The unpredictability and uneasiness that has settled into our daily routines has pushed many of us to find solace in the things that remind of us of a more predictable time. Streaming on our TVs has helped connect us to movies, Broadway shows and sporting events, the latter with its own cheer track.
One thing that has not changed is people’s need to shop and dine. In today’s environment, both can still be done but with safety and health as priority considerations for consumers and businesses. Public health organizations have advocated masks, hand-washing and social distancing as the three legs of the stool that can drive down our infection and transmission rates. Keeping those numbers down means we can keep our local businesses open and available for customers to patronize. Open businesses are good for our economy and add to the stability and appeal of any community.
In Anne Arundel County, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows there are more than 3,300 restaurants, retail shops and personal service businesses. These stores, cafes and beauty salons employ upward of 59,000 workers. So when you buy local, the money stays in our county. According to the website civiceconomics.com, when a customer spends $100 at a locally owned business, $73 stays in the community.
Buying local also supports nonprofits in our community. A study from the University of Central Oklahoma showed that nonprofits receive 250 percent more support from small, local businesses than large businesses.
Familiarity is also a motivating factor to shop local. Local business owners know their products and want to earn your trust. They’re counting on customers like you to come back and spread positive feedback to others. According to the website founders.com, for workers at locally owned businesses, there is high commitment, about 56 percent, to their employers, which is 20 percentage points higher than other business ownership types.
At AAEDC, we support small businesses in a number of ways such as financing “credit worthy but not quite bankable” companies, providing counseling to business owners and offering no-cost services such as real estate searches and permitting assistance. Over the summer, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman provided AAEDC with $5 million in CARES Act funding to help businesses reopen by implementing safe and healthy practices. The grants helped businesses pay for enhanced cleaning costs, make changes to their physical space to improve social distancing, and purchase or upgrade their website and other technology to facilitate e-commerce and virtual services.
On the heels of that successful program, AAEDC has launched a new grant program to assist licensed child care facilities and at-home providers. These businesses are part of the foundation of many communities, and their viability is essential to the county.
When you shop local, you are literally investing in your community. But these days it also means shopping safely to protect yourself, your neighbors and the businesses you love. Many of our businesses have put a lot of energy and investment into making the dining and shopping experience as safe as possible. So let’s do our part by adhering to the three W’s – wear a mask, wash hands and wait for those moving around you as a way to practice social distancing. Let’s support our county. Shop safe. Shop local. Shop ArundelBiz.