Monday, August 18, 2014

Must Have Socks and Underwear! The Impact of Large Businesses in Small Communities

 Oh, My!

When we were considering moving to the small town of Anacortes on Fidalgo Island, a waitress at a local restaurant told us we didn't want to live here. Of course, I asked why. She said, "Because you have to drive all the way to Burlington to buy socks and underwear." 

My first thought was: In the city, where were living at the time, it took me a half hour just to get to the grocery store - and that was if the traffic was decent. 

My second thought was: Geez, how many pairs of socks and underwear do these people need? I mean come on, this is not a need-to-buy-often item. I can see being concerned about groceries, but socks!

My husband and I moved to Anacortes anyway, despite the socks and underwear issue. We just stocked up before we got here. Since then, I have come to adore this small community, its small island charm, the wonderful people who live here, and most importantly the fact that it is not overly developed like larger towns. Yet it is close enough to a larger town for when I need extra socks and underwear.

I am a firm believer in supporting small businesses, not the large chains and box stores.  Like other small towns, there are a handful of people who are pushing to have a large store brought to town. Their reasoning: jobs, sales tax, money, convenience and most importantly - SOCKS!  

What they don't seem to realize is how much a large chain store destroys the quality of life in a small town. 

Things to consider:

Jobs:  the people working at the large store will come from other communities - not here. They will then leave their job at the end of the working day and return to where they live, spending their hard-earned money in that community - not ours.  Versus local independent business who usually try to hire locally. 

Housing: There is no infrastructure in this small community to support a large retailer, especially when they only pay minimum wage. We don't have affordable housing for those employees, meaning they will live somewhere else. 

Environment: The employees of a large retailer will have to commute from somewhere else. This will mean more traffic to and from our small town to the large town.

Infrastructure: The money brought in by the large retailer will not be reinvested back into our community, yet we will have to support the infrastructure that is required to have them here - like wear and tear on our roads, etc. Versus local businesses who reinvest their money back into the community in which they live and work.

Sales Tax: sure there may be an increase, but it won't really help in the long run.  In fact, it could hurt. Having a large retailer here will most inevitably mean that we will lose small existing businesses - businesses that collect and pay sales tax.

That large retailer will push out the small businesses that are a part of the charm of this wonderful community. The small businesses that not only collect and pay sales tax, they also hire locally, and they reinvest their hard-earned dollars back into the community for which they serve. 

We can have both - convenience and quality of life (and socks), if we support our local small businesses. If you need socks - just let them know. 

Is socks really worth jeopardizing the quality of life here? Most of us live here or moved here because of the kind of life this small community provides.  

Think of going to Burlington/Mt Vernon as an adventure, a mini-vacation full of errands. Then come home and appreciate what we have, what most towns do not get to experience anymore.

Here is a link with studies on big box stores vs independent businesses and how they impact small towns.