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Locally owned businesses vital for economy; join us in recognizing and supporting them
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Members of The Times editorial board include Publisher Dennis L. Stockton; General Manager Norman Baggs; Executive Editor Mitch Clarke; and Managing Editor Keith Albertson.

Though there are faint, flickering hints of light at the end, the nation remains deep inside a very dark tunnel of financial distress.

The economic woes of recent years have had staggering impacts on both the national and local level, affecting everything from the value of the property we own to the stability of the jobs upon which we depend for our livelihoods.

Battered and beaten by the nation’s economic conditions, it’s easy to come to the harsh conclusion that as individuals, there really isn’t a lot we can do to change the economic picture at the national level.

But that’s not true.

While we may not be able to make decisions that change the price of a gallon of gas or improve the interest rates on our 401(k) plans, we can make an investment in the very foundation of the nation’s economy, one that is guaranteed to pay dividends for the future.

We can support the locally owned businesses in our community that provide the fuel for the national economic engine.

This week, The Times and gainesvilletimes.com have launched a new initiative as a means of identifying and recognizing those companies in our area that are owned by our neighbors, commercial concerns whose financial roots are buried in the soil of North Georgia.

The effort will have several elements, the most noticeable of which will be a brightly colored decal posted on the doors and windows of locally owned businesses. Those same businesses are featured in a directory of local-owned businesses on www.gainesvilletimes.com, and will be included in future advertising initiatives.

Why? Because we are convinced that helping the local economy to thrive is the only way to rebuild the national economy, and that locally owned businesses are the very heart and soul of the local economy.

While there are and have been similar efforts to remind consumers of the importance of spending their money at home, The Times’ initiative is different in that it focuses on raising the profile of local ownership in an attempt to remind all of the importance of investing where they live.

Whether the buzz word is “shop local” or “locally owned,” the intent is the same — to remind all consumers that money spent here at home does more good for the community than that spent elsewhere. If you need to patronize a national big box store, go to the ones here at home. If you work out of county, which many do, wait until you get back into the county to buy groceries.

Once upon a time, it was a given that consumers would do business with people they knew and trusted, who in turn would invest profits back into the community from which they received support. But the expansion of national chains and the explosion of Internet commerce have changed that. Now, too often, shoppers willfully send their money elsewhere without thinking of the ramifications of doing so.

Think about it. If you make a purchase from the local hardware store, and help it to increase profits and sales volume, the result is the creation of more jobs and the return of sales taxes from that transaction to local government coffers. That same purchase online has none of the positive side effects for the community.

Think too of the investment our locally owned businesses make in the community that supports them. When was the last time you saw an online retailer or a national chain listed as the sponsor of a local baseball team, or the underwriter for a high school play?

Independent We Stand is a national movement organized to encourage support of locally owned businesses. That group quotes statistics that show that for every $100 spent at an independent business, $68 returns to the local community. The group also notes that locally owned businesses reinvest in the local community at a rate 60 percent higher than national chains and internet retailers.

The Georgia General Assembly, in its most recent session, helped to level the playing field for local businesses by approving tax reform measures that include levying sales taxes on certain online retail purchases, a measure that should help Georgia’s small businesses.

Obviously price makes a difference, and it’s hard to refuse an exceptional bargain regardless of where it is found. But if a locally owned business is competitive in pricing, the real bargain is to make the investment in the community in which we live.

We all need the local economy to rebound, and the way to make that happen is to support those business owners who are the very backbone of the community. The best way to fix the national economy is to rebuild its traditional foundation of small, locally owned businesses.

And a word of thanks to our local business partners, many of whom are struggling to remain open in hard times. We appreciate what you do for our community and the sacrifices many of you have made.

Shop local. If you are going to spend money in a national chain, spend it in the local store. And if you can spend your money at locally owned businesses, please do so. They’ll be easy to identify —look for the bright, round, red, white and blue decals that say “Locally Owned,” or check our locally owned directory at www.gainesvilletimes.com/locallyowned.

(If you are a local business owner who would like to participate in this initiative, e-mail sjones@gainesvilletimes.com, or call 770-532-1234 for more information.)

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