Buying local isn't just something to thing about when you're holiday shopping. In fact, you hear it all the time, and we're often one of the voices saying it, but what does it actually mean to "Buy Local," and why is it so important? Here's a quick look at why we talk about buying local, the benefits it provides to communities and why you should make an effort to do it, whether you're at home in your own town or traveling across the nation.
What does Buy Local mean, anyway?
When we say buy local, we're referring to the choice you have to make daily between spending your money at locally-owned and -operated businesses or at corporately-owned national chains. The reason that's important is because more of that money you spend will stay in the local community if you spend it with local businesses. This provides benefits to your community beyond the actual amount you spend. Local purchases help employ local residents, provide additional tax dollars toward supporting important programs and initiatives and create revenue that will likely be spent with other local businesses.
Buying local ultimately means keeping dollars in smaller communities where they can make a larger impact. How, you ask? Well, for starters, if you buy local, you reduce transportation costs - both the transportation of goods when they're locally or regionally sourced, and your transportation to shop for those goods. Second, it supports the local economy. In fact, spending local has a multiplier effect on an area's economy. Research has shown that dollars spent locally have a larger impact on a community than dollars spent with national chains. When you spend money with a large, national or multi-national corporation, much of that money actually leaves your local community and goes to corporate headquarters. For every $100 spent with these large corporations, approximately $43 gets circulated through the local economy, usually as wages to local employees, etc. - that's less than half! In contrast, for every $100 spent at a locally-owned business, approximately $68 stays in the local economy (and there's a good chance the other $32 stays within your larger region). This is because local owners tend to patronize other local (or regional) businesses and donate more to local causes. Finally, buying local just feels better! It helps build community because it feels good to support your neighbors who you know are also supporting local - in fact, research shows that local businesses support local charities, sports teams and events a whopping 250% more than larger corporations!
Sometimes you'll be encouraged to buy locally sourced items (like at a farmers market) or locally made products (perhaps from a local artisan), and those are great goals as well, but buying local doesn't always mean locally made or grown. We're the first to advocate supporting your local Farmers Market or local artisans, but not everything you need is made or grown locally. Buying from a locally owned business is still an important factor when you're buying things sourced from other places. For example, if you're looking for a particular brand of apparel, you may be able to chose between purchasing that item from a locally-owned boutique that carries the brand, from a larger nationally-known department store in a neighboring town, or from an online retailer. By purchasing that same brand from a local retailer rather than a national chain store or a website, your money stays local rather than leaving your community. If you prefer to shop online, check to see if your local shops have that capability and order direct from their websites!
What about restaurants?
Eating local is something else you'll see us talk about frequently. The concept is the same. Your dollars will make a larger local impact when you eat at locally-owned, independent restaurants than when you spend money with corporate-owned chains. Does that mean we're always anti-chain? Of course not! There's a reason national chains are, well... nationally-known. They do what they do very well and sometimes you just need that familiar comfort food from your favorite burger joint. That's okay. No one expects you to buy local 100% of the time.
Regional chains are where eating local gets a bit more confusing. In fact, we often include locally-owned and -operated franchises of regionally based chains in our definition of locally-owned. That's an important distinction to be aware of - whether a restaurant is a locally-owned franchise or a corporate-owned store. Local franchise owners pay a fee to the parent corporation, but much more of their profits stay local than corporate owned restaurants where the majority of profits go to corporate headquarters
Dining out is also an area where buying locally grown and produced can make an even bigger impact. Whether you're shopping directly at the local Farmers Market or enjoying a meal from a local restaurant where you know they source local ingredients whenever possible, you're not only supporting a local business, but also a local farmer - all at the same time! This is why the farm-to-table concept has become so popular among independent restaurants.
Your taxes help improve communities
There's one more reason that shopping local impacts your local community... taxes! Yeah, we know. No one likes to talk about taxes, but we'll make an exception here. When you shop locally, more of your tax dollars stay in your local community, too. Having shops and businesses located in your community means that your town, city or county tax base is larger. Businesses typically pay a bit more in local taxes, such as property taxes, while utilizing fewer services (for example, property taxes from businesses help support local schools, but businesses don't have kids who attend those schools, so their property taxes make a larger impact).
The big picture
We strongly encourage you to make informed decisions about where to spend your hard earned cash. Don't completely give up your favorite chains, but make sure the majority of your shopping goes to local or regional retailers and locally owned dining establishments. Shopping local doesn't just count when you're in your own hometown, either. We think it's super important to shop local whether you're near home or on the move. In fact, this is one of the cornerstones of the tourism industry - visitors spend money when they're in town that adds to the local economy and that money has even more impact when it's spent at locally owned establishments! (Visitors to Morgan County spend over $22 million per year in our local economy!) Besides, travelers are often looking for unique local experiences anyway. Knowing that you have left a positive impact in a community you've visited is a nice feeling, and being able to do that just by where you choose to eat dinner... well, that's pretty priceless!
Where to shop and eat local in Morgan County
Whether you're in our area for the afternoon, the weekend, a vacation or a lifetime, it's essential to know where to find local dining and retail establishments. After all, staycations can be just as fun as vacations! We've got everything you need to make informed, community supporting decisions while you're in Morgan County. Discover the many unique boutiques, antique shops and galleries our area has to offer on our Antiques and Shopping page. When it's time to re-fuel, be sure to check our Local Favorites page to find locally owned restaurants to enjoy, or scope out the local restaurants featured on statewide culinary trails with our area Indiana Foodways Alliance members. Not quite hungry but need some caffeine? We've got you covered with our list of Local Coffee Shops! Of course, locally crafted beverages always make for a welcome break, or a nice souvenir of your visit, so we've got a list of where to purchase local wine, beer and spirits as well.
If you've found too many things to explore in a single day, don't worry... just take advantage of our handy list of places to stay.