MARQUETTE - With the holiday season in full swing, several local initiatives are under way promoting the benefits to the local economy, and quality of life, derived by shopping locally for gifts and services.
"The 'Shop Local' theme is a national phenomenon. It seems to be a part of the grass roots, 'take charge of your own destiny', idea that is growing in communities across the country," said Mining Journal retail advertising manager Jim Parks. "Many similar campaigns center around the holiday shopping season and promote 'independent' small businesses. We wanted to simply provide area consumers a way to express their commitment to the local economy and the communities in which we live."
The Mining Journal recently announced its "shop local" campaign, which offers free bumper stickers designed to remind area residents about the importance of keeping dollars flowing in the local economy. Currently there are over 20 local sponsors of the campaign. Each business that becomes a sponsor will have removable "Shop Local" bumper stickers available to their customers.
Parks said research has shown that a shift of just 10 percent of holiday spending has the ability to create an impact of millions of dollars back into the local economy in just a couple of months.
"Individuals can make a difference, not just during the holiday shopping season but year round," Parks said.
Lois Ellis, vice president of economic development for the Lake Superior Community Partnership, said small businesses are significantly impacted by shopping locally and represent a large sector of the national and local economies.
"Sixty-eight cents of every dollar spent at a small business stays in the local economy and then that money supports other businesses, schools and local units of government," Ellis said.
Parks said, "Shopping the Internet is easy, but it takes a village to build strong communities. You can never underestimate the power of recycling money back into your local community."
Parks said money spent locally "helps fuel our local economy, stretch hard earned wages further and support vital civic programs and services."
"Local businesses make indispensable contributions to community events and nonprofits that contribute to strong communities and neighborhoods," Parks said. "In addition, they support and strengthen regional job growth and help preserve the distinctive character of our historic region."
Phil Joffee, assistant sales manager at Public Service Garage in Marquette, said their business tries to do everything it can to support the local economy.
"We're locally owned. We employ 45 people," Joffee said. "All the money stays here and it filters down to the people we buy parts from, plow our driveway in the winter time, everything."
Ellis said that in an effort to help encourage patronage of local businesses, the Partnership offers gift checks for purchase in denominations from $10 to $50. The checks can be given as gifts with the money required to be used for area goods and services. Ellis said that effort results in about $200,000 each year in dollars spent locally in Marquette County.
The gift check program and a "Shop Local Holiday Challenge" from the Marquette Downtown Development Authority and the Landmark Inn are working compatibly with the Journal's effort.
"We are challenging people to do 75 percent of their holiday shopping in local stores this season," said Mona Lang, executive director of the DDA.
Participants in the challenge shop or dine at their favorite local establishment, then post a picture or description of their shopping experience on the DDA's "Downtown Marquette" Facebook page until Dec. 31. Participants have a chance to win a night's stay at the Landmark Inn, dinner for two at Capers Restaurant and two tickets to the Marquette Youth Theater production of "Alice in Wonderland," sponsored by the City of Marquette Community Services Division, Arts and Culture Department."
"Shopping local offers one-of-a kind special items that can't be found anywhere else. When you shop downtown you are supporting your community. Virtually every dollar earned by a downtown or local business is reinvested into the local economy," Lang said. "Independently-owned shops have four times the local economic impact in wages, profits, and charitable giving. A strong and vibrant downtown beautifies and animates cities attracts residents and tourists, complements adjacent businesses, enhances property values, expands the tax base, and contributes to a creative and innovative environment."
Dianne Patrick, manager of Snowbound Books in Marquette, said if citizens want to improve their regional economy, then consumers need to make the conscious choice to keep their dollars in this area.
"We are fortunate to have a unique environment and culture. Buying products from our area helps to maintain our way of life, increase our tax base, and employ our residents," Patrick said. "Purchasing from local merchants and artists also shows appreciation for the work, both paid and donated, that business people contribute to the well-being of all of us who are lucky to call the U.P. home."
Patrick said supporting the local economy also supports our public institutions, like our museums and libraries.
Parks said there may be other benefits realized as well.
"Like everything we do, it's important to think about the downstream effects of our actions. When consumers buy items closer to home it helps cut down on fossil fuel use," Parks said.
The Journal's "Shop Local" bumperstickers can be picked up at participating businesses, including Public Service Garage and Snowbound Books, at the LSCP and at The Mining Journal offices in Marquette and Ishpeming.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.