Supporting locally-owned small businesses has significant positive economic impacts—even before our world was struck with the COVID-19 pandemic. Small local businesses across Maryland and in your neighborhoods are experiencing exceptionally adverse impacts during this time. And, while small business disaster relief programs are available, it will not be enough. It’s important that we continue to support our communities and look to our local small business for the essentials we are purchasing.

Economic impacts of buying local

Here are a few basic economic impacts and key outcomes that buying locally causes in your community:

  • Generates local jobs. Small businesses are job creators. National data show that small businesses added 1.9 million net new jobs during 2018’s State Profile Study. Take a look at Maryland’s profile (PDF). Local businesses typically hire locally, creating jobs for existing and new residents and provide a pathway out of unemployment.
  • Improves the local economy. Spending locally ensures that your sales taxes are reinvested in the local economy, which results in improvements in the community. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, multiple studies indicate that around 50 cents of every dollar spent at locally-owned businesses is reinvested into the local economy through wages, goods and services, profits, and donations.
  • Race and gender equity. Women and minority-owned businesses hire more people of color and pay higher wages than larger national chains. By supporting locally-owned businesses you are helping bridge the wealth and equity gap for marginalized populations.
  • Environmental benefits. Buying from small businesses that source local products can reduce environmental impact. For example, small businesses clustered near residential areas may reduce automobile use and traffic congestion, resulting in better air quality and less urban sprawl. In a research report by the United States Environmental Protection Agency they refer to compact, walkable downtown centers as smart growth places, noting “that business that locate in smart growth places can help protect environmental resources.”
  • Diverse choices. Local businesses add to the diversity of products and services available to a community. Local businesses pick the items and products they sell based on what they know you like and want. These products reflect the unique characteristics of the community, such as apparel with school colors, local artisan products, and one-of-a-kind businesses that are fundamental to drawing others to your community to buy from the local businesses.

Whether as an individual consumer or a commercial consumer the decision to buy locally will promote wealth and health in our communities.

Buying local facts

  • Consumable goods are an essential part of our lives. Local food producers make their products available as a supplier to local eateries, local educational institutions, grocers and retailers, or they sell directly to the community. Here is a great way to discover Maryland’s local farms.
  • Looking for small business in your Maryland community, start with the local Chamber of Commerce, here are a few examples, Olney, MD, Towson, MD, Baltimore City, Annapolis, MD.
  • Intentional steps that support purchasing services and products from local minority owned businesses can be taken using a few statewide resources. Maryland’s Office of Minority Business, provides definitions and specific programming for a Minority businesses, this directory allows searches using location, name, type of product or service, minority status, and more.

Buying local considerations during COVID-19 Pandemic

In our current situation, it’s even more important to think about our community small businesses. It’s still possible. Presently, many of our small local business are transforming how they can service your needs, keep their workforce employed, and ensure COVID-19 safety protocols are being met. But they are depending on their communities—each one of us—for continued support.

  • Purchasing gift cards. Businesses benefits from the continued stream of revenue. Some businesses are giving 100% of the gift card revenues to the employees that have become unemployed.
  • Order takeout. Restaurants and bars are closed, but takeout orders may still be an option.
  • Curbside/pick-up options. Businesses are expanding and offering online or call-in ordering, taking payments and preparing your order. They are even putting it in your car. Businesses such as independent hardware stores, art stores, book stores, liquor stores, shoe stores, clothing stores—all your favorite independent retailers—are still open.
  • Replenishing and restocking while self-quarantining. Look to your local businesses for items like children’s games and activities, educational resources, cleaning supplies, and non-perishable foods. If these items are available through a local business that offers e-commerce you can be making a big difference and maybe find a new favorite independent business.
  • Spread the word. Share your experiences with friends and peers. Don’t assume others know about the great local business you found. And, buy their branded merchandise for a little extra support.
  • Small farms. We typically find sin grocery stores, at local farmers markets or that source our favorite independent eatery—many and most sell to public and offer online ordering and delivery.
  • Entertainment. Don’t forget to check out local and independent entertainment venues. Many have quickly transitioned into online screenings for a fee to keep some revenue coming in.

The United States Administration has announced an extension of practicing social distancing through April 30, 2020 and Maryland’s Administration has ordered a shelter in place. While this is essential to our societal health and well being, it is damaging to the economic health of our communities. If possible, help your local small businesses during the COVID-19 state of emergency order. Finally, when we reach the other side of this pandemic, as I am confident we will, be intentional about continuing to support your local small businesses and know that you are contributing to improving our communities and improving the lives of others.