There is no more fitting time than a few days before Christmas to remind you of the importance of shopping locally. And if you are like me, it isn’t too late to take my advice. (And let’s face it, if you still haven’t gotten all your gifts, Amazon isn’t likely to be your savior in getting them delivered on time.) But while we focus on the importance of shopping locally during the holiday season, the truth is we should adopt this mantra year round.
When we at GPEDC think about economic development, we usually talk about big things in big categories like manufacturing, healthcare, and agriculture. There is no doubt those are the underpinnings of our economy, but retail is also a hugely important component. First, it is often the retail climate — shops, restaurants, entertainment — that make a community a place in which people want to live. Greater Peoria would be a pretty boring place if it was just a series of factories and hospitals surrounded by farmland. But beyond the vibrancy and community connections that the retail sector provides, it is also a large factor in employment. According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, there were an estimated 17,800 jobs in the Peoria MSA in October 2023. Given that IDES reports 173,300 jobs in the MSA, retail jobs account for more than one in every ten jobs. That is definitely not insignificant.
When you shop locally, you are helping your community and yourself. Dollars spent locally stay local and are recycled through the economy. Local stores- chains and your friendly mom-and-pop store- employ our neighbors and give our children their first jobs. Those people, in turn, spend their wages locally. Local stores often buy locally themselves, purchasing local services like janitorial, security, maintenance, and IT. Local establishments sponsor youth sports teams, run toy drives for local charities, and buy tables at fundraising galas. None of this happens when people buy online.
If you want to double your impact, consider the ultimate in shopping locally: buy items that are made here. I doubt many of us are in a position to buy a Caterpillar tractor, a Komatsu mining truck, or even wire fencing made by Liberty Steel. But Discover Peoria has a variety of locally made items at their holiday pop-up shop. You can peruse the official designees in the state’s Illinois Made program and find one of over a dozen local businesses. And if you must shop online, check out Made with Mirum to find products made with a locally produced plant-based leather alternative by Natural Fiber Welding.
You might be getting bored of the Shop Local mantra, but we cannot say it too many times. Let’s face it: there is not much any given individual can do to influence the economy. Most people are not in a position to start their own business or invest in a startup. But we are all consumers, and by making the simple choice of spending locally whenever we can, our small choices can collectively make a difference.
From the team here at GPEDC, we wish you the merriest of holiday seasons and the happiest of New Years.