The Good Part about this Bad Economy

The economy isn’t pretty. One glance at a newspaper or a few seconds worth of watching the news will tell you that. It’s not a fun subject, politics aside.  Prices are rising, jobs are being cut, and people are faced with making difficult economic decisions. What this economy leads to or how long the slump lasts is unknown to everyone. What we can control is our own actions and our ways, as a community and as a nation, in which we navigate through the economy.

If you browse through the New York Times collection “Picturing the Recession”, comprised of reader submitted photographs, you’ll see abandoned storefronts, people job searching, and other signs of these tougher times.  Evidence that the once thriving businesses are closing, perhaps earlier than they should have, likely prompts those with successful local businesses and downtown districts to do all that they can to increase and maintain local customers.  But, things are looking up. People are deciding to take a stand and keep their towns and counties from feeling too much of an economic backlash.

Lately I have been pleasantly surprised to hear a lot of talk about shopping locally and what people can do in their backyards and towns in order to save money and help others save money, too.  The local radio station features an ad about shopping in the county, the local magazine features catchy, well designed ads from all local businesses, and editorials in the paper encourage residents to frequent the businesses.  This morning, a listener called in to the radio station to encourage people to do their best to stay local that way dollars will remain in the community.  She said that with the big conglomerates, it’s easy for details to be lost and for business to go bad.

More and more associations are visible in web searches on shopping local, including Stay Local! New Orleans.  This is an extensive organization that lists the businesses, provides media kits, explains what shopping locally means and the benefits of doing so, reports news stories, and much more.  CIBA, or the Corvallis Independent Business Alliance, located in Washington, is a smaller organization than the one in New Orleans, but also provides compelling reasons to shop locally and includes a member directory of businesses. Search for one in your hometown or county. Local businesses don’t have to be in a downtown district; they can be anywhere and can range from restaurants to hardware stores to bookstores to auto repair and more.

Maybe it’s a partial result of First Lady Michelle Obama’s White House vegetable garden and her discussions on eating healthy and at home and the importance of community. Granted, that is food and not everyday shopping, but it is all connected and one good effort can lead to another. But something is sparking everyone’s interest and it brings hope to me.

I doubt that people are considering this a historic preservation related effort, but we preservationists know what the local economy can do for quality of life. And just maybe this economic loop will bring everyone back to focusing on community efforts and life. It will take some time, but every step in this general direction is a good one.  Not everything can be accomplished locally, but hopefully everyone will try for just a few more for themselves. It will save the community, in terms of energy, vitality, and the economy.  

Start with something easy, like a cup of coffee, and go from there.