By Janet Hartman
Hopefully by now you have heard of the latest Destination Oconee initiative of the Oconee Economic Alliance focusing on supporting local businesses.
It is “Think Oconee!” which encourages people to make intentional decisions on their spending habits with a focus on spending money locally. The social impact of a spend local campaign is wide reaching. The goal is to build personal relationships between local consumers and local business owners which will contribute to a stronger sense of community.
There are numerous studies that show spending locally matters, and more importantly works for economies.
- A 2012 national poll said that having locally owned businesses nearby is the number one factor in creating an ideal community.
- A 2011 study found that “counties with a vibrant small-business sector have lower rates of mortality and a lower prevalence of obesity and diabetes” than counties without one.
- Studies of both agricultural and manufacturing communities found that places with a diversity of small-scale enterprises had higher levels of civic participation and better social outcomes than those dominated by a few outside corporations.
- Each dollar spent at a local, independent merchant generates up to four times as much wealth in the local economy as a dollar spent at a chain-owned business, due to the local multiplier effect.
- Local retailers and distributors are not only more likely than chains to hire locally, but they carry a higher percentage of locally produced goods.
- Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s future.
When businesses are successful and thriving, more activity is attracted to the area which is more attractive to visitors. We have a choice in what we buy and from whom we buy it. We simply want people in our area to intentionally Think Oconee!
Think Oconee! is greater than a traditional ‘buy local’ campaign. Think Oconee is a holistic approach to encouraging residents to participate in making Oconee County the best place it can be. From purchasing goods and services, to participating in events and activities, to being a positive voice in the community, each of us can contribute to the overall success of Oconee County.
This effort will require a change of mindset for many. We want it to be a way of life that celebrates and supports what we love most- the local businesses and farmers who reﬂect the unique character, ﬂavor and culture of the place we call home.
Janet Hartman is the manager of Destination Oconee, a comprehensive tourism based economic development strategy that is a function of the Oconee Economic Alliance.