Konop for Lucas County

Monday, April 17, 2006

Buy Local!

Several weeks ago, Lisa Renee blogged about an idea she thought was worth promoting: supporting local business in Lucas County. I thought it was a great idea and after going back and forth with Lisa and a couple other local concerned citizens, I decided to issue the following statement today:

Statement Kicking Off Buy Local Tour of Lucas County

One year ago this week, Thackeray's Books closed its doors for the last time. Some of the economic consequences were immediate and quantifiable. Employees lost their jobs or were offered lower paying positions elsewhere. Local suppliers and contractors lost a customer. Public services lost a source of tax revenue.

Some of the other consequences were a little harder to measure. Loyal customers lost a sacred place, a treasured Toledo institution that promoted local authors and championed free speech. In a new creative economy where a community’s uniqueness and distinctive character weigh heavily in its ability to attract jobs and investment capital, Lucas County lost one more "cool" place.

Communities across the country are realizing that small business is big business. They're preserving their distinctive identity and promoting strong local living economies. How? By working to keep money in their community. It matters. And we can do it too.

As Lucas County Commissioner, I will work with my colleagues in government and with small businesses from throughout the county to launch a comprehensive "Buy Local" awareness campaign. Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak's leadership has laid the foundation for this initiative and I look forward to working with her to make it a success.

The possibilities for promoting local purchasing are limitless. Some communities, such as Philadelphia, promote special Holiday Shopping Weeks. Here in Ohio, commercial food producers are working together to develop a distinct "Ohio Proud" brand identity. Toledo Blade columnist Roberta deBoer has even suggested that we follow the lead of Ithaca, New York where local merchants accept "Ithaca Hours" alongside U.S. dollars.

Today I'm kicking off my "Buy Local" Tour of Lucas County. Later on today I'll be visiting great local businesses like Rohr Fish, PC Horsepower Computers, and The Mango Tree restaurant.

The impact of buying local is real. A June 2004 study conducted by the University of Toledo Urban Affairs Center for Lucas County Commissioner Wozniak compared the economic impact on Lucas County of Thackeray's Books to the impact of the national chain Barnes & Noble.

The study estimated that $100 spent at Thackeray's Books resulted in a local economic return of $44. This return included revenue kept local through wages, suppliers, and profits. The same $100 spent at Barnes & Noble resulted in an economic return of only $20.

The study found that Thackeray's Books added more than $5 million annually to the local economy whereas Barnes & Noble contributed only $1.15 million.

Studies conducted elsewhere have reached similar findings. A 2003 case study of Midcoast Maine covering several lines of goods and services found that local businesses spent 53.3% of their revenue within Maine, 44.6% within the surrounding two counties compared with big-box retailers who spent only 14.1% of their revenue in Maine. (The Economic Impact of Locally Owned Business vs. Chains: A Case Study in Midcoast Maine, New Rules Project, September 2003. From the website of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies -- LivingEconomies.org)

Based on the findings of the Thackeray's study, University of Toledo economist Gbenga Ajilore estimated that as much as $8 million in revenue could be added to the local economy if each household redirected just $100 of their spending to a locally owned store.

Small businesses are also responsible for the largest share of net new jobs each year. The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies reports that the 200 largest corporations in the world still employ less than 1% of the global workforce. Job growth comes from local, independent businesses.

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner recently launched a campaign to stimulate “loyalty, pride, and tradition.” What better way to instill pride in our community than by coming together to support that which makes us unique?

Throughout this campaign I've been putting forth new ideas and a fresh vision to grow our economy and create jobs by promoting development, courting skilled workers, and attracting investment capital. Today I'm proud to announce a plan that can grow our economy by simply keeping money in the community.

Governing is about leadership. With the May primary rapidly approaching, no other candidate for Commissioner, Democrat or Republican, has put forth any proposal of any kind on any issue. Perhaps they are totally satisfied with the status quo. I am not.

A February report by the Milken Institute ranked Metro Toledo 196th out of 200 metropolitan areas in job growth. We can't turn our economy around with quiet complacency. We need passion and vision, new energy and new ideas. That's why I'm running for County Commissioner.