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Gray: Being a good neighbor is supporting local businesses

Published: Sunday, May 12, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

On Thursday, the Woodstock chamber will host the city of Woodstock’s annual State of the City address to chamber members. This address is one that is highly anticipated and this year’s luncheon is no exception. Woodstock’s new City Manager Roscoe Stelford, along with Mayor Brian Sager will report to those in attendance the state of Woodstock.

While the city of Woodstock has done an outstanding job of presenting an annual balanced budget and shown fiscal responsibility in adhering to those budget constraints, the state of Illinois has not done so well. Increased frustration over a lack of a plan addressing the state’s fiscal woes has generated additional chatter among small business owners.

We all have our opinion as to how we got where we are and what needs to be done to correct it. Perhaps the one group that is most vulnerable to the decisions being made and its overall impact is the small business owner. The chamber’s membership is made up of mostly small businesses that have five or fewer employees. For these business owners, customers are the lifeblood of their businesses. Without a customer base there is little to no hope on their ability to thrive and/or survive.

The impact of losing just one business can create a snowball effect in many facets of life in Woodstock. It affects our local tax dollars, jobs, commerce, housing and schools. If you frequent a local business and it goes under, it may cause you to seek a like business or service outside of the area. Now you’re supporting the commerce of a community that’s not your own. This also means the loss of employment and revenue to a household in Woodstock. With the loss of income comes the possibility of moving to where the jobs are. Again, this results in dollars leaving our community.

The Woodstock Chamber of Commerce & Industry supports a pledge of “Shop Local First.” This is more than a matter of civic pride; it’s a fiscal responsibility to the betterment of the Woodstock community.

Think of it as a best-case-scenario of the trickle-down effect. You dine at a local restaurant, your money goes to support the locally owned establishment. Not only that, but the locally based wait staff, kitchen staff and management all get a piece of the pie. This is not to mention the tax dollars that go to the city, which in turn supports police, and other civic entities.

I like to think that living in Woodstock is more than mere residency, it is belonging to a fellowship and with that comes responsibility. Being a good neighbor is more than mowing your lawn in a timely fashion, it is supporting local businesses – ensuring their survival and, in turn, their ability to also be a good neighbor.

Washington, D.C., is a long way from Woodstock and for better or for worse the immediate impending decisions on the national economy are now in the hands of our elected officials. But in terms of the local economy, your voice is heard with every dollar you spend – whether you decide to shop local first and support Woodstock’s small business owners, or whether you choose to invest in someone else’s community.

So, I encourage you to be empowered. Make the conscious decision to spend your dollars locally and to support our small businesses. It is in your hands to keep Woodstock strong.

• Shari Gray is executive director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

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