By Jeff Walsh
As consumers we sometimes take for granted the impact that our spending choices have on local economies. Retail and restaurant chains make it so quick, easy, and cheap to purchase goods that we are almost automated when it comes to making such decisions. Believe me, I have had my fair share of fast food and cheaply made goods from big box retailers. But after talking to local business owners in Fort McMurray, and looking at the facts, I have been spending my money locally at independently owned gems.
If you are wondering what kind of impact small independent business can have on the local economy consider this: A study, commissioned by the Canadian Union of Public Employees- British Columbia, found that for every $1,000,000 in sales, independent retail stores generate $450,000 in local economic activity, compared to just $170,000 for big chains. When considering restaurants, the figures are $650,000 for local independents and $300,000 for chains. Across both sectors, this translates into approximately 2.6 times as many local jobs created when spending is directed to local independent businesses instead of chains.
In the Fort McMurray area alone there are several local business's that provide a unique experience, great goods and services as well as exceptional customer service. Among some of my personal favourites are Mitchell's, Blue Mountain Bistro, Cambells Music, Asti Trattoria, the Tattered Book and Coffee Shop, Live Bar and Grill and many more.
The study commissioned by the British Columbia division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees concludes that a shift of just 10 percent of the market share from chains to independents would produce 31,000 jobs paying $940 million in annual wages to BC workers. We can learn a lot from this BC research and apply to our Alberta economy. If we fail to draw on the fact base studies available to us we are letting that wisdom slip through our hands and the money slip out of our hands and into the 'cloud'. Do your part and support the soul of your community by shopping local. You may just feel a little richer for having done so.