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Guest column: Power of local drives economy

POSTED: January 11, 2009 1:00 a.m.

As our economy has softened, it is not surprising that most of us find ourselves playing the same part in an all too familiar play, "more month than dollars."

This is true at the individual, family, corporate and governmental level. With this in mind, I wanted to take a moment to suggest we all consider a sometimes overlooked weapon in our arsenal: Spending locally.

In good or difficult times, we are wise to remember the power of locking arms with our neighbors and shopping down the street instead of in the next county or state. In Michael Shuman's essay, "Going Local," he highlights several compelling reasons to buy from local merchants. Among them:

First, local businesses produce jobs, tax receipts and charitable donations for our community. Serendipitously, this effect is often multigenerational, as businesses are handed down to children and grandchildren.

Next, when local businesses fail, the net effect is often outside ownership and calamity. Property values plummet and local work often migrates to other areas, many times around the world to places like Eastern Europe and Asia. If you are a skeptic, talk to a 1970s Pittsburgh steel worker.

Third, locally owned businesses are loyal and have made the conscious decision to remain in the community. My beloved Green Bay Packers are the only NFL franchise owned by the community. Unlike almost all other professional teams they will never leave their beloved hometown.

Finally, locally owned businesses have a better survival track record than their multinational competitors. With the ability to understand the local market and make quick and often dramatic changes they continue to find a way to remain profitable even in the toughest of times.

Our Local Option Sales Tax revenues in Hall County for December 2008 were down between 15 and 20 percent from a year ago. These are the funds that build schools, purchase classroom technology and put safe school buses on the road. At the county and municipal level these funds build roads, construct parks and install utility infrastructure.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, "Can anybody remember a time when times were not hard and money not scarce?"

Yes or no, it is worth considering that when you buy that gas, eat out at that restaurant or purchase that new refrigerator we do it at the establishment of a "neighbor."

Happy New Year!

Will Schofield is superintendent of the Hall County school system. Contact: 770-534-1080, Web site.


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