We are fortunate to live in an area with such a strong and ethical local business community.
The vast majority of our local business leaders believe in the old saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Like all of us, they love, and want success for, Durango, La Plata County and Southwest Colorado. This was the case before COVID, and it has certainly been demonstrated in the local business community’s response to COVID. Countless hours have been spent in what seems like endless virtual meetings working toward safely reopening our local economy. This belief system and work ethic is one of the main reasons I am proud to be part of Local First, the non-profit organization that advocates for local and independent businesses.
While our local business leaders are strong and resilient, they still need you. That being said, thank you for doing business locally as we have worked our way through this pandemic and our businesses have begun to reopen. Your dedication to supporting our business community is paying off. Seeing shoppers and diners returning to Main Avenue lets us know we will get through this difficult time, even if their masks serve as a reminder that we are still in a pandemic and still need to be extremely vigilant.
Aside from seeing anecdotal evidence such as increased foot traffic downtown, there are hard numbers to back up the assertion that your local support is most certainly helping our community’s recovery. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has recently released their employment data for May. Thankfully, La Plata County’s labor force (people working and actively looking for work) is on the rise and our unemployment rate is on the decline. In May of this year, our labor force was 29,140, an increase from April when it was 28,940. May’s unemployment rate was 10.1%, which is down from April’s 13.3%. While these numbers are promising, we still have a long way to go, and your continued support is needed. To put things in perspective, our labor force in February of this year was 31,478 and our unemployment rate was just 3.1%.
Statistics are extremely important, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that these numbers are referring to our neighbors, some of whom are desperately looking for work. For years, Local First has been pointing out how shopping at local and independent businesses keeps money in our community and increases our local tax base.
When you support local businesses, more of your money stays here. We need as much funding as possible to stay local, perhaps more than ever, as businesses work toward reopening, adapting to the current business environment, and hiring and rehiring as many of our neighbors as possible.
Keeping funds local will have a ripple effect, not just in terms of getting people back on payrolls, but also in terms of our ability to support the library, recreation center, emergency services, infrastructure – the list goes on. Isn’t it nice to think about how you have done your part by shopping locally over the past few months? Without a doubt, by doing so, you have made a difference. Thank you!
Now, here is Local First’s call to action: Dust off your 2020 Be Local Coupon Book and start using it at participating stores. On a related note, for the first time ever, the 2021 Book can be purchased online at www.local-first.org and will have an accompanying app. Please use the Book, and other similar programs, to continue to safely provide support as a rising tide lifts all boats.
Steve Elias is chairman of the board of Local First in Durango. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.