It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
In the downtown business community, merchants have been gearing up for some time.
We’re urging residents to support Carroll-area businesses -— and by this we mean Carroll and surrounding rural communities — rather than shopping in the urban malls of Des Moines or Omaha or Ames, or keystroking around the internet to fill their holiday lists.
The money you spend in Carroll or Manning or Coon Rapids or Audubon or Lake City or Lake View or Sac City or other communities in west-central Iowa now comes back to you in so many ways.
There are the obvious economic factors, like keeping more disposable income here in town and boosting local government through sales and property taxes.
The multiplier effect holds that every dollar spent here rolls over seven times — and that’s before you even factor all the benefits at City Hall.
But there’s more to it than just Economics 101.
Unless you work in the commercial district, you probably have no idea how many charities and school groups and service organizations reach out to local businesses for their causes every year.
We just covered the wonderful Family Resource Center Fall Affair in Carroll. The Graphic Edge hosted the event, and Hy-Vee led the charitable way with food and beverage donations. Many businesses were pleased to be involved.
It’s the price of doing business. It’s nice to participate.
And it makes for a better community, this giving a dollar here and a dollar there.
When kids want new band uniforms at one of our schools, it’s not going to be Amazon.com that shells out for the fundraiser.
When a local kid is sick, and the medical bills are insurmountable, or tragedy strikes and funerals must be funded for families, it’s often the local businesses, not Target or Best Buy or the shamefully overpriced boutique brand-name stores at Jordan Creek Mall or the new outlet mall in Altoona, that donate to the cause.
Now, we’re not saying people should buy absolutely everything from Carroll-area stores.
And neither are the chamber people.
At the very least, though, give Carroll your first look, give our merchants the initial shot at your dollar, and nobody is going to scarlet-letter you with the traitor stamp should you be spotted, bags in hand, at a West Des Moines mall.
There are a lot of great gifts in interesting stores right here in Carroll.
And if they don’t have the right gift, local merchants can get it for you.
Here’s another angle: use the internet for local purchases.
Search the web for products you’re interested in and then find local merchants who carry the items — or get them to order the merchandise for you. Call it reverse showrooming.
Consumers can save time and money this way.
Now, more than ever, is a time to make a Carroll-area statement with your consumer dollars.
Moreover, by shopping in Carroll and its surrounding communities you will be supporting local businesspeople, people you know — not those often rude, dismissive temporary clerks, dripping wet with judgment and urban irony, in the malls of the bigger Iowa cities, or the stockholders of e-commerce companies.
This year, we are making a particularly strong plea to walk the walk with shopping and swear off online shopping venues.
E-commerce is chipping away at our brick-and-mortar base, and as e-commerce cuts into more traditional shopping and the jobs it provides, the new economy is not backfilling employment positions in rural America.
According to The New York Times, small metro areas and rural counties account for about 23 percent of overall retail employment but just 13 percent of jobs attributed to electronic shopping firms.
“At the same time, the new jobs are concentrated in a handful of large cities and tech hubs,” The Times reports.
In a very real sense, the money you spend online does nothing for Carroll or Lake City or Lake View or Audubon.
Where you shop increasingly will say a lot about where you live, how we grow, or don’t.
Living in modern narcissism pods, with Facebook “friends” and Twitter “followers” and personalized Netlflix show lists, reduces too many people to an atomized existence that doesn’t bear much resemblance to the rural Iowa way of life generations worked tirelessly to build.
You can help change that this Christmas season as you fill your Santa sleighs.
Dam the Amazon-level flow of money out of rural Iowa this Christmas.
Live local, think local and, for heaven’s sake, shop local.
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