We’re frequently asked by community leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, “So what businesses are considered local?” In rural communities the short answer is, the ones your community supports, has a relationship with or needs in order to maintain quality of life. Frequently, however, folks want a specific definition. They’re worried that the nationally or regionally owned chain store in their community doesn’t meet the definition of local. The questions continue into details, like, “what if the manager is local? what if the employees are local? what if the community is completely reliant on those goods and services and no one else is offering them?” So, let’s take a look at the core principles behind localism.
1) Spending and keeping money in the community to create greater independence and self-reliance
2) Using that money in the community to create jobs, increase quality of life, support local community services, increase amenities, support education and foster community connection and pride!
There’s no question that independently-owned businesses are far more effective at supporting the principles above. So yes, those businesses should be supported, encourage and solicited whenever possible. But each community should also identify all the businesses that build and sustain the principles of localism. Rural communities should educate themselves about the corporate practices and long-term effect that a national or regional chain store will have on and IN their community. Corporations that answer to shareholders in far off places usually don’t have the local interests on their radar and their decisions are only made on the bottom line. To achieve the Local Effect, communities need to consider long-term impacts such as connection to the community, health and well-being of residents, the cost of social services and who is really footing the bill. If your community is undecided about localism because of valuable businesses in the community that aren’t independently and/or locally owned, ask yourself if that business supports your community values and overall vision of what you want your community to become.