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Increase the Wealth in Your Community

Many of us have noticed how some nearby communities seem to be "wealthier" than other nearby communities. They seem to have more shopping markets, more restaurants, more choices; items often cost more in these communities than they do in surrounding areas, yet the affluence remains where the prices are high; people are drawn to these communities, bringing even more resources and more wealth.

The idea behind supporting local economies involves more than just agreeing with a concept, or voting in favor of regulations that favor local business. It involves putting our money where our mouth is? spend our money in the community in which we live, for the benefit of those around us. Too many times we are willing to drive long distances to find "exactly what we want" or purchase from internet providers and catalogs, that on a global scale causes large sums of money from a given area to migrate farther away, not to return as a benefit to the community in which it was spent.

There are a variety of reasons as to why this occurs, and all of us are guilty at some point or another. But in order for local economies to survive??.and thrive??.local neighbors must adjust their own mindset to being more receptive to goods and services provided in their own communities. When local business makes money, this in turn revolves back to the public, in terms of growth, more choices, new business creation, and money spent by local business men and women back into the communities from which the money was received. It takes years, and perhaps even decades to see the results sometimes, but a focus on community development, through the spending of your dollars locally, will make a difference in the long run.

About 20 years ago a number of businesses began the acquisition of large quantity goods at extremely low prices, and passed on this savings to the public. The idea caught on like a wave, and mega-stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Home Depot have been popping up all over the United States. Most of us have shopped at one of them, and all of us use products that are available there. We may drive 25 or 30 miles to reach one, and because of the time and distance traveled, we are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on one visit to justify the travel expense.

Large supermarkets of this type bring benefits to the community in terms of jobs. But it brings jobs that often pay single digit wages, perhaps hiring people who were laid off from better paying jobs.

What it does do is put tremendous pressure on local business to compete with pricing. Often they cannot compete well, due to lower customer volume or supply sources, and so can be forced into financial stress, or even bankruptcy, because of the new market's arrival. Many studies have been conducted to determine if the arrival of a national chain market has an overall net benefit to a community, or just weakens the local economy by collecting local dollars and transporting them elsewhere. While studies are inconclusive, many areas are suggesting there is a net loss.

In order for local economies to thrive, jobs must be plentiful and businesses must thrive. By this process, the money-----and that is the largest determining factor of the condition of a local economy---must recycle through that same community in which it was generated. Furthermore, a community must attract the dollars and resources of its surrounding areas, bringing in funding sources from "the outside". Growing economies have a positive net in "dollars recycling", where money is coming in from distant communities and staying there. Depressed economies have a net loss----where more money is leaving the community to buy goods and services elsewhere, rather than being applied in the community from which it was generated through jobs or business.

So one conclusion that can be drawn from this is that to improve our local economy (which involves spending dollars there) we must perhaps change our thinking. By developing a fondness for our home community, and a connection with people in our neighborhoods, it is more likely that we will be willing to spend money in our home areas. The grass is NOT always greener on the other side of the fence. It is greenest where the fertilizer was placed.

-----Tom Clouser Madisonburg, PA

Tom Clouser is a 38 year old farmer in Pennsylvania. In addition to farming, he and his father publish a monthly 16-page newspaper called "Trees 'n' Turf", which targets subjects of interest to those in land use industries and activities. View their website at

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