Opinion

Another year, another ‘shop local’ call to action | Guest column

Victoria Compton - Contributed photo
Victoria Compton
— image credit: Contributed photo

By Victoria Compton

Hey, you, wonderful islander!

Yes, you.

You just ate a perfect order of eggs Benedict at the Rocky Bay Café, walked past all the cute retail shops in town and thought to yourself, “This is such a fantastic place to live.”

Then you got into your car in the ferry lane. Off to do some holiday shopping in Burlington, not thinking about how shopping elsewhere could impact the islands we live in.

It does, of course.

Every single dollar we spend elsewhere just… goes. It doesn’t help send our kids to school. It doesn’t help pave or maintain our roads. It doesn’t help preserve our jobs.

It doesn’t keep all the little businesses we love in business. And I think we can all agree that we’ve lost too many favorite businesses in the past couple of years.

Our islands are each like a big terrarium.

If you take out all the resources (in this case, cash), the terrarium denizens (in this case, our businesses and the jobs they create) won’t survive.

Even the seasonal inflow of tourist dollars can’t offset the negative impacts of our own off-island shopping.

Spending $100 locally keeps $68* circulating in our community.  Spending $100 on the mainland keeps… $0 in our community.

Shopping off-island is a zero-sum game.

Sure, you’ll maybe save a few bucks (but very few, considering the cost of gas and a ferry ticket). But the impacts to our community far offset these gains.

And the gains of those few bucks could ultimately cost you — or your favorite retailer or waiter — a job.

The more we shop elsewhere, the less our local retailers can pay their employees. These employees, in turn, can no longer afford to live here and they leave, thus reducing our tax base and causing many of our businesses to struggle to survive.

The more we shop elsewhere, the more our property and other tax rates will go up because less retail tax income will be collected locally.

Let me restate that:  when we go to the mainland to shop, we cause our own property taxes to go up.

Not to mention the fact that it’s gonna be a major bummer when there’s no one around to serve up a pizza or sell us a widget when we desperately need one some Saturday afternoon in March.

So, you’re back in your car, and now the ferry is loading. Drive away.

Please, during this jolliest of seasons, do your best to keep our beautiful, diverse island economy alive.

— Victoria Compton is executive director of San Juan County Economic Development Council

*The Andersonville Study of Retail Economics, http://www.civiceconomics.com/Andersonville

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