It’s important to buy local because your dollars will do more for your community, said Jessie Radies, an Edmonton restaurateur and buy local advocate.
Speaking Wednesday to the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce, Radies urged attendees to focus their spending on businesses with local ownership because this has greater economic, social and environmental benefits.
“You basically get triple the economic impact just by shifting your dollars to local independent businesses,” said Radies, who owns the Blue Pear Restaurant in Edmonton and is the founder of two buy local organizations: Original Fare and Keep Edmonton Original.
Citing a pair of U.S. studies, she said a dollar spent at a chain store generates about $14 worth of spending in the local economy, due to the multiplier effect. A dollar spent at a locally owned store generates about $50 in local spending because the profits stay in the community and the store supports a broader range of jobs, such as administration and advertising.
“You don’t have to change what you buy; you just have to change where you buy it,” she said.
The economic downturn has prompted some people to seek out more local buying opportunities, said Tressa Heckbert, co-owner of Meese Clothing in St. Albert, which carries its own designs and those by other Canadian designers.
“Given the opportunity, people would prefer to buy local,” she said. “I think that the more product that is available locally, the more they’ll buy.”
Some economists feel that the buy local phenomenon is simply an extension of protectionist policies that inevitably hurt the overall economy.
“Much of our wealth today would disappear if we gave up exchanging globally. It would just go away,” said Don Boudreaux of George Mason University in a 2007 Podcast posted at www.econtalk.org.
Economies evolve based on division of labour and competitive advantage, meaning that industries spring up where they are most economically viable, he said. By concentrating on buying locally, consumers ignore choices that may make more economic sense.
“To say buy local is to say, ‘look, let’s reduce the number of human beings who are participating in this economy,’” Boudreaux said.
Critics of buying local also point out that this idea assumes that a neighbour or someone within the same city is more important than another human being who happens to live farther away.
St. Albert Chamber of Commerce CEO Lynda Moffatt has a counter-argument.
“If you appreciate the fact that we have goods and services available here without having to travel somewhere else, then I think you should owe them some level of support and loyalty. If you don’t, you absolutely won’t have them,” she said.
“It is our little community after all … either we support it and make it grow and prosper or we don’t.”