Article at
Why Local Matters
Tompkins Weekly     10-17-16

By Jan Rhodes Norman

I love where I live! Here in Ithaca, in the heart of the Finger Lakes, we
are blessed with great natural beauty and a vibrant local living economy
made up of local, independently owned businesses, family farms, educational
institutions and active community organizations. It’s a rich, diverse
culture with a strong local identity and one that Local First Ithaca is
dedicated to protecting and strengthening.

Local First Ithaca <> is part of a nationwide
movement. We advocate a new approach to sustainable, community economic
development based on local ownership of community assets such as
sustainable agriculture, independent media, renewable energy, green
building, zero waste manufacturing, community capital and independent
retail- building what is called a “Living Economy.”

We envisiona sustainable global economy as a network of Local Living
Economies, building long-term economic empowerment and prosperity in
communities through locally owned business, economic justice, cultural
diversity and a healthy natural environment. This allows us to preserve an
authentic sense of place, supporting the restoration and redevelopment of
neighborhoods and preserving one-of-a-kind businesses that help create the
unique character of this place we call home.

When you spend your dollars at an independent, local business, you keep
more money in your hometown – supporting your community’s schools, social
services, your public library and local non-profits. Locally-owned
businesses return about 80 percent of each dollar to their community. And
each dollar spent at a local business will return up to five times that
amount within your community through city taxes, employees’ wages, and
purchases of materials, supplies and services at other independent
businesses. 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.

Chains and franchises, on the other hand, contribute roughly 20-40 percent
of sales back to the community. And many big box stores are given
tax-incentives by local governments – costing us far more than the
discounted price we think we’re paying.

A recent study drives home the potential impact of shopping at locally
owned businesses, whatever the season. A 2008 Grand Rapids, Michigan,
survey found that a slight shift in purchasing behavior, diverting just 10
percent of purchases in Kent County from national chains to locally owned
businesses, would create 1,600 new jobs and yield nearly $137 million in
economic output, spread among many industries, not just retail.

Imagine the difference we could make in our own community with a 5-10
percent shift in purchases. It’s not about buying more, it’s about the
power of choice. Every time we make a purchase, we’re exercising our power
to choose what kind of community we want to live in. Especially during this
time of economic uncertainty, where we spend our money really does matter.

At a time when we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars bailing out
large financial institutions who profited from a “Wall Street” economy that
rewarded unrealistic speculation and encouraged people to assume
unmanageable levels of debt, the most important reason to support “Main
Street” is that our local businesses provide real goods and real services
right here in our own community. In our local economy, customers are not
consumers but rather friends, fellow citizens and neighbors.

We realize it’s not always possible to buy what you need locally so we just
ask that you Think Local First! We can all make a difference with a few
simple steps:

   - Whenever possible, make a choice to patronize locally-owned businesses.
   - Pick two or three items that you use regularly and find local sources
   for them.
   - When you shop online with out-of-state companies, it doesn’t
   contribute a dime to the local economy. Check out local businesses that
   offer the same products.
   - During the holiday season, take the Local Lover Challenge! Look for
   the Local Lover Challenge poster or go to to find the
   list of participating businesses.
   - Support your local farmers markets.
   - Choose a local bank or creditunion for your financial needs.
   - Tell friends and family about the importance of thinking Local First.

Most of all, have fun and feel good that your community is benefiting by
your choosing to shop with local businesses, especially when those
businesses make & sell products that come from right here in our own
backyard. Search out some local shops you’ve never been in, see what great
things they have to offer, ask to meet the owner and say: “Hi, neighbor.”

*Jan Rhodes Norman is owner of Ithacamade and Silk Oak, and the co-founder
of Local First Ithaca.*

Sasha Paris
Office Assistant
Sustainable Tompkins
309 N. Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Office phone: 607-272-1720

*Are you a member of Sustainable Tompkins? Join today

For more information about sustainability in the Tompkins County area, please 
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Shelley, at

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