Why Local First?
We chose "Local First" as our name because it sums up our goal: we want people to think local first when they have something to buy – whether it be food, goods or services. If a local business is not available or does not meet your needs, then of course you should seek out a chain store or internet company that can satisfy you. We are not preaching “local only.” If we can divert a large chunk of the money we send out of state to locally owned businesses, the benefits would be considerable – financially and otherwise.
The economic, social and aesthetic vitality of our communities is greatly enhanced by a strong independent business sector. Because local business people eat, sleep, play, shop, pay taxes, and send their kids to school in the towns they live in, they have a powerful vested interest in keeping their towns vibrant. The common benefits of a strong independent business sector are a healthier economy, a more engaged citizenry and more choice for consumers. Locally owned businesses are the roots that feed the tree of a prosperous and healthy community – Feed the Roots!
Local owners, typically having invested much of their life savings in their business, have an obvious and natural interest in the long-term health of their community. These businesses are essential to charitable endeavors, with employees frequently serving on local boards and supporting a variety of causes within the community including school funding, town governance, social services, and contributions to local non-profit organizations. Vermont is blessed with many non-profit organizations and they receive their greatest support from locally-owned businesses.
Chain businesses, by their very nature, are controlled from central headquarters – which could be anywhere in the world. They are making decisions based on factors which might not have anything to do with what is right for one particular location, business or community. If the exchange rate changes and they have to cut costs, then the Vermont store might have to close down at a moments notice. Hundreds of chain stores pick up and leave every year - leaving vacant buildings, eroded economies and less choice for local consumers. What is especially troublesome is when the chain store has put a local store out of business and then leaves. Jobs are lost and the consumer is stuck having to drive a long way.
Small businesses account for the largest share of net new jobs generated each year, and locally based business provide some of the most stable employment opportunities in a community. For all their economic power, the number of jobs provided by global corporations relative to the world's workforce is small. There are so many interesting people in Vermont and some of them express themselves in the businesses they run – and we benefit. As local businesses go out of business, consumers have fewer and fewer choices when shopping for goods and services, dining and sleeping. There are many communities across America where this has happened already, where they have little choice and are at the whim of far away corporate decision making. Small manufacturers look to local retailers to introduce and give their new products a chance. Local retailers are free to accept and take a chance with the goods of these manufacturers. This results in the creation of more jobs for local producers. Even though a single local shop might have a limited selection of goods, in a healthy community, a multiplicity of local, independent retailers creates great diversity and selection.
What type of future do we want for our state? Local, independent businesses are the heart of Vermont towns. They contribute to its unique character; they provide diversity, options, personalized attention, and bring life to our many historic buildings. Among other things, we can get a haircut, buy a book, choose paint, make copies, get fresh produce, buy a good bottle of wine and fresh seafood to grill, find a great vintage dress, have a fresh croissant, rent skis or a snowboard, select a diamond ring, sell or buy a house, get a fishing license, cater a luncheon, have a meal, or fill a prescription. Each time we spend a dollar, we would do well to weigh the full value of our choice, not only for our own benefit, but also for what it means to the health and vitality of our community in the years to come.
Buying Local has less impact on local ecosystems compared to larger retailers located in strip malls or stand-alone buildings. To accommodate large retail development, roads and parking lots must be built which results in a greater reliance on cars and an increase in auto emissions. As big box stores and chain retailers consume more and more undeveloped land, polluted runoff from their parking lots is placing an ever-greater burden on the nation's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. One way to preserve a community's land and natural resources is to channel retail activity back into downtowns and neighborhood shops. Multistory buildings reduce the footprint of buildings. Higher densities and greater access for pedestrians and public transit mean significantly less land devoted to roads and parking lots.