Blog: Ingrid Ault

Is it worth paying a 6% sales tax to keep jobs in Michigan and build vibrant downtowns? Ingrid Ault, executive director of Think Local First, writes a series on how to not just talk local, but how to live local.

Shift Your Shopping: What is This? And Why is it Important?

This is the final piece of a three-part series of actions that you can take to advocate for the local movement.

Think Local First is part of a growing movement that supports and cultivates local independently owned business – otherwise known as the local movement. As a member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, we are part of North America's fastest growing network of socially responsible businesses, comprised of over 80 community networks in over 30 U.S. states and Canadian provinces representing more than 22,000 locally owned, independent business members.

All of these networks are working to create local living economies. We do this by supporting independent retail, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, green building, local zero-waste manufacturing, and community capital.

How Local Alliances Help Small Businesses Thrive Year Round
The most successful entrepreneurs often do more than just operate a great business – they are local champions who are connected to other businesses and invested in the future of their hometown. For nearly 10 years now, such like-minded businesses have been uniting through unique, local, grassroots "Think Local First" programs in towns and cities all across the country. They work together to support all locally owned, independent businesses in a community. There are now more than 150 such non-profit groups (BALLE and AMIBA), and many studies to that show the benefits of a thriving local economy.

How does it work?
A single merchant has limited ability to shift attitudes or consumer spending, but by building strength in numbers, we can create a culture of support for independent business locally and a strong voice to advocate for the interests of local independents and the communities they serve.

Most alliances often start with Buy Local campaigns as Think Local First did back in 2004. We are building a tradition that strengthens local economies, expands employment, nurtures a sense of community, and provides a more relaxed, fun, and rewarding shopping experience.

What You Can Do
As customers, we have the power to nurture and grow our community by choosing where we spend our dollars. The Shift Your Shopping campaign asks you to shift where you spend those dollars. Numerous studies have found directing that spending to locally owned, independent businesses will create impressive benefits. For example, a 2008 study of Kent County, Michigan, (home of Grand Rapids) by Civic Economics projected shifting 10% of the county's per capita spending from chains to locally-owned independent businesses would create "almost $140 million in new economic activity and 1,600 new jobs for the region."

These are powerful statistics that provide hope that we can make change in our economic outlook. We hope you will join us in shifting your dollars to locally owned, independent businesses. Together we can work to keep our community a unique and vibrant place to work, live, and play. Let's all pledge to make the shift and support those that support us!