A businessman I used to know liked to talk up the fact that his restaurants were locally owned.
He pointed to studies showing the increased economic impacts of spending money at locally owned businesses when compared to non-locally owned businesses. One such study showed that $73 of every $100 spent at a locally owned business stayed in the local economy, whereas only $43 of every $100 spent at a non-locally owned business stayed.
(See this and other studies at www.localfirstaz.com/studies; I’d point you to a more local “Local First” website, but, alas, I couldn’t find one.)
However, he didn’t always put his money where his mouth was. When it came time to advertise, he didn’t spend with any of the local media; instead, he used Groupon. (Go figure.) That bit of hypocrisy aside, my businessman friend had a point: It’s always better to buy local whenever you can—and that’s a lesson that many in the Coachella Valley should learn.
That’s not to say that all chains are bad, nor is it to say that non-locally owned companies don’t often offer services or products in a better, cheaper way than locally owned business do. (For example, the Independent dead-tree version is printed by a non-locally owned company, because there is no locally owned alternative that makes any sense financially.)
But when it comes to, say, restaurants, there’s little excuse to go to a big chain when there are so many great local eateries around. Trust me: There’s no reason to wait in line at the Cheesecake Factory when you can get food that is just as good, and probably cheaper, at hundreds of locations around the valley. It’s the same story with retail stores in many cases, too.
Of course, it drives me crazy to see how many businesses, many of them locally owned, spend far too much advertising money with the corporate-owned entities, when they could be getting more bang for their buck (AND seeing more of that money stay in the valley) by advertising with locally owned media, such as the CV Weekly, GayDesertGuide.com, CoachellaValleyNews.com—or, the best option of all (in my admittedly biased opinion), the Coachella Valley Independent.
Again, non-locally owned businesses have their place. Some goods aren’t available at locally owned stores, and, yes, we all have occasional cravings for Big Macs or Moons Over My Hammy sandwiches. But there are lessons to be learned from a local-first movement called the 10 Percent Shift (www.10percentshift.org): If people moved just 10 percent of their purchases from non-locally owned companies to locally owned ones, thousands of new jobs would be created here, with millions more dollars staying in the community.
Keep these lessons in mind this holiday season: When it comes to spending your money, local is always better.