Thinking Local is a new monthly series that examines the reasons why thinking and buying local matters to Portland's economy and neighborhoods.

It's no secret that Neighborhood Notes loves local—we're not shy about professing our support of local coffee micro roasters, new locally owned businesses, or even neighborhood-specific honeys.

And while it's fun to share the love for local artisans and indie business owners—those idea people and creators that define us as Portlanders—there's an even better (economic) reason why thinking local is important

Now, you may be thinking that you've heard this too many times before or want to stop us right here because you already subscribe to the "movement." Or, maybe you don’t believe that buying local really affects our economy that much. But Neighborhood Notes would like to take a closer look at some of the reasons why thinking and buying local matters to Portland's economy and neighborhoods. From supporting small businesses to strengthening community involvement, our Thinking Local series will touch upon topics like job creation, local investment, environmental issues, opportunities for youth and more, while showing how you, the consumer, have power in your dollar. Because, when you spend your money at locally owned businesses, you're also making an investment in your neighborhood and the local economy.

 

Why Should Consumers Buy Local?

When you support a locally owned business like Renovo Hardwood Bicycles,  you also support the people Renovo relies on to make their business work.
When you support a locally owned business like Renovo Hardwood Bicycles, you also support the people Renovo relies on to make their business work.

"A much larger share of the money that you spend at a locally owned business stays in your local economy and supports a much larger number of local jobs," says Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher at the New Rules Project, a program of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance that aims to "bring fresh new policy solutions to communities and states to ensure that they are 'designing rules as if community matters.'"

"Eventually that dollar you spend at a local business comes back around to you in the form of more jobs and opportunities locally," she continues. "Studies have found that if you spend a $100 at a national chain store, only about $15 stays in the local economy. If you shop at a locally owned business, studies show that, depending on the type of business, anywhere from $30-50 out of every $100 you spend stays in the local economy. So you get two to three times the economic benefit without spending any more money by just choosing a locally owned business instead of a chain."

 

Beyond Economic Benefits

If the restaurants, bars and shops that line your streets and dot your neighborhoods can't make it and disappear, what, then, will your streets and neighborhoods look like?
If the restaurants, bars and shops that line your streets and dot your neighborhoods can't make it and disappear, what, then, will your streets and neighborhoods look like?

"It has to do with the kind of place that you want to live in," Mitchell says. 

Do you want to live in a community where you know your neighbors and can have a conversation with the shop owner? How about a city with growing industries and job opportunities?

What makes Portland unique are our homegrown businesses
, many of which we proudly use to define ourselves. And in defining ourselves, we are championing our participation in a group or supporting a community.

"There is a really strong sense of community that is created in neighborhoods that have lots of locally owned businesses," Mitchell says. "Quite a few studies by sociologists have looked at this, and they find that objectively, on measures of social and civic health, places that have locally owned businesses are substantially healthier and stronger from a community perspective than places that don't have locally owned businesses.

"If you live in a neighborhood with lots of locally owned businesses, statistically speaking, you're more likely to know your neighbors, you're more likely to belong to some type of community organization, you're more likely to attend public meetings like school board meetings and city council meetings. You're more likely to vote."

Indie businesses and community involvement go hand in hand, working together to create vibrant, livable neighborhoods
.

Taking this idea a step farther, ScienceDaily recently commented on a national study that showed U.S. "counties and parishes with a greater concentration of small, locally owned businesses have healthier populations—with lower rates of mortality, obesity and diabetes—than do those that rely on large companies with 'absentee' owners."

"This study highlights not only the economic benefits of small business, but its contributions to health and well-being," Troy C. Blanchard, Ph.D., a lead author of the study and associate professor of sociology at LSU, told ScienceDaily. 

Small businesses also have social and health benefits as indie businesses owners often promote more investment in their communities as well as independent, entrepreneurial, and problem-solving spirits.


Thinking Local on Neighborhood Notes

Locally owned businesses like Pine State Biscuits give back to the local economy through paying state and local taxes, and spending their profits in the same community where they do business.
Locally owned businesses like Pine State Biscuits give back to the local economy through paying state and local taxes, and spending their profits in the same community where they do business.

NN’s Thinking Local series is not a condemnation of corporations or imploring you to buy exclusively local. It's about being a conscientious consumer, considering where you are spending your dollar and understanding that small shifts can affect substantial change.

The first topics we will touch upon will focus on jobs and our local economy.

  • Jobs: How thinking local creates—rather than relocates—jobs.
  • Jobs: How thinking local can create, strengthen and expand local industry (insourcing vs. outsourcing, local procurement) and create jobs.
  • Local economy: How thinking local can increase our tax base (indie business vs. franchise/corporation). Follow the money trail: Which business organizations contribute most to the local economy (and how to encourage more).

As consumers, we have the power to vote with our dollar. Together we’ll learn how we can stimulate our local economy and create jobs not by spending more money, but by being conscious of where we do spend our money. 

How has thinking (and buying) local impacted your life or neighborhood? Have you witnessed job creation or expansion? Share your stories in the comments below.