What does it mean to “Be Local?” The first thing that comes to mind is a laundry list of qualifications, including the number of years you have lived in a town, whether you were born there, if your first-born child was born there, and what part of town you live in. The list goes on and on.
In my mind, I am hearing a justifying response that sounds like, “I have lived here for 20 years! I’m as local as it gets!”
And while some of these things do qualify an individual as being a local, perhaps Being Local is truly a state of mind. Not a Jedi mind trick state of mind, but more of a New York state of mind. In fact, I hail from that great state and was born in Yonkers. There is my admission of guilt. I’m not local! But, I would contend, that I am indeed a local.
And why is that? It is because I invest every thought and dollar that I can in this community. I work day in and day out to make it a better place to live and visit, and I spend my money where it counts – at the local food co-op, the farmers market, my favorite nonprofit, and at the local, independent store down the street.
These are my neighbors. My dollar goes directly into the pocket of a local farmer, a nonprofit that cares about our environment, and a business owner that has given all they have to build a viable and thriving business in my town. When you spend a dollar at a local and independent store, it re-circulates in the community, making a continual, reinvesting loop back into our local economy.
So, if a tourist comes to Durango and spends their money in that same way, can they be a local for a day? Absolutely! How can they be a local? This is where the a Jedi mind trick comes in. You have to take on the thoughts of a local. Think about how you can live like a local for an hour, a day or a week. In order to do that, you have to take the time to learn about the community you are in and resist the urge to sprint to the closest, familiar chain store, and instead, look around and learn from the locals.
At Local First, the nonprofit I run, along with an extraordinary group of individuals on our board and staff, that is what we do. We try to make it easy to Be Local and live like a local for a day. Through our infamous Be Local Coupon Book, and the presence we have around town, we provide a living directory of our local, independent businesses in the community. And, we do a lot more than that. We are diving into the creative economy, health care, local renewable energy and more.
We couldn’t do this work without the support of so many individuals and organizations in our community that are doing great work. That is why we stand for collaboration. We all must work together to make our community better than any other community in the nation. We all need to sit down and talk through our perspectives and differences and build this community from the ground up. Whether that is working on health care, tourism or our environment. Why? Because La Plata County is the place we have chosen to live in. And it’s the place we love.
I look forward to monthly columns addressing a variety of issues that work to achieve Local First’s mission “to build an economy that values people, the planet and prosperity for all.”
Now, that sounds like a local nonprofit mission I can get behind.
Monique DiGiorgio is managing director of Local First in Durango. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.