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Woman shopping downtown
Woman shopping downtown
Woman shopping downtown

Updated November 3, 2016.
Published November 12, 2015.

And a few simple ways to do it.

Want to do good in your community, but don’t feel like you have the time?

Being a part of your community doesn’t have to engulf your entire day. It can be as simple as deciding to buy local.

Here are six reasons it pays to make the effort to shop at some of the nearly 28 million small businesses identified by the U.S. Small Business Administration:

1. You’ll double your dollar’s impact.  

Money spent at local retailers multiplies into extra investment in the local economy.

Studies begun in 2002 by Civic Economics showed that 47 cents of every dollar spent at local retailers and 65 cents of every dollar spent at local restaurants stays local. Compare that to the 14 cents at chain retailers and 30 cents at chain restaurants that stays local from every dollar collected.

2. You’ll get it the way you want it.

Small businesses excel at being responsive to the desires of their customers. In fact, one 2015 survey found that over half of shoppers say small businesses have better customer service than their larger counterparts. So while some chain stores display more choices to shoppers, local store owners often provide better service to help you choose the products or services you want.

“Many times, customer service can be better at a local business as the business gets to know you, and you, them,” says Steve Wilson, chief executive officer of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce. “They are your neighbors, friends, and family.”

3. You’re supporting neighbors in need.

Small and local businesses are often more involved in their communities – and make far more in charitable contributions. An Oregon State University study found that companies with fewer than 100 employees gave an annual average of $789 per employee in cash and in-kind donations to nonprofits and charitable organizations, compared with $334 from employees at much larger firms.

“When you choose to shop at local businesses your dollars are being reinvested in the same region where you live, learn, work and play,” explains Heather Hamlin, small business programs and services manager at Greater Spokane Incorporated. “Local businesses as a whole are incredibly generous and give back in so many ways.  They are donating items and services to fundraisers, sponsoring youth sports and volunteering their hours to make a difference.”

“When you choose to shop at local businesses your dollars are being reinvested in the same region where you live, learn, work and play,” explains Heather Hamlin.

4. You’re helping the environment.

A community of small businesses requires less driving for shoppers, reducing greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles. People who live in neighborhoods with more small businesses also tend to take public transit more often, while small businesses tend to buy more of their supplies from other small businesses, decreasing the environmental cost of shipping.

5. You’re making smart use of tax dollars.

One study that looked at the vehicle trips, public safety impacts, and infrastructure needs of different business types suggests that smaller and specialty businesses tend to have a smaller impact on their cities than big box stores and fast food outlets. Additional reports and studies have looked at the tax incentives that many cities have given to big box stores and national firms, finding that, in general, it’s likely that buying local means supporting businesses that cost city taxpayers much less.

6. You’re contributing to a more vibrant community.

A healthy, vibrant community is good for everyone. Research shows that communities that support a higher density of small and locally owned businesses tend to have a healthier per capita income growth and civic participation.

A 2011 study from Pennsylvania State University found that between 2000 and 2007, areas with a higher density of small businesses also had greater per capita income growth. Small businesses also accounted for 65% of the net new jobs since 1995, according to the SBA.

Researchers also found that areas with a higher concentration of small businesses tend to have more participation in elections, and more participation in civic activities.

How to locate small, locally owned businesses.

Add it all together, and you’ve got a big impact from your decision to buy local.

So how do you find a small or locally owned business that can meet your needs? There are a number of options.

“Look for businesses that display the Buy Local decal or poster in their storefront,” suggests Hamlin. “Many local businesses are participating in Small Business Saturday. For a full list of businesses in our area, visit You can also ask your local Chamber of Commerce, such as Greater Spokane Incorporated or the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce, for help in identifying small and locally owned businesses that will meet your needs.