Advocacy group stresses importance of local companies
[Source: Luci Scott, Arizona Republic] — For every $100 spent in a chain store, $13 remains in the state. For every $100 spent in a locally owned business, $45 remains in the state. That’s the message delivered at a Tempe Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday by Kimber Lanning, director of Local First Arizona, an advocacy group promoting local companies. Chandler officials are well aware of the benefits of local buying; the city began a Shop Chandler campaign this year. Lanning said the figures came out of an Austin-based Civic Economics Study in 2002.
Lanning, owner of Stinkweeds music store in central Phoenix, said Local First Arizona is starting a campaign to persuade people and companies to shift 10 percent of their spending toward locally owned businesses. That shift would result in 1,600 new jobs and $15 million in new local wages, she said.
Although national chains employ people too, they don’t give to local charities at the same rate, Lanning said. And local companies hire other local business people such as attorneys, CPAs, sign makers, and Web designers. Lanning commended the utility APS for recently signing a contract for supplies with Wist Office Products of Tempe rather than using a national chain.
Lanning said the idea that local is more expensive is a myth. In comparing prices, she discovered, for example, that a big bag of dog food was $4.30 less at the Noble Beast on Camelback Road than at a big box. In some cases, the big boxes are cheaper, she said, but “they’ve convinced us it doesn’t pay to shop around.” She encouraged the audience to, when they’re in the dairy section of a supermarket, to buy locally by picking up Hickmans’ eggs and Shamrock milk.
Supporting local independent businesses not only keeps more money in the area, it also promotes a sense of community and enriches the culture, she said. “People are living here and telling how great it is where they came from,” she said. “When you move to Phoenix, you shop in big boxes and eat at national chains, and never feel connected to Phoenix… They’re still from Des Moines even though they’ve lived here 20 years.” Lanning said when Arizonans go to Chicago, they return talking about the great local pizza place they found; they don’t come back raving about Applebee’s.
Buying locally and creating a sense of community would help keep young, creative people in Arizona, she said. “Of the top 10 percent of our graduates, 98 percent leave. The bottom 50 percent all stay.”
In terms of promoting local procurement, Arizona rates low nationally. Arizona is one of only three states that doesn’t give preference in purchasing to local businesses, Lanning said. The other two states are Mississippi and Michigan. Because other states are loyal to their own, Arizona contractors can be put at a disadvantage, she said. “Kitchell and Sundt can’t get contracts in California, Nevada and Utah, because those states favor the home team,” she said. Giving preference to companies in Arizona would also help lure business to the state. “They look whether they’re going to be favored,” she said. “We’re thinking like it’s 1985 in terms of economic development,” she said. “We need to shift our thinking.” [Note: To read the full article, visit Advocacy group stresses importance of local companies.]