With concern over local jobs and the economy, it is time to shop local merchants

Don Heinzman
ECM Editorial Writer

With all the concern over local jobs and the economy in communities, this is the time to shop local merchants and keep them in business.

Local businesses are the lifeblood of the local community.  Not only do they provide jobs and convenient shopping, they also pay taxes and are a leading force in the community.

One idea sweeping the region is called the 3-50 project, started by a woman in Minneapolis.

It’s a simple suggestion. A shopper picks three independently-owned businesses they care most about and voluntarily pledges to spend $50 a month at those stores.

Cities like Little Falls and Hutchinson, are using all means to tell residents about this idea.

Merchants, on the other hand, should do all they can to tell about their business and the sales they have.

For example, in Pennsylvania, a group of restaurant owners discounted a meal for a certain purchase.

One study says that spending $100 locally will bring back $68 to the local community through taxes and payroll, in addition to providing jobs – a  win-win situation.

If you spend the same amount in chain stores, only $43 stays in the community on average. And if you spend it online, none of it comes back to the local community.

To be sure, chain stores have their place in our communities. They are an important source of jobs and they have low prices.

Some will say that people can save money by shopping online and at the big chain stores.

That may be true, but this 3-50 promotion is aimed at saving your favorite bakery, candy store, bread store, plumber, electrician and furniture store.

Having those stores in your community will keep it strong and make you a happy customer.

If half of the United States employees were to follow this plan, it could generate $42.6 million more in revenue and more than $800 million more per state on average.

During these tough economic times, more people are staying home to shop as community members rally around one another.

Shopping locally also guarantees that stores on the Main street will remain open and the street won’t have that boarded-up look.

Chambers of commerce and business associations would do well to examine the 3-50 project or create one of their own.

Tom West, an ECM Publishers general manager and editor of Morrison County Record in Little Falls has a good piece of advice.

“We pull together to help our friends and neighbors in countless ways. We support our local businesses because we know that the more that they succeed, chances are we all succeed.”

Don Heinzman, former editor of the Star News in Elk River, is an editorial writer for ECM Publishers. His blog is posted on HometownSource.com.