Choose Local First is the official San Diego County affiliate of the American independent Business Network (AMIBA) which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit alliance of, by and for the local organizations and independent trade groups.

Organized in 2014 by a small number of volunteer business owners and community minded residents, Choose Local First today welcomes locally owned and independent business partners, including citizens and government organizations to join in supporting the message of Choosing Local First.

Choose Local First is open to all businesses that are at least 51% locally-owned and make their business decisions independently.

When residents and businesses contract, hire and purchase locally, they invest in the strength and success of our local community. Choose Local First brings neighbors together, encourages entrepreneurship and innovation, and puts the money we spend back into the vitality of our local communities.

What is “Choose Local First?”

“Choose Local First” is a term used to refer to our commitment to our communities. Rather than simply promoting “buying” local, we are suggesting our larger role as stewards. By choosing local, we can make choices that have dramatic impact on our local communities, economies, and environments. We recognize that we will rarely be able to buy everything we need or use from local independent businesses. But we are advocating that people first choose local – look first for local and locally owned sources of the things you need and want – to maximize the impact of their daily actions and purchasing decisions.

A Choose Local First Campaign

A Choose Local First campaign educates consumers about the economic and social advantages that independent and local businesses bring to a community. The goal is to create a thriving local economy by maximizing the potential of local businesses, and transferring market share (business, government, and consumer purchases) from non-locally owned businesses to local independently owned businesses.

Money Spent Locally Stays Local

Several studies have shown that money spent at a locally owned business stays in the local economy and continues to strengthen the economic base of the community. A recent case study in Austin, Texas, showed that for every $100 in consumer spending at a national bookstore in Austin, the local economic impact was only $13. The same amount spent at locally based bookstores yielded $45, or more than three times the local economic impact (Civic Economics, Austin Unchained).

A recent case study of Mid-coast Maine covering several lines of goods and services validated these findings. The study surveyed eight locally owned Maine businesses, and found that the businesses spent 44.6 percent of their revenue within the surrounding two counties. They spent another 8.7 percent elsewhere in the state of Maine. The four largest components of this local spending were wages and benefits paid to local employees, goods and services purchased from other local businesses, profits that accrued to local owners, and taxes paid to local and state government. All eight businesses banked locally, used local accountants, advertised in local businesses publications, purchased inventory from local manufacturers, and used local Internet service providers and repair people. The study estimated that a big-box retailer returns just 14.1 percent of its revenue to the local economy, mostly in the form of payroll. The rest leaves the state, flowing to out-of-state suppliers and back to corporate headquarters (The Economic Impact of Locally Owned Business vs. Chains: A Case Study in Midcoast Maine).

Local Owners Are Local Contributors

There are other benefits to buying local as well. Research has shown that small local businesses make indispensable contributions to communities and neighborhoods. A study of businesses in Oregon detailing charitable giving showed that when in-kind contributions were included, small firms gave an average of $789 per employee, medium-sized firms $172, and large firms $334 (NFIB Small Business Policy Guide). Additionally, large firms and national franchises often contribute primarily to the area where the corporation is headquartered, not necessarily where they do business.

Local Businesses Offer Stable Employment

Small businesses account for the largest share of net new jobs generated each year, and locally based business provide some of the most stable employment opportunities in a community. For all their economic power, the number of jobs provided by global corporations relative to the world’s workforce is small. The 200 largest corporations in the world employ less than one percent of the global workforce although they account for about 30 percent of global economic activity. Between 1983 and 1999 the number of people they employed grew by 14 percent while their profits grew more than 360 percent. Most job growth often comes from local independent businesses.

Local Ownership Lessens Environmental Impact

In addition to building a strong economic base, supporting the local community, and creating new jobs, small businesses, which are more often located in central business districts, have less impact on local ecosystems compared to larger retailers located in strip malls or stand-alone buildings. To accommodate large retail development, roads and parking lots must be built, which results in a greater reliance on cars and an increase in auto emissions. As big-box stores, chain retailers, and even franchises consume more and more undeveloped land, polluted runoff from their parking lots is placing an ever-greater burden on the continent’s rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. One way to preserve a community’s land and natural resources is to channel retail activity back into downtowns and neighborhood shops. Multistory buildings reduce the footprint of buildings. Higher densities and greater access for pedestrians and public transit mean significantly less land devoted to roads and parking lots (New Rules Project, Home Town Advantage Bulletin).

Tax Revenue Goes Further

Local businesses in town centers also require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services. The taxes paid by large retailers often do not cover the increase in public services that are required and the difference can be dramatic, according to a recent study of Barnstable, Massachusetts, a city of 48,000 people. The study, conducted by Tischler& Associates, compared public revenue and costs for various land uses. It found that the city’s small downtown stores generate a net annual surplus (tax revenue minus costs) of $326 per 1,000 square feet. Big-box stores, strip shopping centers, and fast-food outlets, however, require more in services than they produce in revenue. A big-box store creates an annual tax deficit of $468 per 1,000 square feet (Stacy Mitchell, Main Street News).

Independent Businesses Maintain Uniqueness

Additionally, an economy of diverse, unique businesses attracts today’s skilled workers and investors who can choose to settle and grow businesses anywhere. In his research, Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, shows that today’s creative workers are choosing to settle in places that preserve their distinctive character. And Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, says these one-of-a-kind communities attract tourists as well: “… when people go on vacation, they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being

The Importance of Thinking Local First

One of the greatest things an individual can do to support his or her local community is to patronize its locally owned businesses. Compared to their national competitors, local independent businesses recycle more money back into the local economy and give greater support to a community’s nonprofit and civic needs. They are better positioned to respond to the special needs of the community, and they are more tied to the community’s future. Additionally, unlike a homogenized Anyplace, USA, a community with vibrant independent businesses retains its unique character as a great place to live and visit. In promoting a Local First campaign, a community supports a thriving local economy and its way of life.

Buy Local Week

Later this year, Choose Local First will celebrate Buy Local Week with many of our local business networks. Buy Local Week is an opportunity for locally owned businesses to work together to increase the local economic impact of holiday spending, create more jobs, more tax revenue and a more stable local economy. Buy Local Week leverages traditional media, online marketing, public events, local news and radio and other local partnerships to raise awareness of the role of local business on our economy. When the time draws near, we offer resources to download, links to information on Local First Campaigns and the Shift Your Shopping initiative, and ideas for what a sampling of Choose Local First network members have planned. Stay tuned!

Who’s eligible to join?

Who’s eligible to join a Choose Local First network? Sometimes determining which businesses are local and independently owned can be difficult. How about a locally owned McDonald’s franchise? How about an insurance agent with a national company and a local office? Many businesses participate in cooperative marketing, offer exclusive lines, and have all sorts of other business agreements.

We define a locally owned business as one where the community member has full autonomy and local decision-making authority with respect to his or her business practices, and one who’s revenues and profits are not automatically redistributed outside the local community.

A simple survey like this one might help you figure out which businesses in your community are locally owned:

  1. Is the business privately held (not publicly traded)?
  2. Do the business owners, totaling greater than 50 percent of the business ownership, live in your local region?
  3. Is the business registered in your state, with no corporate or national headquarters outside your region?
  4. Can the business make independent decisions regarding the name and look of the business, as well as all business purchasing, practices, and distribution?
  5. Does the business pay all its own rent, marketing expenses, and other expenses (without assistance from a corporate headquarters)?
  6. Does a portion of the business revenues and/or profits go to a national franchise outside the local community in which the business is located?

The point is to look at what decisions about personal and business purchases will strengthen your local economy and community. If you buy your food at this store, where will the profits end up? Will they stay close by and get reinvested locally, or fly off to corporate headquarters in another community or state?


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