Anyone who thinks this economy isn’t so bad is a complete moron. I’m going to go ahead and say that right there. To say it’s not bad for them may be a different matter entirely, but for the vast majority of Americans, it’s pretty bad. Albany is getting hit harder than most, and the vast majority of business owners are feeling the squeeze. I know I am.
However, in troubled times, we need to pull together more than ever. I’m not talking about politics this time, which is what folks usually mean when they talk about “pulling together”. Most times, it’s just a euphemism for “shut up and do what I say”, but not this time. I don’t care about your politics, and neither do the local businesses that are struggling. They need your dollars.
All over town, there are tons of stores that are owned and operated by local folks. Some of those stores and other businesses may not be here next year. Some might not be there next month. They need our support, and they need it bad.
Locally owned businesses are a key factor for any community. They are run by your friends and neighbors. They’re the people who aren’t going to have a corporate decision to shut the doors of your local store so a stockholder on the other side of the world can get an extra half cent a share. No, these businesses and the people who own them are vested in our community.
However – and we’re all guilty of this – most of us tend to swing towards the larger operations. Economies of scale make the prices difficult to resist in some cases, and in others it’s just a lack of understanding. The thing is, each time you buy at a chain store, a percentage of that profit may stay to pay local wages, but the rest goes away from Albany. That doesn’t help anyone really.
Now, let’s say you purchased that same item from a local vendor. While a similar percentage may go for wages as the chain store, the fact that the owner is local means that his percentage is more likely to be spent locally as well. In addition, small businesses often want to expand. That means more jobs for your friends and neighbors who are out of work.
Every dollar that leaves the community is a dollar we will never see again. While I have argued that we need outside dollars coming into Albany, it’s also important that we keep as many dollars in this community as humanly possible.
Take a look at the businesses you trade with. How many them are really locally owned? You can’t even go by the name, since many franchises can be locally owned while less recognizable names may be owned by someone in Valdosta.
Here at the Journal, we’re taking the “shop local” seriously, in part because we are a locally owned and operated business as well while there are other papers in town that can make no such claim. While I have a reputation for blasting the local government, it’s because Albany is my home, just like it’s yours. This isn’t a stop in my career path, this is home. If I ever have to leave Albany, it’s because I failed here, not because I’m “moving up in the world.” I’m saying this not because I stand to gain, but because it’s right. I just also happen to stand to gain…and in this economy, everyone could use some gain.
We all need to look at the businesses we deal with and find out if Albany is really in their best interests as well. While the workers are obviously friends and neighbors as well, the ownership may not be. They get the lion’s share of our dollars, and then do little to make our community a better place.
It’s time for us, all of us, to step up and begin to ramp up our locally owned businesses. It’s time to trade with folks who actually care about the same local economy you do. It’s time to deal with folks who won’t shut down a location if things get tough, but who will lose their livelihoods.
Come on Albany! It’s time for all of us to stand together and keep our local businesses strong.