Think globally, act locally” is an adage area residents take seriously. For many, it helps focus one’s energy and concern for the health of the planet where it has the potential to make the biggest affect – here at home. So it is fitting that Local First, a not-for-profit corporation representing La Plata County’s locally owned, independent businesses (most known for its “Be Local Coupon Book,”) has embraced “Home” as its 2017 coupon book theme that will be released next week.
A 230-member strong organization in its ninth year, Local First is a part of a nationwide movement of individuals and businesses that produce, experience, and seek to support the value locally owned, independent businesses provide their communities and economies. The group’s value proposition states that “by supporting locally owned businesses in La Plata County, you are helping to preserve the character and spirit of our community.” We agree.
Especially in a small town, investing in locally owned independent businesses creates and circulates wealth locally and generates a multiplier effect of dollars flowing from one person to another through earnings and spending. That is their main point. These businesses recycle almost 50 percent of their revenue back into our local economy and tax base, in contrast to chain stores’ 15 percent and online stores even less.
In addition to employing our friends, neighbors and family members, Local First businesses hire local accountants, attorneys, sign makers, cleaners and buy office products locally. Everyone can choose to support a locally owned business and at the same time support someone who may also be a baseball coach, dance teacher, community volunteer or charity donor. The multiplier effect reaches into the social and cultural fabric of our community too.
Localists, as they are known in the localism movement, value and work to support the enterprises that make a community unique and afford it an economic advantage. In search of memorable experiences, Richard Moe of the National Historic Preservation Trust has said, “When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.”
That our part of the world is special is no secret, but it did not happen on its own. It has taken a concerted effort over many decades by residents participating in comprehensive planning efforts that continue today. The city of Durango’s Character District Initiative that includes the North Main Corridor Study, Comprehensive and Multi-Modal Plan updates and La Plata County’s Comprehensive Plan update, with robust input from residents, will all shape the future look and feel of Durango and La Plata County.
The complementary work of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, Business Improvement District, La Plata Economic Development Alliance, Region 9 Economic Development District and SW Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs all remain critically important to our economic health. It is Local First, however, with its broad localist umbrella that stands out as perhaps casting a wider net to participate in and support the comprehensive planning and policy development efforts of local government.
In its approach to local economic development, Local First has celebrated and supported independent businesses, local food and agriculture and this year will be advocating for affordable housing, land-use, transportation and other policies that preserve our uniqueness, generate the most sales tax revenue and meet the needs of businesses and their workforce. We wish them well.