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Commentary - Shop Alexandria first; it really matters

By Coni McKay, executive director, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce

As 2011 comes to an end, it is important to review what has happened in the first 11 months of the year. While the national and local news reports show improvement on the job market and the start of the retail holiday shopping, I think we all realize the recovery of our economy is taking more time that we might like. But, you can make a difference this holiday season and even throughout 2012. Your actions really matter.

I would like to remind all of you who live, work, play and prosper in the Alexandria Lakes Region that you can make a positive difference in our local economy with every dollar you invest. It won't require you to spend a lot of money, buy a different brand, or even go out of your way to participate. This isn't even exclusively about retail shopping, which receives significant attention during the holiday season. Whether you spend $10, $20, or $1,000, the positive impact from your local investment will be worth millions of dollars in the end.

Here is the secret: Whether you are searching for professional assistance, home repairs, medical care, or any other service, do business with those businesses that support our local economy.

Local businesses offer a wide array of unique goods and services; more importantly, the dollars spent locally roll over multiple times in the community and provide important jobs, benefits, philanthropic giving, and positive economic impact.

Here is one small challenge: If each household in Douglas County set a goal annually to shift just 5 percent of their current "non-local" shopping dollars locally, the economic impact would pump more than $2.5 million extra into the county's economy over a year's time.

Local shopping impact doesn't come exclusively from retail purchases. Whether you are purchasing a new home or car, shopping for home repairs, consulting a tax professional, dining out with your family, or getting a massage, shopping locally for goods and services is critical to the ongoing success of our local economy. Service purchases have a huge impact on our local economy, and helps keep those local businesses vibrant.

While we all recognize and understand there may be some goods or services not available in the Alexandria area, I encourage you to take a look around and see everything that is available here. Alexandria has a lot to offer. Whether you are a lifelong resident, or new to the area, go exploring.

As we move through the holiday season and the year ahead, I hope you will consider keeping your purchases local when you can, whether for retail items or services. It really matters!