Matt McCauley

Matt McCauley

If you are like me, you have bemoaned or cringed at least once during 2020 at the news that one or more of your favorite businesses has closed because of economic strain.

Whether a restaurant, a gym, a retail spot, or something else entirely — it feels personal when a local business closes.

Our local businesses employ our neighbors, support our kids’ schools, provide the gifts to celebrate birthdays and meals for anniversaries; they are part of our landscape and character, and so much more.

It feels personal when they are hurting because it is personal.

I want to say that the worst is over with this economic disruption, but initial estimates suggest because of sustained COVID impacts, dwindling confidence in near future federal assistance, uncertainty in public health policy, and an end to what is often the busiest time of the year for most, there will likely be more local business closures in the coming months.

Simply put, our local businesses are likely to have a tough season ahead, so it is time to fully embrace localism. Buying locally is not new and likely has been one of the more frequent op-eds subjects in this paper.

However, it’s more important than ever that we purposefully keep as many dollars in our region instead of sending them away to a corporation.

The data show that local businesses generally return most of their revenue to the area they operate, compared to under 20 percent by national retail chains and even less for wholly online operations. Every buy local transaction we enter into has the greatest opportunity for immediate and residual economic impact — more so than any other transaction type.

It has been difficult for many of us to see where we can direct our efforts to help our communities and neighbors during these tough times. As a result, it can feel like you’ve been sidelined at a time when our community needs more players and fewer spectators.

But that isn’t true. While it may not feel like it, each of us has an incredibly important role during this economic and public health disruption, the consumer’s role. Buying locally enables all of us to be investors, not on Wall Street, but Main Street.

By contributing to local businesses, we help preserve existing jobs, create new ones, and build a wealth network focused on Northern Michigan.

There has never been a more important season for those who have the means to adopt a local-first attitude to your purchases.

Admittedly, my household needs to do better with buying local. Like many of you, the now ubiquitous Amazon box does show up on my porch with greater regularity than I’d like to admit.

Not only has there never been a more important time to change our online buying habits, but our businesses are making it easier than ever.

Local businesses have taken the steps necessary for a safe and productive shopping experience, such as enforcing masks and social distancing, allowing greater online purchasing, providing curbside pickup and creating family take-home meals.

The bottom line is that buying local creates the necessary connections between you and your community. And that will create a more resilient region in these times of uncertainty. It will also make you feel good — I guarantee it.

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