By Ryan B. Peterson, Osakis Economic Development Authority board member

Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of local communities (and beyond). Without people taking risks and starting their own business to better the local community with their goods or services (or both), a community will never be able to sustain the hunger of the residents, and those residents will leave to fill that hunger. This is something that is seen with very rural towns, but can really happen anywhere. This has been a trend long before COVID was known of, but now that we’re at the mercy of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to commit yourself to doing as much local shopping as you’re able.

Businesses as of late have certainly had difficulties and hurdles to clear in the first and second quarters of 2020. Businesses like insurance agencies, attorney offices and banks may have had to move their processes to a more digital format, whether that’s through more email, phone calls or electronic signatures. Retail industries that were able to stay open had to make some big changes with the flow of their aisles, adding partitions or limiting customer entry to only a couple at a time. Restaurants having to move to a drive thru or curbside only service instead of the traditional “sit down and order” level of service we’re used to. All these businesses had to adapt their practices in order to meet the requirements set in place, and I believe that it’s only fair that (if you’re not already) you yourself adapt to a more local level of getting your goods and services.

Supporting your local entrepreneurs has a substantial amount of benefits, and the best part, you get to see them! You’ll see the local business you support expand to cover other communities. You’ll see the owners of those businesses use those dollars to support their family. Maybe those businesses will sponsor local events, school activities or make donations to parks. Not only that, but when you’re dealing with a local business owner, you’re getting first rate service and/or advice from someone who could be labeled as an artisan, specialist or craftsperson, versus advice from a forum from someone with a goofy username (I’ll say, some of them are rather clever – I’m looking at you, shaquille_oatmeal). As your local businesses grow, so does the demand for other businesses to join in. The population of families coming to the community increases. Schools and local governments grow. This is what it takes for healthy economic growth, and it starts with where you choose to spend your dollar.

Of course there are benefits to shopping for some things online, but at the end of the day, where do you feel best about spending your money? Personally, I like putting that dollar with the people that took the risk trying the better the community I live in.

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Osakis Voices is a rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.