Walk the Local Talk | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Walk the Local Talk

Here at the Jackson Free Press, we know well how hard it can be for a small, locally owned business to stand up to a corporation that wants to stamp out as much competition as possible in order to please shareholders far from Jackson. Back in 2006, The Clarion-Ledger came after the JFP and other small publications here with its TDN scheme—to force each of us to pay that corporate newspaper company in order to continue distributing at many of our distribution spots around town.

With the huge corporate resources backing it, all of us little guys should have lost to Goliath. But the Ledger didn't anticipate our reaction: The locals joined forces and fought back. We bought our own multi-boxes; we divided up all the spots (and more that we wanted) and went door to door with a local alternative. Most were local businesses, too, and they got our point, especially after members of the public started showing up and asking them to support members of the Mississippi Independent Publishers Alliance against the corporate assault by the Ledger's owners. Recently, The Clarion-Ledger quietly picked up all those mostly empty TDN boxes. With the help of the community and each other, we won.

This is what can happen when a community decides to fight for local. This is what needs to happen on behalf of all our local businesses as corporations come in from elsewhere and target them. We can all be part of a community-wide rapid-response team of "locavores," that rally support of local businesses, non-profits and community efforts (not to mention newspapers).

If you want to see Jackson be a strong city, please join the local movement in whatever way you can. Choose to spend your money with local businesses that re-invest more of it in Jackson, and even if you feel you must go to a chain, at least choose one in the city limits so the sales tax stays at home. Eat at local restaurants and give or volunteer with local charities. And when you do shop online, find a way to "offset" it by spending the same amount locally.

Beyond that, do what the MIPA supporters did in 2006—talk up local. Tell your friends, family, co-workers why Walmart is just not the best choice. And question public officials about decisions that help national chains get established here—and then run out the locals. The conventional idea that they create better-paying jobs is downright false when the whole story is told.

Why you're at it, lobby the Legislature for better disclosure laws about the businesses that get tax breaks to locate in our towns. Preparing this issue, we learned that the city of Jackson cannot fully analyze the real economic impact of a company like, say, a Target or Walmart that gets tax breaks to locate in the city because they do not have to report their sales taxes to anyone in the state, including the town that gave them the incentive. We cannot plan well if we do not have complete information.

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