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Buying local fuels communities

Businesses in Wishek, N.D., rely on local support to survive. Katie Pinke / Forum News Service1 / 4
Businesses in Wishek, N.D., rely on local support to survive. Katie Pinke / Forum News Service2 / 4
Wishek Drug retails clothing, home decor, household and personal items. Katie Pinke / Forum News Service3 / 4
Diane Glas owns and operates a retail clothing and farm supply store in Wishek, N.D. Katie Pinke / Forum News Service4 / 4

I'm one year into a four-year term on the Wishek (N.D.) City Council. At our recent monthly meeting, the importance of buying local came up in discussion as it relates to a city purchase.

According to the 3/50 Project, an independent business effort, if you spend $100 locally at independent businesses, $68 return in tax revenue, payroll and expenditures. For a national chain, it's $43. If you only spend your money online, nothing remains local. As much as I love online shopping and the conveniences of big-box stores, I make an effort to buy local in all areas of my life, which includes my public service role.

At the monthly council meeting, a city employee presented bids for a skid-steer loader from a dealership 100 miles away and a local dealership in Wishek. The city of Wishek does not own a skid-steer loader — a city employee had been using his personal one for city use. The council president moved to purchase a used Case loader with attachments from the local dealership, and I seconded the motion.

It cost less to purchase used and local. However, local purchases are not always solely based on cost. Service and support after the sale can be equally important, especially when it comes to equipment that requires maintenance or repairs.

The council voted unanimously to approve the purchase. In the discussion before the vote, I said I liked buying local versus buying out of town. A council member shared comments that she doesn't always buy local, sometimes because she can't afford it. Someone mentioned "my dime is not the same as yours." Those words stuck with me.

Do I always buy local, personally? No. However, I do try to purchase as much as I can in my small town and surrounding area. My goal is to buy 60 to 80 percent local in my town and surrounding rural area with the rest of my purchases online or out of town. Even online, I seek small, independent businesses on Etsy or other online small business merchants. One year at Christmas, my goal was to buy 90 percent local or made in North Dakota. I enjoyed the challenge.

My dime is the same as yours. If I spend gas and time traveling out of town or only make purchases online, my dime doesn't support the people around me, as the 3/50 Project highlights. I know purchasing locally might sometimes cost more but I always want to give Wishek or an area independent business the chance first before purchasing elsewhere.

Personally, our family business, Pinke Lumber, wouldn't be celebrating 40 years of business in Wishek this year if it weren't for generations of families supporting local business.

Local businesses shouldn't assume or take for granted area support. They shouldn't demand it. They have to earn it. Seeing how my husband, father-in-law and employees work to earn the trust and business of customers, I think small businesses work harder when it comes to the sales, service and details compared with any experience you've had with larger businesses, big box stores or online purchases. Local businesses own the relationship more. They are your neighbors and in my experience care more about your sale than anything I've ordered arriving in an Amazon Prime box.

We each must put forth an effort to buy what we can locally. I've experienced resistance a few times to buying local because of personal conflict or jealousy. Johnny won't buy from Danny because he drives too nice of a pickup. Jane won't buy from Dorothy because of a conflict they had at church. I know it sounds petty and a little humorous, but we all know it's true. I'm guilty of it myself.

In my elected role, I represent local taxpayers and am proud we purchased a piece of equipment in our small town. I think the city set a good example while being stewards of our funds. Purchasing locally supports jobs, families, small businesses and our community — it's pivotal for our rural community to thrive.

What local, independent businesses would you miss if they closed their doors tomorrow? Pay them a visit. Spend your money with them. Go ahead and tell them thank you, too.