WILMINGTON — The Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce executive director is hopeful and optimistic that residents over the coming months will support local businesses hit hard by the pandemic shutdown.
Even better, that support would stick and become a permanent fixture at the forefront of local consumers’ practice. That’s because from the standpoint of building a stronger community, buying local makes sense at all times, good or bad, said Executive Director Dessie Rogers.
When something is fresh and new, we may be inclined to get on-board but then after a while move away from it. For example, in the midst of the shutdown we may have even had takeout six days a week to save our restaurants, observed Rogers.
“But what is the longevity of that?” she asked.
Fortunately, Clinton Countians are well poised to keep the Local First mindset because it’s been emphasized around here since the massive job losses that occurred in the wake of DHL’s exit from the air park 10-plus years ago, Rogers noted.
“If there are items you are in need of and you can source from a local business, we always encourage you to shop local first, or support local first, realizing that’s not always an option but certainly putting that at the forefront of your shopping habits,” she said.
By using your consumer power to support local businesses and organizations, buying local truly is an investment, yielding greater community, Rogers believes.
Plus, using your consumer power to support local businesses, she points out, is really as they say putting your money where your mouth is when you’re talking about wanting to support local businesses.
Supporting local ventures happens when the boots are on the ground.
But what if we’re not able to make purchases? There are other ways to be supportive.
“Using word of mouth, making positive referrals — any way we can to help get the local business message out there that they are open. And promoting whatever products or services they offer, and just continue that conversation. A little bit goes a really long way with these local businesses,” she said.
Moreover, when it comes to supporting the local community, there are a lot more aspects than shopping.
“Whether that is dining, recreational, service-based, there are lots of different ways we can shop, eat, live, work, and play locally. It all goes back to supporting the local community,” said Rogers.
Studies have shown that there’s a much greater economic impact for your community when you support a local business.
According to Rogers, the most frequently referenced study says that of every $100 you spend with locally owned businesses, those businesses reinvest $68 within the community; non-locally owned chain stores in the community give back $43; and stores outside the community reinvest zero.
Rogers has been around here since the start of Energize Clinton County’s Buy Local First campaign that drew attention from outside the area and served as a model and inspiration for other locales.
She recalled that back in 2012, local organizers partnered with JP Morgan Chase to do a study on the spending patterns in Clinton County and the surrounding region that also was highly impacted by DHL’s departure. The study stated that if all Clinton Countians shifted 10 percent of their existing purchases from non-local to local enterprises, that would translate to $18 million in additional sales in the county per year.
That doesn’t mean everybody spends 10 percent more; rather it involves shifting 10 percent of purchases.
“Sometimes, especially in times like this, it feels like ‘what impact am I really making?’. But little things like that, they truly do add up,” she said.
The Local First campaign is something the Chamber still runs, and is regarded a key Chamber initiative, said Rogers.
Concerns of businesses
In early June when Rogers was interviewed for this article, she said the main concern or challenge being heard from local business people pertained to their immediate cash flow.
For businesses that may have been shuttered for a couple or so months, it can be hard to maintain cash flow when they may have previously budgeted for more normal operations.
Outreach to non-members
During the pandemic and related business closures, the Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce has invited non-members to consider themselves part of the Chamber when it comes to the agency providing them resources and advocacy, sharing updates, and promoting what the businesses and nonprofits are doing.
“Because we really are — I feel like it’s become this cliche phrase that we throw around — we are in this together. And now is the time we really have to lift all of the businesses and organizations up,” she said.
Interestingly, the Chamber of Commerce has even added a few members to its rolls during the coronavirus public health emergency when much of commerce went on hold.
After a COVID-19 vaccine is created and distributed and people look back at the virus outbreak, it will be viewed as a nightmare, said Rogers, but also as something we got through.
“We got through it because we were looking out for our neighbors, our friends and family members, and because of all the employees who have been on the front lines throughout,” she commented.
“I hope we continue to get through this thoughtfully, respectfully and that we just continue to build on it, and have that become a foundation of just who we are as Clinton Countians.
“We already had this Local First mindedness. It is something that’s hopefully becoming ingrained into our community’s perspective when they think about local businesses and support.”
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.