In West Michigan, “local isn’t just a place on the map.” That’s according to Local First, a buy-local group based in Grand Rapids and representing some 800 locally owned businesses in the region. When it comes to supporting those members and the community at large, Local First doesn’t just talk the talk. Rather, Local First demonstrates in dollars and cents what impact its local businesses have on the economy and community of West Michigan.
When a consumer spends $100 at a locally owned business in or near Grand Rapids, $73 from the purchase stays in the local economy. That money can indirectly fund employee wages, local schools or local giving. Local Works!, a study by Local First in Grand Rapids and Civic Economics, examined these impacts and others of local businesses on the West Michigan economy. The results make a clear case for shopping local and supporting small business.
For instance, the study reports that in a population of 770,000, a 10 percent shift in spending from national chains to local businesses would generate $137 million in new economic activity; over 1,600 new jobs; and over $50 million in new wages.
Then, there’s the Local First annual report. According to the organization’s 2015 annual report, 85 percent of local businesses in West Michigan donate to charity, and they donate 350 percent more on average than national and global businesses.
These findings and others plainly show the difference that local ownership makes in West Michigan. They also support Local First’s work in the region to keep small businesses growing. Local First offers members placement in an online directory of local businesses, promotional materials and networking events.
Although its work and research are specific to the West Michigan region, Local First is supported by a national network of buy local advocacy. The organization is a member of BALLE, or the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. BALLE offers resources and networking opportunities on a national level for Local First and other likeminded groups. In fact, the partnership between Local First and BALLE helps to produce more data that small businesses leverage. The Measure What Matters quick assessment tool allows businesses to determine their impact on the local community in just a few, easy steps.
Every small business has a story to tell, but for businesses in West Michigan, Local First tells a powerful story through numbers and research. Local businesses bring prosperity to the communities that support them – and Local First has the proof. For more information about Local First, visit www.localfirst.com.
Independent We Stand is dedicated to helping independent businesses across the country engage their communities and encouraging customers to buy local. If you’re a business owner, get buy local resources, tips and news by registering for a business membership. Your business will also be included in our ‘locals only’ search engine and mobile app. If you’re a consumer, take the pledge to buy local to join the movement.