Officially, “Small Business Saturday” takes place two days after Thanksgiving, a shopping holiday designed by American Express to promote local businesses often overlooked in the Black Friday rush. But even if you don’t remember to make a point of shopping local on the designated day, shopping local on any day is just as important. And make no mistake, investing in businesses that invest in our communities is vitally important. There are few choices you can make as a consumer that have greater local impact than to keep your money supporting businesses and people close to home.
Alaska knows a thing or two about small businesses and startup culture. Last year, the nonprofit Kauffman Foundation ranked our state third in the U.S. for the number of new businesses per capita. What’s more, Alaska leads in helping close the gender gap in business ownership: Alaska has the highest rate of woman-owned startups of any state, according to the foundation’s analysis. Certainly, there is room for improvement: The state has historically been poor at scaling up new businesses beyond a handful of employees, and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation found shortcomings related to high-tech needs such as software development, ranking Alaska near the bottom for knowledge workers.
Alaska’s local businesses contribute a great deal to the state’s economic well-being. Small businesses are among the most optimistic sectors of the Alaska economy, with 94 percent of the participants in a 2017 survey by the Alaska Small Business Development Center indicating they planned to expand or grow their business. And the multiplier effect that comes from money remaining in our community and being recycled between local merchants rather than exported to Outside businesses has powerful benefits that lift up not only business owners, but also their employees and the communities they serve. Local businesses keep millions of dollars circulating in our cities, and we are all the richer for it, however indirectly.
Ultimately, one of the most powerful arguments to shop locally is not economic but personal. It’s hard - perhaps impossible - to put an economic value on a local used bookstore where the cashiers are people you grew up with and who text you when a book comes in they know you’d like. It’s hard to put a price on being able to walk down the street to a bakery owned by one of your neighbors, where they give away free hot chocolate to trick-or-treaters on Halloween. It’s hard to quantify what it means to go to a pizza place and know that you’re helping make a fellow Alaskan’s dream come true by supporting them.
So shop local, today and every day. This is Alaska, of course, and there are plenty of items for which we’ll always rely on larger retailers based Outside. There’s no need to worry about endangering their livelihood. But purchasing items crafted locally, from beer to art to furniture to clothing, contributes to our communities in ways far beyond what we can measure. When you can, support businesses close to home.
The views expressed here are those of the Anchorage Daily News, as expressed by its editorial board, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. Current editorial board members are Ryan Binkley, Andy Pennington, Julia O’Malley, Tom Hewitt and Andrew Jensen. To submit a piece for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to email@example.com or click here to submit via any web browser.