Building Main Street, not Wall Street: Local spending can have dramatic impact in a community

We often hear those around us say, “I am just one person, what difference can I really make in my country or even in my local community?”

I would counter this flawed thought process by saying nearly every major change begins with a vision by one person or a small group of individuals.

It has also been said that we can’t change the wind, but we can adjust the sails. By adjusting our individual sails, we can indeed influence the future of our local community for the better.

How do we adjust our individual community sails?

One of the more obvious answers would be to become knowledgeable and vote. Another might be to volunteer to serve on a local nonprofit board. You could volunteer with a civic or service club. Consider becoming more educated regarding local issues, volunteer or assist with a citywide cleanup, and so forth.

All these and other avenues are certainly worthy, and they can make a huge impact in your community. How we volunteer and attempt to make a difference might be viewed as somewhat intangible and hard to notice, and that is OK.

Let me suggest one habit you can incorporate into your daily routine that will make a large, noticeable and tangible impact on your local community.

When residents (and city leaders) make a commitment to spend as many of their dollars with locally owned and operated businesses, you will make a huge difference. Studies show every dollar spent locally in this fashion carries a compounding community revenue impact of three to five times greater value than dollars spent with big-box or national chain establishments.

To put in practical terms, if a community or county with a population of 25,000 had every resident spend just $25 more each month hyper-locally than they might have otherwise spent out-of-town or online, that would generate $7.5 million more floating throughout the community each year. What would an additional $7.5 million floating through your community mean for jobs and standard of living in many households?

It doesn’t end there. When factoring in the three to five times compounding impact, it becomes $22.5 million to $37.5 million. Factor in a 5% local sales tax and your community leaders now have an additional $1,875,000 for local police, fire, roads and so forth.

That is only the tip of the iceberg. Imagine how much more competitive your local business base could be with those new dollars circulating throughout the community. 

How many new jobs can be funded with those dollars staying within the community? How many entrepreneurs can flourish with the support of the community? These are real dollars with enormous community impact, all starting with each person committing to support their community.

In today’s environment, the very fabric of the economic financial base in your local community is under a relentless attack on many fronts. A community’s ability to support its hyper-local businesses isn’t just a nice thing to do, it will be a matter of financial survival for your entire community in the future.

John A. Newby is the author of the “Building Main Street, Not Wall Street” weekly column dedicated to helping local communities keep their consumer dollars local. He can be reached by email at: