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OPINION: Buy local to strengthen our reopening economy

"Everyone benefits when your spending cash stays in your community."

With the province firmly headed for Stage 2 of its summer reopening plan on Thursday, business owners who have grown used to white-knuckling it through each day since COVID-19 shutdowns began can begin to breathe.

But the road to economic wellness for many is a lengthy, bumpy path, paved with steep efforts to rebuild, brick by brick. 

Each St. Albert resident with the means has a responsibility to be the mortar, to throw support at our city's small businesses in an effort to hold our community together. Many are on the brink of closure. 

The recovery of our local economy depends on it.

Seventeen per cent of Canadian businesses are at risk of permanent closure due to the impact of COVID-19, according to a survey released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business early this year. That's one-sixth, or up to 181,000 businesses that may have to permanently shut their doors. In Alberta, that number sits closer to 22 per cent.

More than 58,000 businesses across the country also became "inactive" in 2020.

Small businesses are some of the hardest hit, as many don't have the staffing levels to qualify for federal grants. Many of these owners have leveraged their homes or leaned on personal debt to stay afloat as the months drag on and the closures continue.

The shuttering of a mom-and-pop shop doesn't just affect the owners. There is a trickle effect of the closures that have already begun to dot the landscape of small towns and cities across the province. 

Loss of access to businesses close to home and the loss of local jobs are just the start. Next will come dwindling support for charitable organizations dependent on corporate donations to stay afloat. Then comes reduced funds for sponsorships for all those local teams eager to get back to playing now that their worlds are opening up. Finally, comes the heavy impact of the loss of taxes and the challenge of balancing a municipal budget without corporate money. 

Everyone benefits when your spending cash stays in your community.

The only way to strengthen our local economy is to shop locally. 

There is power behind the Buy Local movement, and consumers drive that engine. As attractive as it may seem to find a great deal online, and just click and wait, local shops, restaurants, and beauty businesses are crossing their fingers, waiting for us to come through their doors, hoping this reopening will be the first cautious step toward being able to pay their bills again.

The St. Albert Farmers' Market is also opening this Saturday. Make plans to park and ride from St. Albert Centre and support our local food producers, distilleries, and makers.

St. Albert hosted 2,147 local businesses within our boundaries in 2020, according to the province.

It's our responsibility as residents to breathe life back into our uber-local economy, and support as many of those as we can.

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