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Investment by Shopping Local

‘Tis the season for shopping, and according to the National Retail Association, over 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the four-day Thanksgiving Holiday weekend. Moran Henn, development and programs director of Friends of Flagstaff’s Future, (F 3) is hoping that some of the shopping done by Flagstaff residents was done locally. For the past three years, she has been the driving force for the Shop Local Campaign in Flagstaff.

Henn is passionate when asked why she has worked so hard to get this campaign in motion. She explains that F3 has been around for 17 years and is a grassroots organization whose mission is to “create a sustainable, socially just, and economically viable Flagstaff through advocacy, programs and community building.” Henn says members of the organization believe that a strong local economy is the base for a viable and sustainable community. That is why F3 started building a collaborative campaign to educate consumers about the importance of shopping at locally owned small businesses.

Since it started, the campaign has continued to attract more local businesses and groups who are 100 percent behind the idea of shopping locally. Henn says that the campaign is, in part, an educational process “to change the understanding of where the money goes” when people shop locally versus online or at large retailers. She admits that the attraction of great bargains is tough to battle, but she also believes that once people understand how supporting the local economy helps the entire community, many people will choose to shop locally.

Henn is proud of her partners in this campaign: Green Jacks of NAU, Green NAU, The Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, Flagstaff Independent Business Alliance (FIBA), Northern Arizona Sustainable Economic Development Initiative (SEDI), Local First Arizona and the City of Flagstaff. Flagstaff’s mayor, Jerry Nabours, will be kicking off the campaign on First Friday in December when he lights the tree and makes the proclamation to Shop Local. “I wish everyone would shop locally because it helps the city, the local merchants, local causes – it benefits everyone,” he said.

When shopping locally, Carol Bousquet, executive director of SEDI, said, “you are supporting your neighbors.” However, she went on to say that shopping locally is not just something to do that feels good, but it also “keeps 73 percent of every dollar in the local economy, versus 43 percent when shopping at a non-locally owned business,” which is why SEDI supports the Shop Local campaign.

Matt Beaty of the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce says the Shop Local Campaign fits perfectly with the Chamber’s “Buy-Dine-Stay in Flagstaff” initiative, which is a year-round promotion. The Chamber provides free stickers for this campaign to show support from participating businesses. The “Shop Local” and “Buy-Dine-Stay in Flagstaff” initiatives fit in well with the Chamber’s five core values, the first of which is creating a strong local economy.

If you go to the Local First AZ website, you will see the Shop Local campaign on its home page. Additionally, this website provides detailed information about the “10 percent shift.” The premise of this shift, according to Kimber Lanning, executive director of Local First AZ, is that if everyone in Arizona shifts 10 percent of their spending to local businesses, the economy will grow.” For Flagstaff, that would mean 163 new jobs, $5,303,751 in new local wages and $13,661,962 new dollars recirculating in the local economy. That is why Local First AZ is supportive of the Shop Local Campaign.

For Elizabeth Wiggen, a graduate student at NAU and a graduate assistant for the Environmental Caucus and the Office of Sustainability at NAU, this is an opportunity to “show students the value in supporting small, local businesses.” Wiggen feels that students can learn how their dollars can make a difference in this community and help many of the “mom and pop” business owners who have struggled over the past few years. Knowing that student dollars can make a difference in people’s lives is what is exciting for her.

Businesses promoting the “Shop Local” campaign will display signs in their windows that say “Shop Local” or “What’s Spent in Flagstaff, Stays in Flagstaff – Shop Local.” Henn is hoping to display a sign in any local business that is willing to show its support. All the partners in the Shop Local campaign want to encourage more local business owners to join them. Interested businesses can contact any of the organizations or people listed in this article to get more information or to get a Shop Local sign.

Henn is hoping next year to be able to build a research program to demonstrate how successful the Shop Local campaign has been. She says, however, “putting a price on the value of what it means to shop locally is difficult.” She is committed to continuing to work to strengthen Flagstaff’s local economy, collaborative partnerships and to “redefine the concepts of growth and development.”

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