A Guest Editorial by Olga Bof

Did you “shop small” on Small Business Saturday? It’s great if you did, but what about the other 364 days? Our local businesses need your support year-round, not only during the holidays, because they’re not merely exhibits the rest of the year. They’re living, breathing entities with owners who are struggling, just like you and me, to pay bills and put food on the table e-v-e-r-y day. That’s why we all need to “Think Local First” every day.

If I asked you to name your favorite business in St. Pete, I can bet it’s a locally-owned one. It’s likely that you even know the owner. Perhaps that business is owned by a friend, or neighbor, or even a member of your own family. Our local business owners are the first to donate to causes that are close to our hearts and they do so at more than twice the rate of national chains. Our local businesses are owned by people who live here, raise families here and make Saint Petersburg a place where our children can stay to build their dreams. They’re invested in our community’s future because they are an integral part of our community … and our community matters.

Milky the dog with KSPL sticker
Milky the dog with KSPL sticker at the Saturday Morning Morning

We’re incredibly blessed that many of the businesses in our city are local and independent. Unfortunately, they face unprecedented competition from larger chain competitors, internet merchants and franchises that enjoy national or international branding power and major economies of scale. We need to support our community-based businesses because they are essential to a vital local economy and St. Pete’s unique character.

Did you know that local businesses are collectively the largest employer nationally and, therefore, provide the most jobs to residents in our community? Not only do they create more jobs (and more high-paying ones!), but they also encourage more prosperity. They’re a training ground for future generations of entrepreneurs. Also, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and local flavor.

Isn’t that one of the main reasons you live here? Maybe you even moved here because of it … our local flavor! However, that local flavor can become a double-edged sword. The more interesting and special we are as a community, the more we attract others who want to visit or move to Saint Petersburg. The more popular we become, the more attention we receive from national chains that also want to move in.

The key here is for each one of us to support and preserve what makes us unique! Every time you spend money you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want. Every dollar you spend is a vote for how you want the world to be, and who you want to control it! Spending at our local businesses won’t just keep more money in our community (two to three times more than spending at a national chain!); it’ll keep our community how you want it to be!

Localtopia - photo of KSPL sticker and nomad art bus
Localtopia – photo of KSPL sticker and nomad art bus

Also remember, it’s not just about “buying” local goods and services, but being local … eat and drink local; go to our local artists’ exhibitions and shows and buy their art/music; support our local sports teams; and, give local. It’s as important to support our local nonprofit organizations with your volunteer time and donations as it is to support our independent businesses with your spending. If you live here, then please give here!

Pledge to make 2017 the year you “Think Local First” every single day because if you don’t buy local, it’s bye-bye local.

Think Local. Buy Local. Be Local.

Olga Bof

Founder/Executive Director Keep Saint Petersburg Local KeepSaintPetersburgLocal.org (Follow us on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram)

Keep Saint Petersburg Local is a non-profit organization, affiliated with the American Independent Business Alliance (www.amiba.net), working to build a thriving local economy and a unique community. We do this by nurturing connections for and acting as the voice of locally-owned, independent businesses and by raising awareness of the importance of buying local.

Don’t miss LOCALTOPIA, St. Pete’s largest “Community Celebration of All Things Local,” showcasing over 200 of our city’s favorite independent businesses and community organizations on February 4th from 10 am to 5 pm at Williams Park. Learn more here: KeepSaintPetersburgLocal.org/Localtopia

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