The following column appeared in the print version of the Brookline Tab on Thursday, April 10, 2014:
Why you should shop ‘local first’
by Brookline Local First founding members Abram Faber (co-owner of Clear Flour Bread) and Dana Brigham (co-owner of Brookline Booksmith).
Brookline Local First has filed a Brookline Local Economy Community Resolution to be voted on at our spring town meeting. We are hopeful that our town meeting members will vote YES in support and celebration of the locally owned and operated businesses that make our town so vibrant. We believe that helping our local businesses to thrive will be a boost for all businesses in Brookline, our entire town’s economy, all of our beloved town non-profits, and every resident.
This non-binding resolution asks the town to declare itself a “Local Economy Community” and specifies several concrete steps to welcome, support, and encourage the growth and development of locally owned and independent businesses.
The resolution recognizes that the Town of Brookline has long been at the forefront of innovative ideas, and more importantly actions! It recognizes the critical actions our town can take to strengthen our local economy. This resolution is an opportunity for local residents to show their support for our local independents in a practical and positive manner. Talk is cheap; it’s in positive actions and where we spend our money that counts the most!
For us the resolution is a “no-brainer” in support of all we love in Brookline. Yet some of our friends have asked why the resolution does not include every business with a physical location in Brookline, so we wanted to explain why Brookline Local First defines local in the same way that hundreds of other nationwide local business movements do.
What is the big deal about local ownership? Why isn’t a branch of a large national chain bank, bakery or bookstore “local” as defined by the national shop-local movement? The simple answer is that local independents contribute to the local community and economy at a significantly higher level that national chains and franchises.
Over ten different studies in communities across the US have proven that $2 of every $3 spent at locally owned businesses stays in the local economy, whereas only $1 of every $3 spent at chains or publicly-held companies stays in the local economy. Fifty percent more money stays in Brookline when purchases are made at locally owned businesses!
This “Multiplier Effect” is real! When a dollar is spent at a local independent store, the value of the dollar increases dramatically. Shifting just 10% of our shopping dollar to local independents can make a profound positive impact on our local economy. Every time a dollar `leaks’ out of the community and into a national corporation it takes money out of circulation in our local economy and stops the “multiplier effect” dead in its tracks.
Most new jobs are provided by locally owned businesses. Even though non-local stores hire people, locally owned and independent businesses pay a much higher percentage of their revenues to staff than non-local businesses. The real “job-creators” in our nation are small and mid-sized companies. In the past ten years large corporations have laid off as many people as they have hired for zero net gain in jobs, whereas local business owners hire more people and pay better wages than their non-local competitors.
Studies have proven that locally owned businesses contribute 350% or more money (as a percentage of their revenue) to local nonprofits than do non-locally owned businesses. Local businesses in Brookline give consistent and substantial support to Brookline non-profits. Yes, there are some solid community-minded folks who own, manage, or work for non-local businesses. We understand and welcome community contributions from all business leaders in Brookline. Yet there are several reasons why franchises are not considered locally owned businesses. Even when a franchise is owned by a local owner, there are substantial fees and other costs that are paid to the national brand that increase the money `leaking’ out of our local economy. The bottom line is that when you buy from a franchise, less money stays in the community. Whatever we can do to boost local business aids all businesses because when our towns commercial districts are healthier, all businesses benefit from increased traffic.
Local businesses also have a lighter environmental impact. They make more local purchases, reducing the carbon footprint of goods sold.
Brookline has a long tradition of celebrating subsets of our population such as artists, women, and exceptional children. Just as these efforts do not diminish any other group, this recognition for local business does not seek to diminish any other business. It is all about supporting our beloved local independent businesses.
Brookline Local First has at the core of its mission to encourage residents, businesses, and government agencies to “first” make every effort to buy locally. It’s “Local First” not “Local Only.”
Please ask your town meeting member to vote yes on Article #29.