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Local works: buying local strengthens our communities

Erika Mitnik-White
Erika Mitnik-White

Why buy local? When you buy from locally owned businesses, you support your friends and neighbors in the community. These are the people who buy homes locally, pay taxes locally and support our local charities. In fact, local businesses contribute twice their percentage of profits to charity than non-local businesses.

But buying local is not just about feeling good by supporting our community. It is about doing good by making your money do more in our local economy. Studies have shown that for every $100 you spend with a local business, about $43 stays here as opposed to just $13 when you spend that same money with a national chain.

Tucson's Sun Link Streetcar is set to launch July 25, 2014.
Tucson’s Sun Link Streetcar is set to launch July 25, 2014.

More money in our towns means more local job creation. A local coffee shop owner may hire a local graphic designer to create a logo and a local web developer to put that logo online. The coffee shop owner may hire a local advertising agency, which in turn hires local accountants, janitors, catering services and more. A 2002 study by Civic Economics shows that if a community roughly the size of Tucson shifted just 10 percent of its spending to local businesses, it would create 1,600 new jobs, $50 million in new wages and $137 million in new economic activity — all in one year.

The benefits of buying local go much farther than just these numbers. Local businesses create a sense of place that makes our community special. We have unique destination spaces like the concentration of independent businesses in downtown Tucson. We know that vibrant, dense, walkable areas like downtown, the Mercado San Agustin, the Fourth Avenue area, St. Phillips Plaza and many others, make us enjoy living here. We are happy and proud to show off to visitors why Arizona is our home.

To show our appreciation for local businesses and the benefits they bring to Southern Arizona, Local First Arizona, a statewide nonprofit organization working to strengthen communities and local economies throughout Arizona, will be celebrating its 12th Independents Week from June 29 through July 4. In the spirit of Independence Day, we call on you to “go local” by supporting as many independent businesses as possible during this weeklong event. Join thousands of consumers and hundreds of businesses in this celebration of the local and independent businesses that are the backbone of Arizona’s economy. Once again, we are issuing a Golden Coupon that gives you a 20 percent discount at participating local businesses throughout the entire week  (download a copy here). Or visit us online at www.localfirstaz.com/independents-week to download additional coupons and find the list of participating businesses in your area.

We will be kicking off Independents Week with our “Passport to Local Success” event on Saturday, June 28. In addition to receiving Golden Coupons, attendees will receive a passport for visiting businesses along 4th Avenue and Congress Street. Stamped passports can be entered to win prizes from local businesses. Attendees can even use their Golden Coupons one day early at participating passport stops. Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild will help kick off Independents Week at 4 p.m. at Haggerty Plaza at 316 N. 4th Ave. There will be live music and drink and food specials at several participating businesses. Local brewer Borderlands will be brewing a special Indie Week Horchata Cream Ale to be served at several locations along the passport route.

Independents Week is a time for celebration, but also a time for action. At Local First Arizona we often talk about “economic gardening.” As with any other kind of gardening, we must support our local businesses to make them grow. Many of us can name a restaurant that is no longer around to serve up a favorite dish, or a shop we wish hadn’t closed. It is up to us to make sure that our businesses thrive and that Southern Arizona reaps the benefits of a strong local economy.

Erika Mitnik-White is the Southern Arizona membership coordinator for Local First Arizona. She is available to speak to businesses and community groups about the impact of local business. For more information, visit www.LocalFirstAZ.com.