Monday, January 5, 2009

More on the local economy

Yesterday while shopping at the Trader Joe's on Lakeshore Avenue (yes, the one where Bon Qui Qui runs the register, despite my fear she'll break my eggs again) I spotted a woman carrying a "Buy Local, Buy Oakland" shopping bag. I didn't know there was an actual organized movement going on here, but am glad to see it.

The Chronicle's Sunday opinion section had a good piece by Jeff Milchen on the next shoe we all know will drop - the retail economy. Now that the Christmas season is over, the stores that were limping through the end of 2008 are really going to struggle. (We found out Saturday in our little village of Montclair - the Jamba Juice closed without warning, which means my one daughter will probably never eat fruit and protein together again.) According to Milchen:
A community loses big, however, when a chain displaces sales at an independent business (or displaces entire businesses). Why? A new chain store typically is a clone of many other units, eliminating the need for local planning, and using a minimum of local goods and services. Profit is exported to corporate headquarters and almost all local jobs are low-skill positions.

In contrast, independent business owners typically spend much of their profit locally, give back more to the community, and create jobs for local accountants, Webmasters, ad agencies and many other higher-skilled people. In addition to offering greater career potential, these jobs are a training ground for future generations of entrepreneurs.

A 2007 study in San Francisco by Civic Economics is one of many to quantify the premium that cities derive from local ownership. It found that dollars spent at independent businesses yielded nearly three times more local economic benefit than those spent at chain competitors, and created about 80 percent more jobs.

So I entreat you again - since you have a chance where you spend your hard-earned dollars, please consider supporting the shopkeepers and stores in your 'hood. We're going to do our part by going out for dinner tomorrow night to a new local place called Marzano - you've got to give it to a restaurateur taking the plunge these days. Smart guy - I hear there's a full bar, which is a rarity in the Oakland Hills. He may end up doing just fine.

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