ShoplocalI intercepted a memo dispatched by the National Association of Counties to all their members nationwide announcing a new and exciting contract they just negotiated with online services giant Amazon Business. The memo was received here in Cumberland County, and that is why the topic really hit home with me. Actually, it almost took my breath away. The tone of the memo was almost giddy in declaring that NACo members (including our Cumberland County officials) could now do business online and make purchases at great discounts through the Amazon Business network.

Yes. Now local county purchasing agents don’t have to worry about those pesky local businesses in their prospective counties. You know, the people who invested their life savings in “brick and mortar” businesses, the ones who contribute to local charities, cultural venues and political campaigns, who pay county taxes and employ local residents. Yes, those businesses. I may be a little hyper-sensitive about the issue since I am a small privately-owned business, and I have always emphatically endorsed and promoted locally-owed businesses. Shopping local is vitally important now more than ever. After all, here in Fayetteville we just approved a $35 million dollar Parks & Rec bond, and funded a $33 million dollar baseball stadium. and we have just launched one of the most significant movements in decades, Vision 2026. Vision 2026 specifically to encourage local participation and leadership to grow our economic base, attract business and industry and enhance our amenities, creating a better community and quality of life. All of this takes money. Where does the money come from? Taxes. So it is ludicrous and somewhat hypocritical for any government or local agency, including the Chamber of Commerce, to be doing business outside our community when similar and comparable goods and services are available here within our county borders.

Again, many “talk the talk” about wanting to support local businesses and building the economy in our community. But it is mostly talk. Sure, chain stores like Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Office Max have a local presence in the community and provide jobs and pay taxes. But are they members of the Chamber of Commerce? Do they use local banks, local attorneys or local accountants? Do they support little league baseball, belong to a Kiwanis Club or ever buy Fayetteville Symphony tickets? The answer is emphatically, no.

In the long run, I doubt if the savings in dollars is all that great. But, here is something I do know: the city, county and Chamber of Commerce should be aware of this sensitivity. We ask much of our citizens, and those who own businesses only ask that they be given fair consideration. Most of the angst and frustration does not come from them not getting the business from these agencies. It comes from not even being an option. Local businesses should always have an advantage over out of county agencies. If there are agencies or businesses in Fayetteville and Cumberland County providing goods and services that are needed locally then they should be acquired locally. We live in a very generous community. The value of saving nickels and dimes vanishes quickly when losing quarters and dollars. Not supporting local business has oh-so many unintended consequences, yet, so many advantages and proven benefits.
Online shopping is not going away. All a private business can ask is that before each click of the mouse you ask yourself this: What is this company doing for my family, my community and my quality of life?

Thanks for listening to my rant and for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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