What is it? Buy local campaigns help develop stronger local economies. There are many different ways that communities have conducted local purchasing campaigns, sometimes focusing on a specific niche such as local foods. Buy local campaigns are not simply “feel good” efforts. These initiatives help strengthen and grow the local economy. Studies have repeatedly indicated the increased economic benefits that accrue from increases in local purchasing. Simply put, more of the money spent stays in the community, rather than flowing out.
In particular, communities receive three related benefits. First, the campaigns encourage people to make more of their purchases from locally owned businesses. This directly increases small business income. Second, the initiatives educates residents about the economic benefits of local purchasing. This has the potential for longer-lasting changes in consumer spending habits. Last, the campaigns help promote and market local businesses, potentially decreasing some of the marketing costs for entrepreneurs while also increasing brand identity and customer loyalty.
How has it been used? The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia has a thriving buy local campaign focused primarily on food. Every year a buy local directory is produced. In addition to listing the local producers and farms, the directory also includes restaurants that showcase locally grown items, farmer’s markets, and even grocery stores that carry locally grown food. The campaign also hosts events to raise awareness of eating local. Again, this sort of campaign offers positive economic impacts. According to the Virginia Food System Council, if Virginia households spent just $10 per week on local Virginia-grown food, $1.65 billion would be kept in the state. (Source: Shenandoah Valley Buy Fresh Buy Local and Virginia Food System Council)