However, almost all of us — myself included — have a highly developed attachment to convenience. And shopping locally might not be as convenient as, say, finding everything you need at a mall over the hill, or at a big-box store, or online. We’re often crunched for time, always looking for the lowest price, and find that shopping locally doesn’t always save time or money.
I’ve recently come to a new understanding that it really does matter whether we spend most of our shopping dollars in our local communities. It matters a lot. And I can say in all honesty that this quasi-epiphany is not a result of being a small-business owner in Scotts Valley. It turns out there are some very concrete and compelling arguments for shopping locally.
I’ve gathered these points from conversations with my (much smarter) friends and colleagues, and they have me thinking about where I spend my money.
Sales tax and neighborhood community services
When you purchase just about anything, you will pay sales tax. The county or jurisdiction in which you shop gets to keep a portion of your sales taxes. Those taxes help pay for services like police patrols, fire departments, schools, roads, public libraries and more.
When you shop over the hill at, say, Westlake Valley Fair or Santana Row, you are helping to pay for Santa Clara County's police, fire departments, schools, roads, public libraries, and so on. They don’t need our tax dollars there. We need our tax dollars to stay right here at home.
Businesses that thrive locally hire locally
Did you know that small, local businesses are, as a “sector,” the largest employer in our country? Our county doesn’t have any huge employers, like they do in Silicon Valley. On the other hand, the lack of what they have in Silicon Valley is part of the reason we choose to live here. When you shop locally, you support your community's primary job infrastructure.
Small businesses have surprising staying power
Local businesses are typically owned by people who work and live in their community. We do business here because we want to be a vibrant and active part of our community and because we offer something special that fits our town's unique character. Making a living is only one piece of the larger picture that draws many into the roller coaster ride of operating a small business. That means local independent business owners are much less likely to relocate out of the area to chase down more dollars, and we’re more likely to be financially and emotionally invested in our community’s future.
Small businesses use and improve what’s already here
Locally owned new and growing businesses tend to set up shop in existing buildings and centers, rather than constructing new buildings. My local business is a good example of this. We are gearing up to expand, and we’re moving into a much bigger existing space in the heart of Scotts Valley.
Small businesses tend to reuse and repurpose their town's existing property resources, often improving the space while we're at it. Today, this practice is known as "sustainable development" or "smart growth," but it's the way small businesses have always operated.
Locally owned businesses grow other locally owned businesses Businesses constantly use other local businesses and service providers. At Scotts Valley Artisans, we use printing and sign services, carpet-cleaning and window-washing services, painters, caterers and restaurants, insurance agents, and janitorial-lumber-and-hardware-supply companies to keep our business running smoothly. In this way, each locally owned small business generates dollars for its neighboring local businesses.
“Buying locally” obviously benefits the store or business where you shop, but those dollars you’re spending have an exponential ripple effect on the well-being of all local businesses that serve and supply each other.
By choosing to buy mostly local, I know I’ll sometimes pay a little more for goods and services. But now I can more easily imagine those dollars I spend here in Santa Cruz County causing tiny ripples that keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
Dawn Teall owns Scotts Valley Artisans in the Kings Village Shopping Center.