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Data doesn't lie: Shopping local improves your quality of life

If there was ever a time to show your support for local independent businesses, it is now.

As sales analysts across the nation dig into data trends from last weekend’s sales events at large national retail stores, many business owners and residents in Columbia County are analyzing a different set of patterns.

There have been too many notices over the last few weeks about small, local businesses shutting down. Added to the list of shutdowns this week is Plantation House Restaurant in Old Towne St. Helens, joining the ranks of other closures within the last three weeks that include Maya’s Palace, Marie’s on First and the St. Helens Book Shop. Unfortunately, rumors are swirling about additional potential shutdowns.

It’s not too late to reverse the trend, however. As the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, we are asking our readers to make a conscious effort to consider the businesses they patronize and what effect each dollar spent over the next few holiday weeks could have on your community.

A Civic Economics (civiceconomics.com) study called the Indie Impact Series that examined the effect of purchases at independent establishments in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area versus purchases made at national chains exquisitely details this effect. Only 30.4 percent of revenue generated from national chain restaurants recirculates in the communities in which they’re located, versus 78.6 percent of revenue independent restaurants generate.

The numbers are even more striking for retailers. In the same study area, the local recirculation of revenue for independent retailers is 52 percent, versus 13.6 percent for revenue generated at a national chain. The money recirculates as profit for the business owner and payment for labor, which flows back into the community, and charitable giving among other avenues.

A similar Civic Economics study, commissioned by American Express as part of the Small Business Saturday campaign launch, explored conditions confronting independent businesses as national chains become more prevalent and the effect those businesses have on their communities. The research project focused on 15 urban centers and found that:

• Among retail shopping establishments at the national level, the market share captured by independents declined from 59 percent in 1990 to 48 percent in 2009

• For eating and drinking establishments, independent market share has declined from 71 percent to 64 percent over the same time period.

The Utah-focused study concluded that, in every case, independently owned businesses bring substantial benefits to their local economies, “creating a virtuous cycle of spending.”

We understand national chains provide products and services frequently absent in the small local marketplace, arguably due to the presence of those large chain retailers that have siphoned demand from small local businesses.

As consumers and residents of Columbia County — specifically south Columbia County — we implore each of you to exercise your spending power and promote responsible civic behavior by investing in independent businesses owned and operated, in many cases, by your friends and neighbors.

You are not powerless to reverse some of the grim trends happening in your own neighborhood.

As Joe Davis, manager and owner at Richardson’s Furniture points out, “It takes the people to shop local. That’s what keeps small businesses in town.”

Make the attempt to get out and shop and visit the local businesses that define your community. Discover great deals; meet wonderful people who are your neighbors; and help prop up an economy that is searching for new ways to thrive.

Each investment made in your local, hometown economy is an investment in a higher quality of life for you and your family.