A win for Keeping It Local!

Today was a good day. I went to Walmart, not to buy anything, but to pay off the last of our credit account. Actually, this was a double win for us and a win for Keeping It Local (a not yet existing organization / movement.) With out credit account paid off we can now close that account for good.

Why close it? Let’s go down the list. First off we have chosen to not support Walmart anymore. Second, it closes an account with a credit card company that charges outrageous fees, which is good for our budget. Third, it is one more step towards moving away from all of the big corporate companies that have bought, traded, and crushed by any means possible, American small business.

Yes, I know it’s a rant. But I am okay with that. I have been fighting to keep small businesses alive and well for years and it just seems to get harder and harder. Locally, at least here in San Jose, California, the city government seems to have a blood thirsty revenue generating attitude. Unless you are a big player or a non-profit, you just don’t count. Small businesses are swamped with municipal, county, state and federal regulations and fees to the point that some people find it much easier to conduct business illegally and stay off the grid while others do everything they can to stay afloat in the current economy while complying with all of the taxes, fees, and regulations.

What happened to encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit that Silicon Valley was so famous for? Sure, tech and bio-tech companies can still start up, and other companies can find incubators to grow them for acquisition, but what about the neighborhood mom-and-pop stores? It takes some work to find locals to buy from these days. Here in a major metropolitan area some of them have survived, but what about the small towns across the country that were basically shut down? Those company towns that lost it all when the company moved production overseas?

I am having a conversation with a friend online as I am writing this article and what I am getting at is unfolding in that conversation. Her son commented on something I had written on Facebook. He posted a comment about buying bike parts at his local bike shop. This is great and it makes me happy to see that. I asked if he knew about the bike shops supply chain. Do they by form U.S. manufacturers or overseas? I have no idea myself. I have plans to build a bike-truck at some point but I haven’t gotten in to it so I am actually a bit curious.

This is where we can make the difference in our economy. Let’s run with this local bike shop. If I go in to my local shop and ask “Where do the parts come from?” I am opening that supply-line dialog. If I get a response that they sell parts from overseas and some made in the good old USA, I’m going to chose the ones made here, and I am going to tell the owner of the bike shop that I prefer to by local, that’s why I am here in his shop instead of buying online or at some mega-store. I am also going to tell him that if he is willing to stock more U.S. manufactured parts I will go out of my way to promote him and his store.

Now lets take a different track. Lets say that all of the parts are made overseas. This is where we start another supply-line dialog, one that begins with asking: Are there any U.S. suppliers? Why don’t you carry them? I want to support your business because it is a local business but if you buy all of your parts directly from an overseas supplier, that is only keeping a small percentage on my money in the local economy.

We have to take the time to get to know who we buy from and how they operate, and it has to be a dialog. We can’t say, “Oh, you buy overseas, never mind.” We as consumers have to express why we are asking and how important it is to us that we support the local economy.

There are things that will be outside the “buy local” ideal. We are most likely not going to find pharmaceuticals produced in out town and they will have to come from somewhere else, but we can control where and who we buy products from. For me it has become a matter of conscience, a personal decision that I am committing to. Keep It Local is an ideal that I am aspiring to. Won’t you join me?