This week we're proudand perhaps a little surprisedto be publishing one of our largest issues of the Jackson Free Press so far in Volume 7; and one of the most ad-packed issues ever.
It seems that this past week something was in the airmaybe it's a little spring, mixed with a little luck of the Irishthat's gotten local businesses "up and at 'em" in spite of the down economy and the constant march of sour economic news.
One restaurateur told us recently, "It seems like all of the restaurants that want to stay in business are in the Free Press."
I love it.
Since I live this local business life every day, there's no doubt in my mind that at least part of staying afloat in a challenging economy is a good attitude. You've got to decide to survive, and that includes working extra hard to make sure your products or services are standouts. You've got to be creative with your marketing. And you've got to hit home runs with your customer service.
The JFP will be rolling out a number of fun new products over the next few months, including some creative ways for readers to interact with our news and entertainment productand some very exciting new ways for advertisers to connect with readers. More on that over the next month or so.
For now, though, there's something that all of us who are watching this economic situation unfold can do with purpose and determination. I believe that a single consumer action will help like nothing else to get us to the next new economy on the other side of this cycle.
That action can be summed up in three words: Think Local First.
"Think Local First" happens to be the slogan encouraged by a group called the American Independent Business Alliance (http://www.amiba.net), where you can also find a great deal of information about why it's important to buy from locally owned businesses and to purchase locally sourced products as much as possible.
For instance, in their article "The Benefits of Doing Business Locally," AMIBA notes the following:
"It's time to consider the real costs to a community that loses its locally owned business base. Independent local businesses employ an array of supporting services. They hire architects, designers, cabinet shops, sign makers and contractors for construction. Local accountants, insurance brokers, computer consultants, attorneys, advertising agencies help run it."
Wal-Mart doesn't hire local Mississippi designers for their flyers, and it doesn't use Mississippi bankers for their loans or deposits. The profits of each store are immediately shuttled to Bentonville.
(In fact, some pundits are recently recycling a long-held desire at Wal-Mart as the solution to our current banking crisisallowing Wal-Mart to own and run a bank. The theory is that Wal-Mart is such a model of efficiency that it could out-bank Citi and Bank of America. I can promise only one thing about thatWal-Mart would undercut Trustmark and BankPlus, whether or not they managed to "out bank" the nationals. And regardless of who their true competition would be, I don't think the solution to our banking crisis will ever be to create another "too big to fail" national bank.)
By contrast, the money you spend at local businesses becomes wealth that can be invested by the local owners and managers. That money might be invested in improvements to the business (hiring contractors and professionals), expansion (hiring workers) or money they spend on themselves (a new car, a screened porch added to the house). And local businesses are more likely to source their products and services locally, buying a new truck from a local dealer or signing a new artisan to sell through their shop.
So that's the simple call to action for stimulating the local economy: Think Local First. That means very simply that with every purchase you make, stop for a moment to consider whether there's a local option. Can you buy those groceries at McDade's or Rainbow Co-Op? Can you get your prescription at Brent's or Beemon? Can you buy hardware at a local Ace affiliate or dine with a local restaurant instead of a chain?
Of course, those same decisions also add to the rich fabric of what's unique about Jackson. The Mayflower, Brent's, McDade's, High Noon, Thai House, Maison Weiss, Collins' Dream Kitchen and Koinonia Coffeehouse are all authentic, local experiences you can't have anywhere else but Jackson. You can grab Chili's in the Houston airport, but you can only get Julep in Jackson.
Are you sure that Cowboy Maloney's doesn't have a better price than Best Buy? Are you positive that you'll have the better experience at Macaroni Grille than you will at Sal and Mookies?
And Think Local First has built in a safety measure for your home budgetingif you can't get the right price or the right product from a local merchant, go ahead and hit a national chain. But limit yourself if you can, and don't forget to price in the cost of convenience and travel before you head out to the big-box store; it's possible that you could get it closer to home and have the rest of your day free for other activities.
To help with your Think Local First this week, particularly given the tourist trafficHowdy, Queens and Wannabes!the JFP has printed a map on Page 18 showing special offers made this week by our advertisers. We invite you to use the map to help you enjoy your Think Local First experience this weekend in Jackson, starting with the Old Tavern on George Street, Hal & Mal's and Fenian's Pub street parties after the parade.
Then keep up the Think Local First spirit as we move into spring 2009again, don't beat yourself up if you end up in a chain store, but pat yourself on the back when you discover something new you can get from a local merchant.
In this economyand in our economic systemthat effort to buy local is perhaps the most important way that we as individuals can stimulate this economy and get the country on track for a prosperous tomorrow.