09/26/2011 10:56 am ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Buy Local -- How YOU Can Improve the Economy

I am an avid reader of The Huffington Post. In fact, if you talk to my wife Karlene, she would tell you I am addicted. I love reading the political and social stories, and love how quickly I can get caught up on the world's news.

Through my reading of Huffington Post and other news outlets, I have noticed a disturbing trend in the past few months that I thought worthy of my first post as contributor. The economy in this country is hurting, and everyone is openly wondering who is responsible. Blame vacillates between our President, to Congress, to the big banks, to Wall Street. This "blame game" has become distracting and pervasive.

I humbly suggest that YOU are responsible. Yes YOU, the consumer. You are responsible because you -- like most Americans -- are probably not focused on supporting the small business backbone of this country. Sometime in the past 50 years, our country has moved from valuing quality and independent businesses to valuing cheap. Cheap has a tendency to come directly from big box retailers. It's not your fault; it is how you have been marketed to.

Here are some facts for your consumption:

- Locally owned businesses reinvest in the local economy at a 60 percent higher rate than the chains and Internet retailers.
- Small business accounts for 75 percent of all new jobs.
- Locally owned and operated businesses create higher paying jobs for you and your neighbors.

If you want to improve this economy, don't look to Washington. Review your own purchasing habits. Are you driving to 'big box' stores to save a few dollars? Try buying local, buy from independent store owners, craftspeople and artists. If each of us changed even a small portion of our purchasing habits, we could collectively dig our country out of this economic mess.

My website,, was built to help you, the consumer, find a local maker to make you anything custom. Whether it is a piece of furniture, a piece of jewelry, apparel, or artwork, you can find it on CustomMade. Buying custom from a maker is a pretty cool way of making sure that you are buying local! We built a site to help empower and encourage this kind of consumption.