Buying Local Promotes Employment

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If Payson residents shifted 10 percent of what they spend now to local businesses, it would create 42 new jobs and pump $3.5 million dollars into the local economy.

In addition, if everyone in the state did the same thing, it would create 17,800 new jobs, according to Local First Arizona, a nonprofit business alliance of about 1,800 Arizona businesses.

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Kimber Lanning

Unfortunately, many people have the misconception that buying at big-box stores and online is not only cheaper, but also better, said Kimber Lanning, founder and director of Local First Arizona.

For every two jobs a big-box store brings into a community, it destroys three jobs due to a local business closing, she said, citing several studies available on the ShiftArizona Web site. And it’s commonly understood that when you buy local, more money stays local.

Even with these facts, consumers and government entities continue to buy from national chains, and towns offer subsidies to big retailers to lure them in, such as in Thatcher where officials gave Walmart a tax break to move into the community.

In Phoenix, the government just renewed a $5 million office supply contract with a big-box chain. When Local First Arizona studied this contract several years ago, it discovered that if the city switched to Wist Office Products, an Arizona-based company, it would have had three times the rate of return on its money. The reason: Wist has full-time employees with benefits, where Office Max has a mix of full-and part-time, some with no benefits. Wist also gives charitable contributions regularly in the state, where the big-box chain does not. Furthermore, Wist has “second-tier” jobs including state-based attorneys, graphic designers and web developers, while the big-box chain outsources these services.

As a result, Wist has a larger impact on the Arizona economy long term, she said.

However, when Local First Arizona presented this information to the City of Phoenix, it decided to go with the chain because the bid came in $2,300 less.

“We are trying to get elected officials to realize this is not a good deal,” she said.

Lanning admitted big boxes do contribute to municipalities in terms of sales tax, but strip away a sense of community.

“A big part of our civic pride is our local businesses,” she said.

People from big cities often boast of their hometown even years after they move to Arizona. Why? Lanning believes cities like Chicago have a healthy mix of locally owned restaurants and shops, to which people feel connected. In Arizona, the ever-present strip malls do not create to a sense of community or pride.

Finding a balance among local businesses and big-box stores is key, she said. Residents need to support local businesses and the big-box chains will take care of themselves.

“We have to give our local businesses a chance before we head down to the Valley,” said Scott Flake, a financial advisor, who hosted Wednesday’s Business Buzz at the East/West Exchange Bookstore.

When possible, buy local.

Need a new faucet? Instead of running to the nearest big-box, stop at the locally owned hardware store. Cannot find it there? Go to an Ace Hardware, a True Value or Home Depot. The last thing you should do is go online, where Arizona does not collect a cent of sales tax if the company does not have a physical presence in the state, Lanning said.

“When you have an opportunity to buy locally, you are helping your community,” she said.

For more information, visit www.local firstaz.com or www.shiftarizona.com.

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