When we ask readers what "truly local" means, we get varied responses. Most say it is shopping and spending money locally. While shopping local is certainly a component of being local, being truly local is so much more than just shopping local. In fact, the shopping component only makes up 10% to 20% of the truly local DNA.
Yes, shopping local is part of the truly local DNA, but understand that not all shopping local is equal. When one shops at a locally-owned and operated business, its local impact is three to seven times greater than shopping at a big-box, chain or nonlocally owned business. Those dollars will be recirculated throughout the community and help save jobs, boost vital or essential services, pave roads, spur new business, strengthen the local tax base and the list goes on. Understand that locally owned and operated businesses have the ability to affect your economy in a larger way than most will imagine.
Do we realize that not all economic development has the same impact on our communities? There are types of economic development that not only return a far greater return on investment but will spur outside and private investment dollars at a much higher rate than any other economic investment. When we invest our local tax dollars in our downtowns and local business expansion and development, our tax dollars compound in similar fashion as shopping local.
Do we understand the devastating effect when a community loses its media base? Your local newspaper is your community’s ambassador to the outside world. If it were to disappear, who would tell your story and promote your town to the world? A recent Notre Dame study shows that where newspapers have gone out of business, the cost of local government grows in excess of 30% within five years. Not only that, but when communities become what is referred to as "news deserts" (those without a newspaper or voice), businesses begin to decline, fewer people vote, civic club involvement dwindles, volunteering slows and the communities begin to stagnate.
Regardless of the size of your potential tourism base, communities need to find ways to double down on tourism. Nearly every town can create tourism opportunities, and those with ample tourism can grow that substantially with simple tactics and strategies.
Most community governments agree a truly local mentality is critical to local growth. However, did you know most governments, while with great intentions, have laws, regulations and procedures that harm their community’s efforts? Local governments making minor procedural adjustments can stimulate their economies without spending a dime.
Communities are losing younger generations as a result of stagnant or no job growth. What are you doing as a community to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, job growth and an enhanced quality of life?
While we intuitively understand that the arts, music and entertainment are vital to a truly local mentality, what are your communities doing to enhance those?
It is no secret that 2020 brought about many challenges to each of us and our communities. As we move into 2021, it is the goal of this author to tackle these challenges head-on, and by taking the right steps, turning these 2020 challenges into 2021 strengths. Let 2021 be the year of invention, innovation, entrepreneurship and success.
John Newby is author of the “Building Main Street, Not Wall Street” column dedicated to helping communities combine synergies with local media companies allowing them to not just survive but to thrive. His email is john@360MediaAlliance.net.