Buy local? Thanks, I think I will

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In this week's Indy, Pam Zubeck reports on the Colorado Springs business community's new "We Think Local" push. In it, she quotes the leader of the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp.:

"If we all did 10 percent more [business] locally, it would create 2,000 new jobs," says CEO Mike Kazmierski, basing his figure on research from a 2008 visit to Austin, Texas, to study its thriving economy.

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It's nice to hear someone like Kazmierski talk up this effort (even if, as Pam put it, he isn't "encouraging people to shun big-box stores in favor of locally owned businesses"). But anyone who has a tattered, forlorn "Local Biz" sticker on their car or water bottle — a relic of last decade's now-defunct, buy-local campaign — may be forgiven for wondering whether any of this stuff really works.

Well, besides Pam's reporting on two West Coast cities that have seen encouraging results from their efforts, we have a report released yesterday by the New Rules Project, part of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The Institute is not an unbiased source — as we noted at the bottom of her 2009 "Corporate co-opt of local" essay, senior researcher Stacy Mitchell is "an unabashed supporter of local business." But the numbers from the survey it helped administer look pretty good, nonetheless.

The survey, which was conducted over an 8-day period in January, gathered data from 2,768 independent businesses, including retailers, service providers, restaurants and others. It found that those in places with a "buy local" initiative reported revenue growth of 5.6% on average in 2010, compared to 2.1% for those elsewhere.

Among independent retailers, which accounted for nearly half the respondents, there was a similar gap in holiday sales performance, with those in "buy local" communities seeing a 5.2% increase in holiday sales, while those elsewhere reported an average gain of 0.8%.

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