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Street Talk

Shopping Local Really Does Benefit Town

By Mickey Howley

You will hear this often-repeated message this year, just as you hear it every year about this time. The big shopping season is almost upon us.  The message is shopping “local” benefits the community almost like no other action. Keeping your dollars as local as possible makes a huge return to the community. You can tie so many things to that simple choice; more jobs, more buildings occupied, more life in general for all of the town. The very sustainability of a town depends on it. Having no downtown (or a dead one) means effectively no town. Downtown is the central place for economic and social interaction.
Donovan Rypkema works the intersection of downtown economic development and preserving what is already there.  In a follow the money method, he tracks where money goes or does not go. He has put together a national average of what each empty building on Main Street costs a community in terms of lost money each year. The numbers are pretty interesting.  
Each empty building means an average of a quarter million dollars in lost sales per year. Walk down any Main Street and count how many empty buildings there are. This quarter million dollars per building, per year is a national average taking in buildings and small towns from sea to sea. Donovan is from South Dakota, so he doesn’t have that high rent district background either.
Every empty building means per year $17,500 in lost sales tax revenue to local and state government. Think of that, a handful of empty buildings and there’s less police and fire protection, less ability to maintain sewer and streets, less ability for the city to do just about anything. And it is not just the city missing out, but local lending institutions, too.
In lost loan demand, the average loss per year is a combined $66,000 in lost demand for that building loan and loans to the business in it. And of course if a building is empty, there is no payroll or jobs either.
People often ask me what does the Main Street Association do and I can give them a list of effort and events and energy we put into the town. Not that I’m ever in one, but the elevator speech is “economic development through historic preservation.” And a lot of times I just use the F-word, “fixin’ buildings and findin’ businesses and people to go in them.” No matter how you say it, it all starts with local support and local buying power.
The annual general meeting for the Water Valley Main Street Association will be at the Main Street office Thursday, October 17 at 7 pm. If you are a member or want to be or just want to talk about what Main Street might do, come by. You’ll find locals, local energy, and this year, some local food to eat.
Here’s some notes about local growing creative energy: Mudline Farms, Water Valley’s first Community Supported Agriculture –known as a CSA—is coming in with the first crop. For right now you have to be a member of the CSA or find that produce at the BTC.  Farmer Melissa Ondrovcik is adding another healthy way to eat in the Valley. Mudline is another key part of the big picture; food and health and sustainability—grow local, shop local and eat local.
October 27 Jennifer Pace opens her ceramic studio on North Main. Jennifer has done a great job restoring the building and she brings another creative business to town.

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