By Toni Stauffer
Now most anything can be ordered online and received in just two to three days, depending on shipping options, of course. That seems like an amazing advancement, right? While getting what we want cheap and fast may seem like an improvement, the Internet has had an enormous, negative impact on local economies, including Phenix City.
“Shopping local strengthens the local economy for various reasons. First of all, you’re helping out local businesses by helping them stay in business, which keeps products accessible and available here to us on a local level,” said Dennis Beson, President and CEO of the East Alabama Chamber of Commerce. “Secondly, it helps our sales tax base, which is beneficial for our infrastructure and public safety—all the things we want as citizens, but perhaps we don’t realize that we pay for them through sales tax, or property taxes. The business owners pay property taxes.”
The chamber promotes shopping local through social media marketing, as well as offering special deals for Chamber members; however, the Chamber also promotes big events happening around Phenix City. The Chamber will be running a promotion in the next couple of months, into next year, to help educate people on why shopping local is beneficial and to set in stone the idea of how beneficial the tax base is. Keeping business here is important to our local citizens.
“It’s important to realize that if we don’t continue to shop local and support our business, that we won’t have those options here locally when we need to just run in and pick up something, or we need to get something on a Saturday afternoon when we’re doing home repairs, etc. The stores have overhead they have to pay for, and they also provide jobs. It’s a cycle,” Beson said.
“Our community thrives on the sales tax dollar…parks, events, and even fire protection…all the things that are functions of a community, are for the most part funded with sales tax. The more dollars that stay in our community, the better…especially in our unique situation with us being so close to Columbus,” said Shaun Culligan, Phenix City Economic Development Manager. “It’s an easy thing to do to hop across the river and spend your money. For so many years, us as a community have been trained to do so. Yes, there are more options there, there is more diversity there…lots of things for people to spend their money on, and I’m not saying don’t. I’m saying think about where your money is going…The battle is consciously trying to think every time I spend money is ‘Can I spend local? Can I get it in a location here?’”
Culligan said the battle with the Internet is a battle everyone is losing and he doesn’t think that’s going to change, but if more people make an effort to spend their money local, it will begin to help.
“As we are trying to get people to think consciously about shopping local, at the same time, we’re trying to get more diversity, get more restaurants, get more retail—more things people want to spent their money at. So, we’re consciously making that effort to bring in those types of businesses,” Culligan said. “I believe in the next few years, you’re going to see more and more options for people to shop at. We understand that there’s more options over there [Columbus]…we’re asking people to shop consciously as we are working tirelessly to bring more options here, too.”
J. Randall shares what shopping local means to him
Randall Tile Company at 909 13th Street, a family business, has been in Phenix City since 1956. J. Randall took over for his father in 1987.
“People are thinking they’ll have more selection for the items they are looking for in Atlanta, then when they come into our store they’re surprised at the variety that we have for folks in the Chattahoochee Valley…it seems to me that so many people make quick decisions without having all the information in front of them. It’s unfortunate, that when you’ve got to buy a house, or build a house, or renovate your house…we try to keep people from making a bad decision. Take your time, take it home, look at it in your light, look at it on your floor…walk around it a couple of days. It just seems like there are so many snap decisions that people end up regretting later when they can’t change it. We try to give people all their options with the budgets that they have. We’ve got a quality product at a competitive price. You’re decisions based on that information instead of thinking you have to have it today.
Randall says he always tries to shop local first. “It’s unfortunate that we’ve had recent closings of Harvey Lumber Co. and Phenix Saw Works from a couple of years ago. I realize that this is evolution in business, but…there’s a lot to be said for spending your money in a small town at a small business, because we try to give it back through the local charities and organizations. It’s very disheartening for me when I see a customer across the river in Georgia, and these are government people. My tax dollars take care of Alabama and I think that is important…that we support our local tax base.”