A few months ago, Door County business and civic leaders launched the “Buy Local” initiative under the tag line, “spend it here, keep it here.” The idea is simple. Each year Door County residents spend tens of millions of dollars buying products and services from places down the road like Green Bay even though there is often a local alternative.
The problem isn’t that our local businesses are more expensive. In fact, if you take a casual survey of what’s available in Door County, our local companies are often competitively priced especially when you factor in the cost of shipping or travel to Green Bay. Nor is the problem one of poor service. Door County vendors are often our friends (or at a least friend of a friend) so usually our local service is better than anything we’d find down the road.
More often than not, it seems the reason we don’t spend more money locally is that we just don’t think about it very often. The Madison Avenue advertising executives spend a fortune to make us believe that everyone buys their appliances from a big box store, has their checking account at a national bank, and purchases their books online.
Let’s make a commitment to pause for a moment every time we think about making the drive to that big box store in a neighboring county or ordering that product online. If each of us makes a conscious decision to spend just a few more of our dollars at local businesses, the economic benefit to Door County would be enormous.
After all, it’s our local companies that create the jobs that employ our friends and neighbors. These businesses contribute to our quality of life and generate the private wealth that helps fund the work of our local charities.
But what’s often lost in most “Buy Local” efforts is a recognition that the benefits of keeping our dollars in Door County aren’t limited to for-profit companies. We should “Give Local” too!
Just like there is usually a local vendor for most products and services you buy, there is probably a local charity which addresses the causes you care about the most.
If you’re concerned about domestic abuse, a gift to HELP of Door County will alleviate the suffering of hidden victims of abuse right here in our own community. If you want your money to provide opportunities for people with special needs or disabilities, Sunshine House has been doing that for Door County residents for 40 years.
Our health care needs are attended to by organizations like the Door County Memorial Hospital Foundation, the Community Clinic of Door County and Door CANcer. Our environmental treasures are watched over by groups like the Friends of Peninsula State Park and the Friends of Toft Point.
If you love music, Midsummer’s Music Festival bring world-class musicians to our community and the Birch Creek Music Performance Center is educating the next generation of young musicians from around the nation right here in Egg Harbor.
And if you’re concerned about basic human needs, a gift to the United Way of Door County touches virtually every significant local social service charity. These are the organizations that directly serve our less fortunate neighbors who live in the shadows of Door County.
When it comes to effective local charities doing important work in Door County, the list could go on and on (and you can find that list online at http://www.doorcountycommunityfoundation.org).
Now this concept of “Buy Local AND Give Local” shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that there aren’t worthy causes that lay outside the confines of Door County. Just as there are some products and services that you cannot find in our community, there are important charitable causes that are not addressed by our local charities. Issues like third-world hunger, cancer research, and disaster relief are deserving of our support but exist far beyond the purview of Door County non-profits.
Give to the causes that are important to you. But before you make that contribution to a national charity, pause for a moment consider if there is a local non-profit that addresses the same issue, only it does so in Door County.
Donating to local charities enriches our quality of life and alleviates the suffering of the less fortunate residents of Door County. And spending a larger percentage of our dollars on local goods and services is by far the most effective and cost efficient form of stimulus we could inject into our local economy. It creates jobs and economic opportunity right in Door County.
The best part is that we can accomplish these goals without the intrusion of a single government program or a penny’s increase in our national debt! We just need to redirect a few of the dollars we’re already spending (and donating) outside the County right back here into our local businesses and charities.
Bret Bicoy is President & CEO of the Door County Community Foundation. In 2008, he and his wife Cari returned to Wisconsin to raise their six children in the community they love. Contact him at [email protected].