).

Reason number one: Money spent in the community stays in the community. Several studies, including some by Civic Economics and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, have found that three times as much money stays in the local economy when you buy goods and services from locally owned businesses rather than chain stores. The reason for this is twofold; local businesses have a higher local payroll because they don’t have an out-of-town headquarters and they spend more money locally than national chains do.

Reason number two: Environmental impact is reduced. Because local businesses spend more money locally, their purchases require less transportation and therefore less use of fossil fuels. Also, these stores are generally located downtown or in the city centers as opposed to the fringe. This means they contribute less to urban sprawl, traffic congestion, pollution and loss of habitat. And in my experience, local stores are much more cyclist friendly, which is an automatic thumbs up in my book.

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Reason number three: Better customer service. How many times have you gone to a store in the mall and gotten terrible service from employees who clearly hate their job? I’m guessing quite a few. Local businesses generally hire people who have a better understanding of the goods sold there and who will take more time to get to know regular customers. That means that nine times out of 10, you’ll have a friendlier, more knowledgeable employee to help you.

Reason number four: Create more good jobs. It’s fairly well-known that small businesses are the largest employer nationally. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, firms with fewer than 500 employees accounted for 64 percent of the 22.5 million new net jobs between 1993 and 2008, and they accounted for just over half of all jobs in the United States.

Reason number five: You’ll be investing in your community. When you buy local, you’re supporting entrepreneurs who live in this community and are therefore less likely to leave and take good jobs with them. Local business owners are more invested in their community’s future than their big business counterparts and are generally more socially responsible. For instance, local non-profit organizations receive an average 250 percent more support from local businesses than from chains.

Reason number six: Your diet will be revolutionized. Locally grown food not only looks better, but it also tastes better. Crops are picked at their peak and sold within a few days, so they retain their flavor and nutrients. Often imported food was picked weeks ago and had a couple truck rides before it got to your dinner. And buying locally grown food is safe. There is a distinct kind of assurance that comes from buying your food directly from a farmer at an open-air market or driving past the fields where your food grows. Local farmers aren’t anonymous.

Reason number seven: Keep your community unique. A market of hundreds of competing local businesses is one of the best ways to ensure innovation and low prices. Many of these businesses choose their products based not on a national sales plan but on the personal demands of their customers. That means that you can buy what you want, not what the chains want you to buy. And by buying local, you support the individuality that small business entrepreneurs try so hard to keep.

Now I’ve just given you seven excellent reasons to buy locally. So I hope the next time you’re downtown, you’ll stop in and say hi to the wonderful people at Just Local Foods, grab a cup of coffee-to-go at Racy’s, or shake hands with a local grower at the farmers market on a sunny Saturday morning.

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Going local supports economy, people in community