It all started with a business card, handed to Gayle Tabor of Glynne’s Soaps at Old Books on Front, a local downtown bookstore owned by Gwenyfar Rohler. It read, “$0.70 of every dollar spent in a local business stays in the local economy while only $0.20 of every dollar spent at a chain store stays local.” Gayle used this card as a bookmark in the book purchased and read it every time she opened and closed the book. After a while, Gayle began to send out this message over Twitter from @glynneosaps. A pattern emerged. Whenever the message was tweeted, many others re-tweeted it, sending it along to all their followers.
After seeing the interest generated with that simple yet impactful statement, Gayle really started to research the impact buying locally had on one’s community. She asked the question, over Twitter, “Is there a local organization that is encouraging people to buy from local businesses?” Being surprised to find that although there was interest, there was no local group with this focus; Gayle found like minded business owners and they started the group Buy Local ILM. The designation ILM was chosen because it is the FAA designation for the Wilmington airport. Our thinking was that if a person considered the airport in Wilmington to be their local airport, then they were local. We were not interested in drawing lines or excluding people, so this way, folks could choose for themselves if they were local. The mission statement is:
“The mission of Buy Local ILM is to raise awareness within
the local ILM community, both of consumers and businesses,
through promotion and education, on the positive long term
economic impact of purchasing and procuring locally.”
Our first few meetings were successful, with about 15 business owners in attendance. As a group we approved the mission statement, decided on the criteria that would determine if a business was a local business and agreed upon some short and long term goals for the organization. A major short term goal is to have a membership program whereby local businesses can become members. The benefits of membership will include a listing on our searchable website, www.buylocalilm.com that will designate them as a local business to anyone looking to shop locally. We will also be hard at work providing community education on the impact of purchasing local which should, in turn, drive more business to the local business. The main long term goal is to purchase an economic impact software program. This program will allow business owners to input their bookkeeping information and will determine that businesses local economic impact on a scale from 1-5. This information can be taken to the city and county governments and large employers such as New Hanover Regional Medical Center in the hopes that they will make the decision to only do business with companies that have a large local impact, keeping more dollars and jobs local.
We all believe that if everyone makes a small change and commits to purchasing more from local businesses that the impact on the local economy will be huge. We frequently cite the study done in Grand Rapids Michigan in 2008 which concluded that if everyone in the community made a 10% shift in purchasing from independent businesses as opposed to chain stores it would lead to 1,600 new jobs and a $137 million economic impact to the area effectively pulling them out of their economic depression. The same can be true of our area. If everyone remember that just one time out of ten, before heading to a chain store or restaurant, to instead shop at a local business the positive impact would be felt by everyone.