Field Notes: Local First
Local First leads the development of an economy grounded in local ownership that meets the basic needs of people, builds local wealth and social capital, functions in harmony with our ecosystem, and encourages joyful community life.
Independently organized Local First programs define local as follows:
- Locally owned
- Privately held
- Headquartered in the community
When making the case for why to buy local, for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 stays in the local economy. This money that stays in includes local supplies, local service, local taxes, wages, and donations. Money that leaves the local economy is usually in the form of imported supplies.
Regions such as Kent County, Michigan, found that if they redirected 10% of all retail sales in their county to local merchants that they would achieve $140 million in new economic activity, create over 1,6000 new jobs, and provide over $50 million in new wages annually.
The way to get started with a Local First program is to organize a small group of businesses. Next steps are to engage in community education and collaborative marketing. Window clings identifying a business as a Local First, locally owned business is one of the most common steps. Media campaigns might involve a monthly radio spot, a quarterly newspaper or magazine column, co-marketing ads, and letters to the editor about the importance of supporting local businesses.
We first became acquainted with the Local First movement during the “Promoting the Local Economy” on demand course through the Main Street America Institute. This and other on-demand courses are available to view here.