To the editor:
We’ve all heard the term “support local.” It is promoted throughout the small business landscape and celebrated by consumers on social media platforms around the nation. But are we really supporting local in a way that helps small business remain sustainable and thriving in our local communities? We see the hashtags and the pictures of someone “shopping small,” but are we continually supporting local and making a difference to sustainably support small business in our respective communities? This is the question we must ask ourselves.
Small business directly represents your community. I could go on and on about this very topic, and as a Main Street organization, we wouldn’t do what we do on a daily basis if we didn’t believe this. I am of the belief that the health of small business is a direct reflection of the overall well-being of a community. We live in a world of cell phones and technology that makes everything easier and more accommodating every day. In turn, this has disabled for many the need to socially interact and gather in spaces that promote connectivity, because we are now a click away from everything we could ever need. But there are still many consumers who want an experience, an interaction, a place to socialize and gather; that is where small business and downtowns can thrive. We as communities have to cultivate the atmosphere that makes us unique.In a world where people are plugged in 24-7, many folks still want that one-off experience–something they can’t get anywhere else. Main Streets and downtowns facilitate and create that opportunity.
Creating an experience destination is essentially the goal in small towns and Main Street districts across America. We can change the landscape and promote opportunities through public and private investment, but if we are not creating an experience or a sense of place for our locals and visitors alike, we are missing the boat.More and more people want to live, shop, and play, and downtowns can’t be replicated when it comes to that factor. We need to communicate, share ideas, and learn from communities who do it well and focus on areas of improvement that can help implement change locally. This doesn’t happen overnight, as much as the general public wants to believe it does. Things of this nature take time to envision, createand implement. Sometimes this is referred to it as the “all in” strategy. If everyone is all in with a vision to achieve a positive end result, we can virtually overcome and achieve anything.
Promoting the “support local” initiative is something that we celebrate as an organization on a daily basis. We value strong partnerships with the business community. As an organization that promotes positive change, we must further and promote that vision to our small business community through incentives, entrepreneurship development, events, and other services that help support and sustain our local business.Main Street works with businesses, and property owners to identify issues and are catalysts to find solutions when situations arise, all the while, building trust and advocating this initiative. I think that’s where Main Street organizations differ from other organizations: we are hands on, in the trenches with businesses, creating solutions, sometimes going further than we should to support a business or property owner, but that’s okay. We need to be able to say we did everything we could to educate and help our small business community, and good organizations go the extra mile. We need to treat our organization as a business and we are what we advocate and promote, so we shouldn’t view ourselves any differently than those we support. We need them as much as they need us.
Supporting local is more than just a hashtag, it is a lifestyle. We have all seen those who post a picture on social media, usually around Small Business Saturday or the holiday shopping season showing their support for local businesses. Of course this is great and the cool, hip thing to do is “support local,” but are these folks supporting more than one or two days a year? Many often claim to support local, but are they really supporting to the level that truly helps a small business remain sustainable for the long term? That’s the question we must ask ourselves. The majority of the time the answer is “not exactly.” As consumers, we must make a conscious effort to do so. As eluded to earlier, the world is becoming a one-click society and that is honestly not a good thing when it comes to supporting and sustaining local. It is really much more than just small business; we are supporting local families, and we are aiding in supporting our local economy. It is about keeping that dollar local, as it travels and makes much more of an impact locally than the alternative. So whether you think you support local or you can truly say you do, we must always remember to make a conscious effort to think local, and buy local first if the option is available. It is literally what keeps a community alive and thriving.
I end with this, join Main Street if you are not already a partner. Your support helps us do the things we do. Go to www.newalblanymainstreet.com. There you will find all that is going on in our community as well as the names of our investors, partners and individuals who support through their giving and by doing so sustains New Albany Main Street. Support them in return.
Billye Jean Stroud
Director of Community Development and Main Streetmain street, New Albany Main Street, shop local, support local