5 Ways to Help Your Community Go Local by Jeff Milchen

 

There were dozens of notes taped to the windows and doors of the shuttered bagel shop. “We’re so sad to see you go!” “Come back!” “You will be missed…” What really struck me though, was the note from the former owners taped on the door above these comments: “We appreciate the outpouring of love from the community. It would have been more helpful if you had come in to buy bagels though.”

Nothing speaks louder than dollars. Many of us lament the state of politics and our leadership at every level of government and wonder if our vote ever means anything, but we overlook the simple power we wield on a day to day basis.

As consumers we can shape our community by ‘voting’ with our dollars. For example, if we want only one option for coffee available in the High Desert, then we need to keep giving our money to Starbucks (and I say this as a long time drinker of Starbucks coffee. I don’t hate Starbucks by any means. And when you need drive through coffee, it is definitely convenient.)

But if we want variety available, places that have local musicians perform, places that are unique, showcase local art, serve something a little different, places that support our community, then at least some of the time we need to buy our lattes at The Grind, One of Life’s Perks, Fruit Avenue Coffee, Bodacious Bundts or one of the other coffee spots available to us. Locally-owned, independent businesses are a “use it or lose it” proposition. Like the patrons who “loved” the independent bagel shop, but went to Noah’s Bagels anyway, we can’t assume someone else will be voting with dollars.

5 Ways to Help Your Community Go Local talks about some ways that consumers AND businesses can leverage their power.

  • As a consumer, look at the big stuff first. If there is a way to shift some of your largest purchases to local options, that will have a tremendous impact!
  • As a citizen, exercise your right to participate in spending decisions. Are our city and county governments looking at the big picture by sourcing from local businesses?
  • Utilize the power of anchor institutions. There are several hospitals, prisons and school districts in the High Desert, as well as a community college. Are we as their customers or neighbors encouraging them to source locally?
  • Help provoke a pro-local business alliance. This is our goal as RelyLocal – bringing businesses together to better serve the community, and connecting local customers with local businesses.
  • Differentiate our roles as citizens vs. consumers. We aren’t just making decisions that affect ourselves. We are also acting in ways that will build or detract from our community as a whole.

I do not recommend patronizing a place that doesn’t meet your needs. If there is a problem with the product, service, atmosphere, or other element of a local business, give the owner your feedback! Give them a chance to improve if you can, but don’t throw good money after bad. But when you find a place that does a great job, that provides a quality product or service, tell your friends and neighbors about it and keep coming back.

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