PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

Buy Locally and Create Jobs

Posted by ppna on December 17, 2007

Here is an op-ed piece posted in the Ann Arbor News written by Amanda Maria Edmonds and Richard Murphy, two of Ypsilanti’s finest.

Buy locally and create jobs
Sunday, November 25, 2007
BY AMANDA MARIA EDMONDS AND RICHARD MURPHY

In the midst of worsening economic conditions in our region, we have an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons. More appropriately, maybe, we have the chance to press apple cider out of apple seconds bought at our local farmers’ market.

While the second analogy doesn’t flow as well as the one we are used to, it represents a shift in thinking that would bring quantifiable economic benefits to our communities. In Ypsilanti, particularly hard hit by municipal budget cuts and taxation challenges, supporting and recruiting locally owned businesses can have a multifold impact on our economic viability.

Recently, the “Buy Local” and “Eat Local” trends have been receiving a lot of attention – the word “locavore” was just declared Oxford’s 2007 Word of the Year. Often, attention is focused on the emotional and social benefits of buying and eating local: knowing the people you’re buying from, feeling good about supporting local farmers and businesses, getting good customer service and supporting minority and women-owned businesses.

The impacts are real and help strengthen the social fabric of a community. The benefits, however, of buying locally have economic impacts beyond the immediate business owner. Studies from around the country show that buying from local, independent retailers creates up to twice as many jobs, recirculates three times as many dollars in the local economy, and results in twice as much local charitable giving than buying from large chain or Internet retailers does.

Locally owned businesses direct all of their wages to people in the community, support other businesses – from graphic designers to accountants – more likely to be from the area. For every dollar spent at a local business, the studies have found, 20 to 40 cents more stays in the local economy when compared to a chain store. That equals significant economic impact.

Holiday spending is a great opportunity to begin the shift. A Maritz Poll shows that American households will spend an average of $637 on holiday gifts this year – at this rate, Washtenaw County will do $89 million in holiday shopping. By moving some of the spending that we would do at chain retailers to local retailers, we can capture some of the benefits locally. If Washtenaw holiday shoppers shifted only 10 percent of their holiday spending to local businesses in Ypsilanti, we could keep between $1.5 million and $2.6 million more in our economy. No small change.

To be clear, we are not promoting more consumption – just shifting 10 percent of what you already spend to local retailers with those dollars. Dec. 1-8 is Buy Local Week. Visit http://ypsi.buylocalmichigan.com/ and pledge to spend your holiday dollars locally. You’ll find a community-built directory of local businesses and creative ideas for local gifts. Visit the 4th Shadow Art Fair (www.shadowartfair.com/) on Dec. 1 to buy art, music, clothing and crafts directly from 50 local artists.

Policymakers and business groups can support this idea at a broader scale. While biomedical and “knowledge industry” tech startups are high-profile, capturing dollars from everyday purchases such as groceries or clothing is also economic development.

Using the most recent income and spending data from the state of Michigan and Bureau of Labor Statistics, residents of the city of Ypsilanti spend an estimated $10.3 million on clothing and footwear annually, and $7.9 million on housewares, furniture and appliances. Depot Town and downtown Ypsilanti have several independent retailers in those categories, but our guess is that they aren’t capturing nearly $18 million in annual revenue from city residents.

Another often-missed market opportunity is in the supply chain for local businesses. What manufacturing or service or supply needs can be met locally? Agriculture is Michigan’s second largest industry by dollar value. Michigan is a national leader in specialty produce, and consumer demand for local food is skyrocketing.

City of Ypsilanti residents spend an estimated $4 million on fruits and vegetables annually, an average of $453 per household. In 2007, the downtown Farmers Market saw $28,000 in sales. If we could move beyond our growing farmers markets and supply our local restaurants with fruits, vegetables, herbs and breads produced or processed in our community, the economic impact multiplier only increases – consider the additional jobs and shortening of the supply chain, not to mention reduced transportation expenses and carbon footprints.

We surprised ourselves when we calculated those figures. Amid all of the bad news about the local and state economies, we were very happy to discover how easy it would be to create local jobs and capture dollars within the local economy just by shifting a small portion of the spending that we’ll already do.

About the writers: Amanda Maria Edmonds and Richard Murphy are Ypsilanti residents. Edmonds is executive director of Growing Hope, an Ypsilanti-based nonprofit. Murphy is an urban planner. To contribute essays to Other Voices, contact Mary Morgan, opinion editor, at 734-994-6605 or mmorgan@annarbornews.com.

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One Response to “Buy Locally and Create Jobs”

  1. Thank you for reprinting this, and helping spread the word about http://ypsi.buylocalmichigan.com/.

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