Whatcom County continues to be a healthy, fun and prosperous place to live thanks, in large part, to the unique local and independently owned businesses that call this place home.
This summer has been particularly beautiful. I've been reflecting on how lucky we are to have so many ways to enjoy our community and the positive impacts of our local businesses.
One of my favorite things about the summer time is all the delicious local food that's available. I've made a personal goal to eat as much locally grown and harvested food this year as possible. After a spring of peas, strawberries and rhubarb I'm especially excited about more local treats including raspberries, blueberries, salmon, fresh leafy greens and sweet corn.
For many people it's a rare thing to get to visit the place where your food is grown. Most people don't get to meet the farmer who grows their food or see the cows that produce the milk their family drinks, but we do. In one short trip we can go straight to the marina to buy seafood and see the boats used to harvest and catch fresh fish. We can quickly be out in the county amongst crops of berries, corn and other green vegetables. We can visit beef and dairy cows, chickens and goats.
This is not only possible because of the abundance of quality farm land but because of the local farmers and family businesses that are willing to do the hard work to produce our food. It's also made possible because as shoppers we're willing to seek out and buy this nutritious and delicious food. If we continue to support these local businesses and eat healthy local food it will be available for generations to come.
Along with berry picking and visiting the farmers markets, our calendars are bursting with other fun events. There's an endless choice of activities from music festivals and concerts in the park, ball games, outdoor movies and festivals.
Did you know that a majority of sponsorships and donations that make our favorite activities possible are from local, independently owned businesses? In fact, a study done by Oregon State University shows that small businesses with fewer than 100 employees gave more than twice as much as businesses with more than 500 employees.
The people who own local stores, our friends and neighbors, enjoy living and raising their families in Whatcom County, too. They are happy to contribute to our place. Ultimately when we shop with local businesses and choose local service providers we're not only supporting the people who own these businesses, but also supporting our way of life.
When we choose to shop local even more of our money stays here in the community than when shopping at a box store. Local business owners are not only supporting our favorite local activities, they're also paying other local businesses for the goods and services they need.
They're paying local accountants, publications, graphic designers and printers. They're choosing who they buy supplies from. No one from a distant corporate office is telling them what choices they have to make or how much they can give.
And because these business owners and farmers live here, the money they personally spend is also benefiting our community. They too are paying a mortgage, shopping at their favorite local stores, paying for their children's activities, paying taxes and more. In the case of box stores, the profits the corporate officers make never get spent in our community.
Downtown Bellingham was recently named one of the top 10 best downtowns in the country. This distinction was made based on the vibrancy of downtown and our support of local businesses. Most of us can remember when our downtowns were busier and shop keepers knew our names, favorite dish or product. In Whatcom County we know that way of life is still possible simply by supporting local businesses.
I encourage all citizens of Whatcom County to continue to buy local. Let's keep our money here in our local economy. Let's support healthy food options for our families and ensure an ongoing variety of goods and services. Let's foster a fun place to live and protect the uniqueness of our towns.
How will you support a local, independent business today?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michelle Grandy is the communications director for non-profit Sustainable Connections, a membership organization for local businesses. She manages the Think Local First campaign, encouraging local businesses to support one another and the community to buy local.