Saturday, August 7, 2010

Buy Local

Now for a commercial message from all the wonderful folks here in American Fork City.

Please, buy local!

There are many good reasons to buy locally. Dollars spent locally support endeavors run by our own friends and neighbors and are more likely to stay in the community. Studies have shown that 96 percent of dollars spent at national retailers go back to the corporate headquarters, while 75 percent of dollars spent at local retailers stay local.

From a strictly American Fork point of view, however, the reason to buy local is that the sales tax receipts stay here in the City, providing core services such as public safety, parks, library books, and road maintenance.

Of course, there are also good reasons to take our money elsewhere, especially when shopping for the typical middle-class, cash-strapped household. For one thing, we live in a free market economy, and we want our money to support the most competitive, most efficient, and therefore cheapest retailers. For another, some things are just hard to find in American Fork, things such as books, steak houses, and furniture.

Appreciating this, the late City Council member Jimmie Cates said it best: "First, find the best deals, then choose the one that's local."

(I miss Jimmie Cates!)

Living as I do with constant City budget anxiety -- knowing that sales tax revenues are dropping to the point where we will soon have to raise property taxes in order to provide core services -- I set myself a goal this summer to buy in American Fork wherever humanly possible.

This was a significant commitment for me to make at this time, as I have been moving my family into a new home and spending down savings accumulated over many years. I knew this would be a challenge because American Fork's biggest retail gap is in home furnishings. But I also knew this would be my greatest opportunity to make a personal impact on the budget that keeps me awake nights.

As I kept this commitment, I made a few findings which I now share with you.

For groceries, I still went out of town to Maceys and Smiths for door-busters and loss leaders, but I also found many competitive deals at Fresh Market and Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart, I learned, will price-match many of those out-of-town deals. For everything I had to buy at regular price, I chose Wal-Mart or Fresh Market.

For sundry home repair and maintenance, I always went first to Home Depot, then to Wal-Mart, only going to Lowe's when I struck out in American Fork. I really like Lowe's, actually, but Lowe's is in Lehi. Let Lehi support Lowe's!

I bought gas in American Fork even though the federal government distributes B and C road funds by population rather than point of sale. I have seen too many gas stations go out of business here in town, and I reasoned that if I could do my part to keep them open, revenues from convenience purchases made at those establishments would continue to flow into American Fork coffers. (Heaven forbid I myself should buy at convenience prices! But enough other people do that it makes a difference.)

I made and continue to make my clothing purchases at yard sales and at the American Fork DI. This does absolutely nothing for American Fork sales tax receipts, but it does free up more of my other dollars to be spent in American Fork.

Home furnishings -- linens, kitchen items, and home decoration -- these things are easy to find in American Fork. Kohl's, Roberts, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Wal-Mart, Target, Big Lots, and, of course, DI -- all compete well with quality merchandise in the latest styles at good prices.

Now, furniture was the big surprise. I worked hardest to locate these purchases in AF because they were my big ticket items. This posed a real challenge because American Fork has no national furniture chains and no budget furniture retailers such as IKEA or the RC Willey clearance outlet. Nevertheless, I did surprisingly well. I ordered my appliances through Home Depot. I found lovely, affordable furniture pieces and catalogs at the Star Mill, at Blackhurst Carpet and Furniture on 1100 East, at Big Lots, and at my two new favorite stores, Finders Keepers and Mona Lisa's Consignments on Main Street.

Why am I sharing this with you? At this point I must say that this blog does not represent the official viewpoint of American Fork City and is not intended as a commercial endorsement of one retailer over another. In fact, if there are local retailers I have slighted or omitted, please let them comment and I will gladly post.

My hope today is simply this: I want you, dear reader, to think whether there are more ways you can shop locally and support the City's sales tax base. The City has cut and deferred for as many years as it possibly can, and if sales tax revenues do not pick up next year, there will be no choice but to raise property taxes.

After some three months of effort, I sat down with the City budget officer and looked up the latest sales tax receipts. To my great disappointment, my effort didn't make the slightest upward blip in the numbers. The lesson? I can't do it alone. Please, buy local, and join me in supporting our local economy.


Blogger Heidi Rodeback said...

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note here that I fabricated that statistic, the one about dollars spent at national retailers going back to national headquarters. In truth, I heard a statistic very much like that not long ago, but I can't remember the precise numbers.

They do say that 93 percent of all statistics are invented on the spot.

August 7, 2010 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger MarkS said...

The other 7 per cent are premeditated lies...

Do all sales tax revenues from Costco accrue to Lehi, or is there a split between them and AF? After all, I believe part of their parking lot is in AF.

August 7, 2010 at 10:41 PM  
Blogger Heidi Rodeback said...

At the time Costco was built, a boundary adjustment was made that placed Costco in Lehi and the stores on the periphery in American Fork. I'm not exactly where the line is drawn but I do know that Les Schwab is in American Fork and Walgreens is in Lehi. All Costco sales tax goes to Lehi. Alas.

August 7, 2010 at 11:01 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

OK - I've read the article now. I still see taxes as, at most, a secondary reason to shop somewhere. But the article certainly reaffirms my support for you sitting on the city council. I want someone who is that concerned about money watching how the taxes are spent. I do complain about taxes as most have with property values down and property taxes and city bills up, but this is explaining the other side of the story - how to maintain core services. Thanks for your service.

August 7, 2010 at 11:25 PM  
Blogger Ivan said...

I love the concept of what you're doing. However, it seems odd to say that buying at the "national retailers" like Home Depot, Walmart, Kohl's, Target, Big Lots is buying local. True, they pay taxes to the city they're in but your initial comment was that buying at "local retailers" instead of big, corporate, national places is what people should do. Then you only actually bought stuff at two local retailers (Robert's and Macey's). Those are the only two (Besides DI) that I saw.

Anyway, like I said, I love the fact that you're thinking about it and bringing up the conversation. I also love seeing someone on the city council actually care enough about their city to attempt this. It's getting harder and harder for owners to maintain truly local businesses and that makes it harder to actually buy local. Thanks for your hard work.

August 9, 2010 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Heidi Rodeback said...

Finally found the statistic. It was published by Local First Utah, but originated in a study commissioned by the Andersonville Department Corp. and conducted in October 20004. It states that 68 cents of every dollar spent locally stays in the local economy, as opposed to 43 cents from every dollar spent at a national retailer.

October 25, 2011 at 1:50 PM  

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