I am a proponent of the local—whether it is local restaurants, local banks, local businesses. I guess it’s part of my heritage. I grew up in a small town in Ohio and I have never lost my love of places where you can walk to a good restaurant, or to your bank [don’t walk up to the drive-through window, though!], or to your library [shameless plug]. My personal take on the world is that we might all be better off if we recognized that small is beautiful.
Our recent library discussion group on books around the theme “Good Jobs, Good Work” has made me see even more clearly the beauty of that which is small in scale, personal, and local. For example, contrast those banks that were “too big to fail” with the ones where the banker knows your name, where his son plays soccer with your daughter.
See what I mean?
When we were first married, we walked into the bank with our jobs, our good name, and no other assets, to get a car loan. The person who saw us called us by name, smiled, and helped us transact our business. They knew us and knew what the likelihood was that we would pay that loan back to them [pretty likely]. By the same thinking, they didn’t make loans to those neighbors who couldn’t pay them back; it would have destroyed the bank’s reputation and, in the long run, hurt the neighbors, too.
In the spirit of that, of knowing your neighbors and helping them, I’d like to recommend a project to you. It’s called the 3/50 Project. Simply put, the founder of this movement, Cinda Baxter, says “Frequent three local brick and mortar businesses you don’t want to see disappear, and spend a very affordable $50 per month there. . . .It’s about funneling revenue back into local business. You know-—the folks that pour money back into the community via commercial property taxes, payroll taxes, sales tax, and salaries (not to mention all that good will by way of volunteer time, silent auctions, sponsored softball teams, workshops, book signings, etc.).” She doesn’t’ mean this to be an “all or nothing” proposition; she doesn’t insist we stop shopping in chains or franchises. It’s about balance—redirecting $50 back to the locally owned, independent businesses. “We simply need to think about where our dollars are best invested, consider the greater amount of revenue local businesses return to the community, then purchase accordingly. Otherwise, local economies suffer irreparable harm.”
One of the best things about running a small-town library system is getting to know the people—not just those of you who come into our buildings, but also those of you who use our website, or eat up the street, who call me by name when I walk to the post office in the afternoon. Maybe that means something to you, too. In fact, I would wager it’s one of the reasons you live here instead of elsewhere—that personal connection with your neighbors.
One way to keep that from disappearing is to spend our money locally. Wendell Berry, in Seventeen Rules for Sustainable Communites  says that we should make sure that money paid into the local economy circulates within the community and decrease expenditures outside the community.
Sounds like a good idea to me.