By Hannah Watrobski
Have you ever wondered what happens to your money after you pay for something at the store? Do you know where it goes? There are two broad categories of stores at which you can shop. You can buy products locally or from a big business (such as Walmart, Costco, or Taco Bell). When you buy products locally the majority of the money you spend stays in the local economy. However, when you buy products from a big business, the majority of that money leaves the local economy. Why is this important? If you are not feeding your local economy, your city can become what is known as a ghost town. This means that your community would be completely run by big corporations and that connection with members of your community and anything unique your community has to offer, will disappear. Now, I am not saying that local business needs to drive out big business. I am not saying big business is bad. All I am trying to help do is to create a shift: buy 10% locally and 90% from big business. Even numbers as small as that could create a big difference!
I met with David Currie who is an active member of the city of Binghamton to gain greater insight as to why it is important to buy local and what is being done to create this shift to buying local more often. One important reason to do this is that it creates jobs for people in the area. It will also keep the area unique. People do not want to travel to a place where they can shop at stores that can be found anywhere, Walmart, Target, Macy’s, they want to travel to a place where they can discover new things. Examples would be restaurants that are different from the ones they see at home and unique shops as well. This can happen if people help the local businesses of their community survive by buying 10% of everything locally.
Understanding Buying Local
I asked Dave, “What can we do in Binghamton to make the shift to buying local?”
Dave said, “Buying local is what they call the import substitution model in terms of economics. That model essentially says that we want to make more things for ourselves and when we expect we can do that, we import less. When we import we’re spending our dollars somewhere else; wherever we’re importing from. The example that I use to explain this is soap. Most of us are familiar with soap and we use it. What if everyone in the Binghamton region decided we are only going to buy Binghamton soap? We would create some jobs. I don’t know how many, let’s say three jobs. Soap is relatively easy to make, some of the materials that make the soap might be imported, some might be procured locally, but in any case we have created three jobs simply by reducing the amount of importation by substituting the number of imports. Now, those three jobs, those three people, spend their money in Binghamton because they’re local, because they work here. That in some way is a way to understand what’s called the multiplier effect. The multiplier effect means the more the money circulates in the economy, the greater its impact on that economy.”
How much of the money stays in the economy if you buy from a chain?
What about if you buy from a local store?
“If you buy from a chain about 30% will stay in the local economy and 70% would leave, whereas if you buy local about 70% will stay local and 30% will leave. I’m simplifying here but you get the idea. We also find that local companies and their employees also donate more to local nonprofits versus big business.”
What is being done and how to help
“Most of the money leaves the economy when we buy online at sites such as Amazon.com. It’s much easier to click and buy the book online rather than pick up the phone and call the local book store, even though you can get it for roughly the same price. We don’t really think about it much, but we can change that behavior. We can change this behavior through marketing. It’s a marketing problem, so we need a marketing solution.”
What is this marketing solution?
“Be Local Broome is a campaign to help solve the marketing problem here in Binghamton. We’ll have individual members and business members. Be Local Broome is a brand so there will be decals on products in local stores. There can also be pins advertising the brand that employees wear. This platform allows places, including non for profit organizations, to be able to have any deals or discounts they want and to advertise local events among other things. The website will contain a directory, searchable by category, for local stores in the area.”
How can students at Binghamton University become involved in Be Local Broome?
“We have not yet figured this out. But there will be a way. There will be a requirement that at least some of the students have cars. They need to be able to canvas areas and drop off packets of information to local places as to why they should join this campaign. Students can be involved in the long term by evaluating a brand by the number of times it’s seen in the street, on television, and online. Students would survey this.”
“Buy at local shops, dine at local restaurants. Stop buying online. This will hurt our local economies more than the chains.” The change starts with you. Become involved in Be Local Broome or start buying at local shops! Make the decision today to help support your local economy to help you now and to help others in the future.