The Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce has released some facts about shopping locally that shows that patronage of a locally owned independent business does big things for Wallowa County - from impacting the local economy, to enhancing its character and appeal. As consumers, residents have the power to change their communities in a number of ways, firstly by stating what is important and of value by voting with their dollars.

Instead of giving money to the same chain stores and restaurants this Christmas, consider making a commitment to buy local during the Christmas shopping season. Every time a shopper opens their wallet to a business, he/she is saying, "I like what you do! Keep doing it."

"When we shop local, we are saying YES to a strong vibrant local economy that translates into a unique and interesting community," said Vicki Searles, executive director of Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce.

Your dollars do the following things in your local community:

l Have a huge impact on the local economy. In fact, three times the economic benefit compared to the same purchase made at a chain retailer. Why? Because local businesses, bank locally, hire local accountants, attorneys and designers, and advertise in local media.

l Ensure we have choice and diversity of products and services. More businesses mean more choice. And it is often easier for independent businesses to carry more specialized lines, or new products, or to support local artisans.

l Create a vibrant and sustainable culture for independent business. Something wonderful happens when small business thrives - it attracts more businesses, creating pockets of complementary shops.

l Develops and maintains commununity character. Ask someone to name their favorite shop or café... chances are it's an independent, maybe family- owned, business.

Numerous studies have shown that money spent at a locally owned business stays in the local economy and continues to strengthen the economic base of the community. These studies showed that for every $100 in consumer spending it locally yields $45. That is $45 more that will impact the local economy.

Additionally, an economy of diverse, unique businesses, supported by the local communities, attracts today's skilled workers and entrepreneurs who can choose to settle and grow businesses anywhere. In research, Richard Florida, author of "The Rise of the Creative Class," shows that today's creative workers are choosing to settle in places that preserve their distinctive character.

Furthermore, these one-of-a-kind communities attract tourists as well.

Tourists report that what they want is the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.

They aren't interested in visiting communities that have transformed themselves into a sad hodge-podge of cookie-cutter housing tracts, cluttered commercial strips and bleak downtowns.

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