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Shop Local

There are a number of benefits to making a consumer decision to buy goods or purchase services from businesses that are locally owned.  Many “Buy Local” efforts are popping up across the nation in an attempt to make our economy more vibrant.  This is being accomplished simply by encouraging consumers to re-think their spending habits and consider choosing locally owned businesses anytime it fiscally makes sense.

Numerous studies have proven this strategy to be economically beneficial:

In December 2011 the Maine Center for Economic Policy published the results of a study that showed that on a dollar per dollar basis, independently owned businesses had a significantly greater impact on local economies than did national chains.  The study collected data from 28 locally owned retail businesses and corporate filings from a national chain in the Portland, Maine area.  They found that $58 of every $100 dollars that consumers spent at the locally owned businesses contributed to their local economy, as opposed to $33 of every $100 spent at the chain store1.

A second study conducted by Civic Economics in the New Orleans area found that only 16% of the money spent at a SuperTarget stayed in the local economy, as opposed to 32% spent at the local retailers.  The primary difference noted was that the local stores purchased many goods and services from other local businesses, whereas the SuperTarget did not.  The study's conclusion was that even small shifts in spending behaviors can make a big impact on the local economy.  They showed that if residents and visitors shifted 10% of their spending from chains to local businesses, $235 million in additional revenue would be generated in the local economy.  In contrast, a 10% shift from the local businesses to more national chains would result in a reduction of similar revenue in the local economy2.

A third study conducted in 2008 by the Journal of Urban Economics found that the opening of a Wal-Mart store reduces the local employment by 150 jobs.  The data suggested that for every new retail job created by Wal-Mart, 1.4 jobs were lost.  It also showed that the opening of a new Wal-Mart reduced the average payroll of that local county by around $1.2 million3.

A forth study conducted by UC Berkeley for Labor Research and Education in 2011 showed that 65% of Wal-Mart’s workforce, which is around 900,000 workers, are paid less than $12/hour.  Over one-fifth of those workers earn less than $9/hour, and that their overall hourly workers earn 12.4% less than retail workers in general4.

The principal of this agency, Robert Lafaro, along with three other business professionals: Richard Smith of Crystal Point Productions ; Rebecca Wise, Pharmacist consultant:;  and Debbie Swift,  Brand consultant with Forever Broadcasting together started a group in 2011 called Support NWPA Business:

Hitting 150 Facebook fans the first day of creation, and 900 by the fifth week, Support NWPA has grown to over 1400 FB friends and 430 fans on their FB business page.  With a tagline of “No money, just a message:  buy local,” Support NWPA runs two different strategies to support local businesses in the NWPA area:

One strategy is to conduct free networking meetings called “Spotlight meetings” every month.  The term 'Spotlight' comes from the dynamic of the meeting which consists of a round-table discussion averaging 12 to 19 attendees who each get a portion of time to be in the “Spotlight” to pitch their business and services.  For a Home and Auto Insurance agent, for example, this provides an opportunity to describe which strategies the agent uses to properly protect an insurance client with Home and auto coverage proposals, highlighting their value proposition.  Using this example, the agent can also share their own experiences with marketing efforts that they have used and in turn ask other members about possible experiences with their own successful initiatives.  Many attendees, especially new start-ups, benefit from the experience in the room, and getting to know other local business owners in a personal setting allows many connections to be made and transactions to be conducted.

The second strategy of Support NWPA is monthly “CASH MOBS”.  CASH MOBS are actually a national phenomenon which involves picking a locally owned business and sending out mass communications to try to encourage as many people as you can to “MOB” a business by spending cash for a product or service.  Support NWPA conducts CASH MOBS once a month with two objectives:  the first is to give a boost to a locally owned business and the second is to get local consumers in the mindset of shopping locally.

By virtue of the fact that the organization never asks for or collects money for anything, the intentions of the group are transparent:  simply to support local business.

As already indicated, in addition to supporting local businesses by purchasing products from locally owned businesses, the same can hold true for locally owned service providers such as banks and insurance providers.   If you are shopping online for products such as home and auto insurance, give consideration to getting a second comparison quote through a locally owned agency.  There are a number of advantages for doing this: you receive personalized service, have someone to go to when you have a problem (which is the actual value that you are paying for), receive in most cases a higher level of expertise, and lastly, support a locally owned agency, therefore keeping more of your consumer dollars local.

Erie county, where our agency is located, is also the hometown of our primary insurance carrier, Erie Insurance.  Not only does the company hold a large market share of home insurance, auto insurance, and business insurance both locally and on the state-level, it is also highly recognized on the national level, based on its reputation for claims service.  In our hometown, Erie Insurance is the second largest employer in Erie and purchasing from them is a great example of the benefits of supporting local.  Firstly, a greater percentage of the client’s insurance premiums stays local, secondly, Erie Insurance frequently reinvests into the local community, including financing the re-building of our local civic center into the new Erie Insurance Convention Center.

As previously indicated, there are many initiatives forming across the nation encouraging people to shop locally.  Even some of the "big-box" stores are supporting these initiatives with paid sponsorships because even those companies recognize the same principal:  if small businesses fail, the national economy will most likely not survive.  Therefore, the next time you need to make a purchase for a product or a service, make sure you consider a locally-owned business first.  Your local economy is depending on it.

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