by Kim Schaffer and Josh Bushey
Have you made a purchase from an independent Lehigh Valley business recently… a T-shirt, a meal, home goods, or a gift for a loved one? If so, you probably got something pretty cool—the Lehigh Valley is home to a wealth of unique shops, restaurants, and businesses.
But there’s more to it than that. Each time you spend money at an independent business, you’re voting your dollars for our community.
Your purchase is a vote of confidence in our neighbors who have worked to build our downtowns into the vibrant districts we all enjoy so much. A vote for being able to stroll the streets of historic Bethlehem while taking in holiday music and a carriage ride. A vote for the festive atmosphere of First Fridays on the southside. A vote for the shops, restaurants, and other businesses that make the Lehigh Valley special. As the saying goes, buy local—or bye, local.
At the same time, when you think independent, you are helping to strengthen our local economy in a longer-term way. Studies show that dollars spent at local businesses are much more likely to circulate through the community, or multiply, than are dollars spent at stores with far-off headquarters. It makes sense:local businesses spend more of their revenues locally. Local firms are more likely to use local printers, local accounting firms, local banks, and more.
In 2003, the firm Civic Economics measured the fiscal impact of a dollar spent at a locally owned bookstore in Austin, Texas, compared to the impact of a dollar spent at a proposed chain bookstore. The firm found that each dollar spent at the chain store would lead to an additional 13 cents being circulated through the community. A dollar spent at a local bookshop, however, had much more of an effect:45 cents of that dollar found its way back into the community. For each dollar spent at the local shop, that’s more than three times as much of an impact on the community and its residents.
The Sustainable Business Network of the Lehigh Valley recently estimated that Lehigh Valley residents are likely to receive an estimated $263 million in economic tax rebate checks in 2008. Imagine if each Lehigh Valley family consciously committed to spending these dollars at locally owned, independent businesses. That would be a big vote for our communities. And the benefit wouldn’t stop there. Many of those dollars would show up again in other Lehigh Valley businesses throughout the coming year.
In addition, shoppers would discover a significant part of what makes the Lehigh Valley special:independent businesses offering gifts that are unique and customer service that’s a step above what’s expected.
Where you spend your money matters. This year, when you need to make a purchase, whether it’s a cup of coffee, a piece of drywall, or a pair of jeans, stop for a moment and ask yourself: Is there a local shop that offers what I’m looking for? Think independent, and be a part of building a strong and vibrant Lehigh Valley.
Kim & Josh own Clothesline Organics, an independent eco-boutique in south Bethlehem, and are members of the Sustainable Business Network Lehigh Valley.
This essay was originally published in the Alliance’s 2008 Directory of Organizations That Promote Sustainable Communities.