Pay it forward

When the going gets tough, folks have to stick together. So next time you’re out and about, looking for somewhere to eat or needing to pick up a gift or a new pair of shoes, think locally. By supporting locally owned businesses, you can pay it forward, keeping money in the local economy and keeping local business owners in business.

Recent studies across the country show that, for every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 stays in the local economy, creating jobs and expanding the city’s tax base — three times the amount generated by a national chain or franchise store. When you do the math, it isn’t hard to understand why it’s so important to keep those dollars in the local economy by shopping and eating at locally-owned business.

With the kickoff of this exciting “buy local” campaign, co-sponsored by The Albany Journal, Southwest Georgia Living and WALB News 10, Southwest Georgia joins a growing list of communities throughout the country that are adopting such programs to encourage local spending.

Business can be especially tough for independent local businesses, such as pharmacies, bookstores, restaurants, clothing retailers and hardware stores, all fighting for a piece of the pie.In addition to locally owned food and retail businesses, there are also all the locally owned service providers, such as plumbers, electricians, Web page designers and beauticians—the list goes on and on. They all need the support of the local consumer as well.

Also, a dollar spent at a locally owned business has a much bigger impact on a local economy than a dollar spent at a chain because local retailers buy more of their goods and services from other local businesses. That is where “pay it forward” really comes into play. If fellow local business owners support one another, while receiving strong support from consumers, everyone wins.

Local businesses employ an array of supporting services in their communities, such as architects, designers, cabinet shops, sign makers and construction contractors. Local businesses can use local accountants, insurance brokers, computer consultants, attorneys and advertising agencies to keep things running smoothly. In return, those hired by local businesses are more likely to return the favor by doing business with them. It’s back scratching in its highest form.

Stories of success with similar campaigns around the country evoke a vision of strong, close-knit and economically independent communities. This is an opportunity for Southwest Georgia to write its own success story. At a time of economic anxiety and uncertainty, when powerful entities like multinational corporations seem out of our control, a message of local economic self-reliance and community self-determination is deeply compelling.

Before developing shopping habits, consumers typically choose to do business where they perceive they will receive the best value for their time and money. And while finding that great suit on sale at a national chain may provide some instant gratification, in the long run it may cost more than you bargained for in terms of the value local businesses return to their communities.A marketplace of hundreds of small businesses helps to ensure more innovation and competition, and lower prices over the long term.

Local businesses choosing products and services based on what their local customers need and want, not a one-size-fits-all national sales plan, guarantees a more diverse range of product and service choices.In addition, local business owners and employees typically have a high level of expertise and a passion for the products they sell.

They also tend to have a greater interest in getting to know their customers, who are, after all, also their neighbors and friends.Local businesses create a sense of place for a community, but they can only survive if they are supported.

Local owners, who typically invest much of their life savings into their businesses, have a vested interest in the long-term economic health of a community. They are also essential to local charitable endeavors, and their owners frequently serve on local boards and support numerous causes, all in the name of building a better, stronger community for those who live there.At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.

Weather the storm by keeping your local business owners in business; it’s the only way to assure consumers will continue to have an array of local businesses from which to choose. In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that support and preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses are more likely to attract entrepreneurs and new investment, not to mention visitors who also are willing to spend their dollars in a local economy.

So remember, pay it forward. Buy local. Eat local. Be local.

Have a business? Get a poster if you have an independent business of your own, be sure to stop by one of the locations listed below to pick up a poster to display at your store! One good dollar turns into another, so Pay It Forward! Albany — Flint Community Bank, Westover Lawn and Garden, Ford Town of Albany, Albany Lincoln-Mercury, , Tanner-Deen Nissan, Place on the Pointe, Who’s Who, A Room or Two, Tommy Mc’s Produce, Custom Interiors, Allen’s Jewelers, Ann Kelly’s Garden Shop, Merle Norman, Pro 1 Sportswear; Leesburg – Shelby’s Market Place; Americus — Lollipop Kids, The Maze, Minick Interiors; Thomasville — Liam’s Restaurant; Camilla — Hagan’s Nursery, 85 Broad; and all Turner’s Furniture locations.

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