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Thursday, June 10, 2010

DIggin' Deep - Part II

In the previous post I spoke about the effects that big box stores and national chains have on the local economy. Conclusions have been made by academia in the past that show how bringing Mass Merchandisers into the local community can actually be bad for the local economy. Of course, numbers and facts can be spun either way depending on which side of the fence you are on, so let's look at the other side. That is, how supporting local businesses effect the community.

First and foremost let's look at the economic impact. Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community. The tax base they create through sales, employment, and real estate taxes go directly back into the community. Small business never gets any sweetheart deals from local government. Locally owned businesses also create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.

Locally owned business also impacts the over all feel and support of the communities well-being. When was the last time you saw Target Store #345 take the field against Pizza Mia in the Plymouth Township little league? Local ownership also ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.

What I also find intriguing that I think escapes most is the uniqueness or individuality that a community keeps, or even gains when local businesses are the focal point.

For this I have specific proof. If you look at New Hope, PA, or Manayunk, Skippack, or even downtown Phoenixville, all three of these town centers prosper. They do so as almost an attraction. These places are visited mostly on the weekends by thousands of suburbanites as almost a Theme Park. The thing they all have in common? 100% small business and local businesses occupy all four centers.

Now, New Hope is near Peddlers Village, and there are a few outlets there, but for the most part, it's the local businesses that support these "attractions". People flock to these things on the weekends and during the weeks in the summers when kids are off. They are peppered with restaurants and bars, and local clothing shops, candles shops, and book stores.

Why do you think these places are successful? What makes them the attractions that they have become? Is it the feel people get when shopping in a place that offers more of a community feel? You might not realize it but it's the answer I get every time I pose the question.

The point is that the creation of these places have proven that we, as consumers, and members of the community itself, crave this type of experience. We yearn for the feel of community. We want the closeness and the reciprocating support that we give and get, realizing that all of our efforts are being funneled right back into the community.

The benefits of a thriving local economy are many, and obvious. For it is the community that feeds that local business that in turn supports that community. In today's climate, I would think that most would agree that community is needed more than ever.

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