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Buying Local is Good


There are two hardware stores near my house. One is a big name-brand store that has everything I need at lower prices, and they're open seven days a week. The other has inconvenient hours --they close at noon on Saturdays -- and prices are a little higher. They don't have nearly the same selection either, which means sometimes I have to order parts and wait.

So you'd think I'd shop at the super-convenient big box store on the new highway. Nope. I've decided it's in my economic self-interest to shop at the local mom and pop store.
Like many Americans, I face similar decisions several times each week, weighing the advantages of local vs. national chain supermarkets, pharmacies, restaurants, clothing, and electronic stores.

With the global economy in freefall, it’s tempting to vote for the quick savings promised by a national chain, which can make you think you’re doing the right thing for your family. But a closer look shows that the savings gained at Walmart or Sam’s Club might cost more dearly, especially in these hard economic times.

Here are ten reasons to think local, buy local, and be local, as listed by the American Independent Business Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes sustainable communities through strong local economies.

1. Buying local supports you and your family. When you buy from an independent locally owned business, significantly more of your buying dollar stays in the community and is used to make purchases from other local businesses, like local service providers and local advertisers (such as this newspaper!), which helps strengthen the economic base of your hometown. (Visit to see case studies supporting this claim).

2. When you buy from local businesses, you’re supporting local nonprofits. Studies show that small business owners give an average of 250 percent more dollars in donations to local nonprofits than do large businesses. This should be especially important to any soccer mom with a son or daughter on a team or in Scouts, or someone who enjoys local theater and the arts.

3. Buying local keeps your community unique. Where we shop, where we eat and have fun -- all of it makes our community home. Our one-of-a-kind local businesses give a distinctive character to a place, and add to quality of life; they also bring in more tourist dollars. “When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace,” says National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe.

4. Reduce your environmental impact. Locally owned businesses make more local purchases, which means less wasted fossil fuel for deliveries from afar. Also, when you shop in town or city centers, your purchases contribute less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss, and pollution. You save money too, whenever you can walk instead of driving to buy.

5. Local business creates more good jobs. Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally, and the jobs they offer create stronger links to our communities. After all, where would you rather see a son or daughter work: at a local store where they might get valuable personal employer referrals, or at an impersonal national chain store checkout counter?

6. When you buy local, you invest in community. Local businesses are owned by your neighbors, people who live in your town, who are less likely to leave, and who -- like you -- are more invested in the community’s future. Local businesses provide very important community allies in tough economic times.

8. Buying local puts your taxes to good use. Local businesses, particularly those in town centers, require little public infrastructure investment, as compared to nationally owned chains built at the edge of town with taxpayer money for improved roads, water and sewer service.

9. You can buy what you want, not what someone wants you to buy. A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan but on the needs and requests of local customers, assures a buyer-friendly range of product choices.

10. Buying local encourages local prosperity. A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive hometown character.

So, whenever possible, I buy local. Yeah, I may pay a little more for that new bathroom fixture at the local hardware, and deal with the occasional frustration of inconvenient hours. But I enjoy running into neighbors there.

And nothing beats knowing the owner by name, and getting her tips on how to get a good seal on my pipe fittings. To me, it's worth it.

— David Lillard is co-owner of a small town newspaper in West Virginia, and co-editor of Blue Ridge Press.

Facade grant recipients work to improve buildings in downtown Ocean Springs


From October to December 2007, more than 30 business owners submitted proposals to the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce-Main Street for the facade grant program. Candidates' projects ranged from assistance with the purchase of paint, to fence work, to help to decorate and detail the exterior of their buildings. After a thorough decision-making process, 13 candidates were awarded with individual amounts totaling $20,000, making the first facade grant program in Ocean Springs a success.

A facade is described as the front part of a building, especially an imposing or decorative one or any side of a building facing a public way ( According to some of the most successful small towns, Main Street communities, a professional and attractive store front and an appealing modern downtown can add value and visitor traffic to any small town. All candidates that submitted their proposals to the Ocean Springs Chamber - Main Street understood the need and market of improving the facade of their buildings.

Thanks to the City of Ocean Springs Mayor and Aldermen, this program was made possible for the first time. The City allocated $20,000 to be used by local businesses with the intent if improving the facade of their businesses, but the Main Street hopes to open the program to more businesses throughout Ocean Springs as the program continues to grow.

As of this month, several businesses have begun or either completed facade improvements. The building located at 1311 Government Street is one building that used the facade grant money to transform a dilapidated building in the heart of downtown into an ideal retail space. The 2600 square-foot building is complete with rustic colored cement flooring, warehouse space for storage and plenty of room for retail display. The exterior lighting, painting, and details were completed through the help of the facade grant program.

"It has been a dream of mine for a long time," said Chris Marx.

If you have not driven by or seen the building or any of these buildings, then make a point to drive around downtown. Thanks to all the participants and individuals involved in understanding the need and making the program a success. Keep watching and listening for more information on future facade programs. Call 228-875-4424.

From the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce - Main Street - Tourism Bureau Newsletter
February 2009

Mississippi presents at National Main Street Conference


Chicago, IL -- More than 40 people from 18 Main Street towns in Mississippi attended the 2009 National Main Street conference in Chicago. Mississippi Main Street Association continually ranks among the highest in the nation in private and public reinvestment and efficiency of the state coordinating programs. The theme of the conference, "Becoming Main Street 2.0," centered on technological tools that can help run our Main Street programs more effectively and improve our communication efforts.

Three of our very own staff presented sessions at the conference. MMSA Program Service Directors Stacy Pair (Southern District) and Jan Miller (Central District) conducted two seminars together: "Mission Possible: Sustaining Viable Organizations" and "Flying Monkeys and Other Magic Tricks: Using Technology to Market Main Street." Randy Wilson, MMSA Director of Design Services, conducted a seminar on "Facade Grant 2.0: Comprehensive Approaches to Facade Improvements." Stacy and Randy also helped lead the session, "Resource Team 2.0: Getting Everything You Need." Copies of the presentations may be found at the following links:

Mission Possible: Sustaining Viable Organizations
Flying Monkeys and Other Magic Tricks: Using Technology to Market Main Street
Facade Grant 2.0: Comprehensive Approaches to Facade Improvements

Moss Point 57th Main Street Community


Moss Point a Main Street City
By Jay Hughes

MOSS POINT — Joining a select group of Mississippi communities, Moss Point was certified a Main Street City on Wednesday — the state’s only city to earn the honor this year.

The designation was made official at a short ceremony held at the base of the Downtown Clock along the edge of Main Street/Highway 613. Mayor Xavier Bishop said that Moss Point joins just seven certified Mississippi Main Street Association in South Mississippi.

“It means we take the economic development of the city of Moss Point very seriously,” he said. “You see, we’re not willing to leave economic development to chance.”

With the designation, Bishop said, comes a commitment to pursue self-reliance, local empowerment and rebuilding the city’s traditional business district, loosely identified as a block east and west of Highway 613 from Jefferson Street to I-10.

The Mississippi Main Street Association is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Mississippi Development Authority. Moss Point began efforts to join about a year ago, with creation of the Moss Point Main Street Designation Task Force composed of city and business leaders and FEMA Long-Term Recovery.

Bob Wilson, executive director of Mississippi Main Street, said six communities applied for certification this year, but Moss Point was the only one accepted. He said the task force demonstrated the city is prepared to sustain improvement efforts.

“It’s so, so important that you have the support of the city and support of the private sector, as well,” he said.

Wilson added that through the national Main Street program, Moss Point joins a network of more than 1,500 U.S. communities involved in similar revitalization and economic development efforts and can learn from their successes and failures.

Joy Foy, head of asset development for MDA, told community leaders they couldn’t have a better partner than the Mississippi Main Street Association.

“They will help you create a vision, but they will also hold you accountable,” she said.

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Mississippi Main Street Association
P.O. Box 55747 | Jackson, MS 39296
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