Stay Local! is about Culture.
Locally owned businesses imbue New Orleans with its unique character and aura of authenticity and are a big part of why people want to live, work, eat and shop here.
YA MAMA SHOPS HERE
Just as many of New Orleans' locally owned businesses are handed down from generation to generation, so too are business recommendations passed along, word-of-mouth, from mother to daughter, father to son, friend to friend. In most US cities, shopping is an impersonal experience and transactions are purely financial. Not so in New Orleans, where your haircut comes with a history lesson, your contractor is a font of culinary wisdom, and the cab driver giving you a lift today may be the musician you go out to see tonight.
Beyond sound economics, there are cultural reasons to invest our local dollars in local businesses. Across the country communities are lamenting the destruction of local culture. New Orleans, thankfully, has maintained a cultural richness admired by tourists from across the globe. We can listen to WWOZ, we can eat po-boys and listen to local musicians draw upon an unbroken chain of tradition every night of the week. And in the morning, if we don't feel like coffee from Starbuck's we have a plethora of homegrown alternatives. We can even bank with local banks! Choosing to spend locally supports local talent and local culture.
Stay Local! is about Commerce.
Study after study (like this one in New Orleans) shows that shopping at a locally-owned, independent business is far better for the local economy than shopping at non-local businesses. The reason? This multiplier effect occurs. When you spend money at a local businesses, they then re-spend that money throughout the local economy at a much greater rate than chains, who ship most of your money off to wherever corporate HQ is.
There's just no getting around it: study after study shows us that dollars spent at local businesses have greater economic impact than dollars spent at a national chain store. Why?
There are three main reasons: independent stores have a higher local payroll (when no part of the business operation is located in Houston or Atlanta, no money goes to paying someone in Houston or Atlanta); local stores purchase more goods and services locally; and the local stores retain a much larger share of their profits within the local economy.
It just makes sense. When people live and pay taxes and send their kids to school where they have their business, they're more invested in the well-being of their community in every way. By patronizing these local businesses, we are creating a more self-sufficient, prosperous place to live.
So, what's the bottom line? The image at left, outside Elizabeth's Restaurant in the Bywater, says it all.
Stay Local! is about Environment.
A strong economy is a sustainable economy, and a sustainable economy is one with as many built-in local networks as possible. The more we buy and source from businesses that are firmly rooted here in New Orleans, the more resilient we become.
You won't hear the word "sustainable" bandied about too much at neighborhood planning meetings. What you will hear when citizens envision their dream neighborhood is "self-sufficient." To gauge your neighborhood's self-sufficiency, subject it to the following test next Sunday morning:
1. Wake up.
2. Make coffee.
3. Open fridge and notice you are out of milk.
4. Travel to your nearest milk source and buy a sufficient quantity.
How far did you have to go? Could you walk, or did you have to drive? How much did it cost? Did you buy it from a local business or chain store? If you were able to get back home before your coffee got cold, then pat yourself on the back; you might live in a relatively self-sufficient neighborhood.
But before you get too smug, take the advanced test. See how far you have to go to buy a tomato on a Sunday morning. While milk and bread may be available (albeit at inflated prices) from chain drugstores, produce is another matter.
The further you have to travel to reach that tomato—and, by the same token, the further that tomato has to travel to reach you (is it coming from California or Covington?)—the more energy is expended and the more adverse the environmental impact.
Your dollars spent in locally-owned businesses have three times the impact on your community as dollars spent at national chains. When shopping locally, you simultaneously create jobs, fund more city services through sales tax, invest in neighborhood improvement and promote community development.
Entrepreneurship fuels America's economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs & into the middle class.
Adapted and reprinted with permission of Stacy Mitchell,
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance.