By Angie Schmitt
Part of the impetus for Toledo Choose Local came from a University of Toledo study on the economic impact of locally owned bookstore verses a national chain.
Researchers found that money spent at the mom-and-pop bookseller would snowball as it traveled through the local economy, generating an overall economic return of about $5 million for the city. Meanwhile, the chain —with its distant headquarters and suppliers – would add only about $1 million to Toledo’s economic pie.
Twenty-three-year-old Stacy Jurich, a recent graduate of Ohio State University and a native of the Toledo suburbs, was searching for a way to boost Toledo’s appeal to international businesses about one year ago. She began Toledo Choose Local with an inquiry letter to 50 local businesses.
One year later, the organization that developed is a registered nonprofit with a coalition of nearly 100 locally owned businesses. Toledo Choose Local promotes its member businesses through its advertising campaigns about the benefits of choosing local, networking events and an annual local business directory.
“We haven’t conducted any impact studies,” Jurich said. “But based on word of mouth, we can tell we’re having an impact.”
The message is resonating more than ever in these troubled economic times, Stacy said. The organization has lost five businesses in the last year as a result of the downturn.
“We really try to encourage our members to incorporate their localness into their advertising,” Jurich said. “I think that’s really important to consumers as of late.”
“The money that a consumer spends at a locally owned business is going to continue to multiply within the local economy. When you spend at a local businesses, the buck kinda stops there.”
In the future, Jurich would like to see the mission expanded to implore local institutions — universities, schools and government entities — to choose local suppliers. It’s that kind of targeted investment that could lead to the creation of new local businesses and jobs in Toledo as manufacturing jobs continue to dry up.
She’d also like to see more coordination between member businesses, partnering on advertising campaigns, or to purchase items in bulk — activities that could make member business more profitable.
More than 50 cities across the country have adopted choose local first campaigns. Toledo Choose Local was modeled after one such organization operating in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Stacy, incidentally, is traveling across the country in a 1984 Mercedes-Benz, powered by discarded vegetable oil from fast-food restaurants. (I had to get a plug in.) Read about it at vegipowerseesamerica.com.