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The young ambassadors say buy local

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By Ken Begley

My 11-year-old daughter, Belle, is one of several young people in elementary and high school called “Young Ambassadors” for Washington County. It’s a neat program that gets these leaders of tomorrow to focus on what they can do to promote our community.

One of the programs they are working on right now is a “Buy Local” campaign.

Belle gave me a big list of reasons the young ambassadors came up with as to why you should buy local at our own small businesses for all your needs.

It’s interesting.

So let me without further comment pass on the facts of an energetic “Buy Local” campaign in our own county.

1. Local businesses produce more income, jobs and taxes than those humongous national chain stores you see for the local community.

Fact: $45 of each $100 spent in a locally owned store stays in the local community. It’s only $15 for big-box chain stores. So, that great sucking sound you hear when you shop out of town is your own community getting progressively poorer because those dollars aren’t coming back again.

2. Local businesses are more likely to use community banks, media to advertise and other services. That in turn supports more local businesses. This is a dollar multiplier with the same dollars circulating around the community at the speed in which it is spent. It’s a domino effect that works well.

3. Supporting local businesses contributes to the community’s character and economic diversity. One of a kind businesses are a distinctive part of the character of the community that brings visitors to your community. Think about our Central Kentucky Community Theater at the Opera House and the restaurants like Mordecai’s and Cecconi’s across from it. I’ve seen people from as far away as Lexington come down to watch our theater, eat at our restaurants and then buy our gas. That’s money brought into our town that you’d never see otherwise. I’ve also seen folks coming from Lebanon and Bardstown to bring their children to theater practice that again brings money into our county.

4. Local business provides greater support for non-profit organizations. Did you realize that non-profit organizations receive an average of 250 percent more support from smaller business owners than they do from large businesses? It’s true! You can see this all the time when local businesses provide goods and services to every type of local charity imaginable when fundraisers approach them for help. Still, one of the best examples of this “giving back” to the community, comes from Greg Simms and Parkview IGA. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen churches and other organizations that are collecting grocery receipts from Parkview that are later turned into cash by Greg for patronizing his store. It works out to a lot of money each year and he has been doing it for years. I asked Greg once why he still did this now that he has a well established business in a great location and his prices seem pretty much in line with other stores. Greg said more or less that he knew his mother was looking down from heaven and he didn’t want to disappoint her if he didn’t help out the community when he could.

Have you ever met a businessman or woman from out of town that said, “I think I’ll make a big donation to those kind folks from Washington County that spend so much money here.” Not going to happen folks.

5. Local businesses are more responsive to the community because they are part of it. My son Will needed a job while he was going to high school, but he had a lot of conflicts with his sports and academic activities. He got a job at Wendy’s and I asked him if he wasn’t going to have to give up something to fit his work schedule. Will said no because the manager at Wendy’s, Sheila Childers, hired a lot of high school kids and would work around their school schedules. Not a lot of big organizations will do that. You’re either there or you’re fired. But that wasn’t the case at Wendy’s, and it led to Will having a much richer high school experience as a result.

6. Learning experiences for young people are also at the top of the list for buying local. A lot of the local businesses provide our young people with their first jobs. They do more than just earn money to pay for school or help out with the family finances. They get an education in the way the real world works. I think my daughter, Renee, learned a lot about management from watching Greg Simms while she worked in the produce department. One day she visited a newly established business that had a deli department like Parkview. I asked her what she thought of it. Renee startled me by saying point blank, “It won’t be in business next year.” I asked why she would say that. Renee said that they were way overmanned in comparison to Parkview. Her conclusion was that the added cost would sink the business. It did and they were gone a year later. That type of knowledge is worth more than just the wages that you receive.

So, I end by saying that for stronger families, stronger institutions, and a stronger community you do need to buy local and keep that money in the county. We may not be able to change the world, but we can make our own county a better place to live and work.