THE BLOG
11/26/2013 03:07 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2014

Local Movement at the Heart of the City

Localism does more than generate dollars; it creates a place you want to live.

I recently overheard one of our volunteers say that since joining Think Local First DC, she has become a "new type of homebody." As I continued to eavesdrop, I was happy to hear that being a homebody to her was spending more time in the 5-mile radius of where she lives. By making a conscientious effort to get her clothes dry cleaned a block away, actively look for a closer grocery store, and become a regular at the corner cafe or purchase her gifts at the shop down the street, she now feels more intertwined into what some call a transient city. Home is where you hang your heart, or for a matter of fact your dollar. By becoming a part of the DNA of her neighborhood, she felt more connected.

You see, money is like blood -- without constant flow and re-circulation the system shuts down. When your neighbor spends her dollars online and in big box stores, the "blood" leaks out and wounds an otherwise thriving community. If money is the blood and the community is the body, then independent business is for sure the heart of the matter.

Studies show that that 68 cents of every dollar of a purchase at a local independent retailer stays in the surrounding community. This figure is two times dollars more than the money circulating from a big box purchase. The money is generated through a multiplier effect from salary, taxes and charitable giving. Locally owned businesses tend to hire local, give local and fill local real estate that might otherwise go vacant. It's not hard to see where this makes economic sense.

The average Washingtonian spends $700 on gifts between Small Business Saturday and Christmas. If 25 percent (less than $200) of this were shifted to our local, independent stores over $300 million would go back into the streets of D.C.

Shop Local First Week is simply a reminder that we all play a part in this. Without our support we lose local business, without our local businesses our city loses character... and without character no one wants to live here. There are a million other economic reasons why this makes sense but I am not sure of anyone that wants their neighbors to disappear.

But you see, our volunteer's life did not get richer because of her circulating dollar -- by being local she got know the people that live, work and play around her. She probably did not choose these businesses just because they were local. Independent businesses are often more convenient, have better service and a selection of items you will not find elsewhere. In general, local shops, service providers and independently run restaurants make each decision with the consumer in mind. They spend hours on end strategizing and buying best inventory of products and show up everyday to create the best experience for their neighbors, friends and colleagues in the community. Do you think a big box thinks of you when they make a purchase?

The local independent business reflects the pulse of a community. With the consumers' support neighborhoods are unique and vibrant. A healthy community is why people continue to visit and why they decide that this is a place to live. By choosing local we are not only keeping these independent businesses from closing but we are keeping our community fresh with new life, new blood.

When our volunteer lives a local life, she is positively affecting the economic framework of the District. Her dollars are not only coursing through D.C.'s veins but she is becoming a part of our city's soul. When you feel connected you are likely to live in your community longer, invest in a home and maybe, just maybe open an independent business in the heart of it all.

Join me, Think Local First DC and our local independent entrepreneurs in celebrating Shop Local First Week, November 30 to December 8, where over 65 businesses will be giving back (in a substantial way) during the inaugural Charity Cash Mob and celebrate D.C.'s Makers Movement during four Made In D.C. Marketplaces. And while you are at it, remind your family, friends and colleagues to shop all indie businesses for the entire holiday season... not only are you guaranteed the most thoughtfully curated gifts and amazing service but every dollar spent is an investment into the health of the community, and to me that makes the most sense of all.