Jan. 16, 2017 01:27 PM

The survival of locally owned businesses — and to a large extent the survival of our community — rests in your pocketbook.

Photo by Robin May

Shopping local isn’t important just during the holiday season; it’s vital year round to ensure locally owned and operated businesses remain open and thriving.

Shopping local is good for retailers, and it’s good for the community.

For every $100 spent at a local/ independent retailer, $45 stays in the community. At local restaurants, $65 stays in the community. In contrast, national chains recirculate $14 in the community. This recirculation of money can have a huge impact on the community’s economy.

Retail and hospitality businesses provide jobs for about 49,000 people in the Lafayette MSA (Lafayette, Acadia, Iberia, St. Martin and Vermilion Parishes) — making up nearly a quarter of the region’s workforce. While employment in the mining sector has declined because of the energy downturn, retail employment has remained steady over the past two years.

Our neighbors, families and friends own the businesses that are the foundation of our community. Studies show that local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of national chains. When we shop local, money stays in our community to support schools, safety, streets and jobs.

“As a business owner, I see the impact of locally spent money. Sales taxes build our roads, schools, police and fire departments,” says Jack Emling, owner of The Interior Fabric Shoppe. “I have donated to numerous charities, churches, schools and more.

Shopping local allows us to stay in business and employ your friends and neighbors.”

Buying local supports the community in other ways. It encourages a strong creative and entrepreneurial ecosystem in the community. Local shopkeepers are often able to better meet the needs of their customers by carrying an array of specialty items that may not be found at larger chain stores. Buying from a locally owned business is good for the environment because it conserves energy and resources in the form of less fuel for transportation and less packaging.

A suggested shopping philosophy is to shop locally owned businesses first; then, shop at national chains with a local presence; finally, shop online with a retailer who collects local sales tax. Many national online retailers do not collect local or state sales tax, thereby depriving the community of needed revenue for schools, roads and public safety.

Shopping local can help prevent major losses in revenue for our community.

In 2015, Amazon sold $755.7 million worth of retail goods statewide, which equates to $68.1 million in lost state and local sales taxes. That comes to about $40.63 for every household in Louisiana. Starting early this year, Amazon was set to begin collecting sales tax in Louisiana. Imagine the impact those funds can have on our community in 2017.

We won’t have final 2016 retail sales numbers until February, but it’s safe to say that shopping local, today and every day, will impact our community in positive ways — safe roads, clear drainage, high-quality schools and rapid emergency response.

It would be beneficial to everyone to heed the advice of Jack Emling, “People need to support their local business, so we will continue to have a community.”

Gregg Gothreaux is president and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.

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