Carbondale Corner: Why buying local is important
August 9, 2017
We always hear it is important to buy local, but today I want to tell you why buying local matters. When I say buying local, I do not mean only in our town, but buying in all the towns in our valley rather than buying online.
Over the last several years, our shopping malls and retail experiences have been changing. Locally we have seen a Radio Shack, a J.C. Penney and a Kmart close. We see many empty spaces at the Glenwood Springs Mall.
Similar sights are seen regionally at Mesa Mall and the Denver malls. These changes have consequences for all of us. For many people, their first job was working in a mall, but those jobs are disappearing. Shopping online might be the height of convenience, but it carries some hidden costs.
When you buy locally, the money you spend stays in our community. The sales tax you generate by shopping locally helps to create jobs for your friends and neighbors. It also provides for amenities like baseball and soccer fields for our kids to play on, for parks for us to recreate, for bike paths, dog parks and more.
That sales tax provides for our local budgets so our towns have money to fix the streets, maintain streetlights, support our police and fire departments.
When you shop online, you might save some money on your purchase short-term because that huge online retailer is not paying sales tax. So, while your $1,000 bike that you got online for $950 might be a good deal, when you need a tune up or a part repaired or replaced, are you going to send it to that online retailer or are you going to bring it to your local bike shop? That online retailer is not contributing to the cost of that bike park or trail where you are riding that bike.
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I understand that some items such as affordable clothing will give you more choices online. People, though, are buying dog food, toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, etc., online. There are stores in our communities that have these items. The online retailer will be a little cheaper in the short term because they don't charge or pay sales tax.
In the long term it will be more expensive, because if we no longer have those stores in our towns, we have lost those jobs and sales tax revenues that are the life blood of our towns.
Think about our local media, whether it is this paper, the Sopris Sun, KMTS, KDNK, KAJX, etc. These media outlets bring us the local news. They cover your kid's school sports, your kid's graduation and hard news when there is a crisis (a wildfire, telephone service cut, a snow day at school, a fugitive on the loose). These media providers create jobs and support our small-town businesses.
You can buy your pet food at local retailers, your paper goods at your choice of local grocers, we have local jewelers, as well as many other retail options.
The large online retailers will sell you many things, and many times it might be cheaper in the short term, but in the long term it will cost you more. What happens when your internet goes down for a day or a week? What happens when your local municipality does not have enough sales tax revenues to fund all its required functions? Your choices make a difference.
Marty Silverstein is a Carbondale town councilor.