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COLUMN: Shopping locally

Next weekend marks the traditional launch of the holiday shopping season-and time for the plea I deliver about once a year.

"Shop locally."

It is a message that has become so routine, I fear it goes in one ear and escapes the other.

I've also had concerns the message has a reverse effect: Consumers don't like to be told when and where to spend their money, and are thereby offended. With the economic downturn, we all have more restrictive family budgets and we make buying decisions accordingly.

But this message is "shop" locally. And it's one that I've felt strongly about during my years as a newspaperman in smaller markets.

I don't pretend to speak for all the merchants in East Otter Tail County, but I believe they would be gratified to know that local folks are at least willing to "shop" locally. Take a look at what local businesses have to offer. Do some price comparisons. But also recognize the gas expense and hassle of shopping out-of-town. Consider the local convenience.

You may be surprised-as I have time and time again-that local retailers are very competitive with those big city, big box stores.

"Shop" locally. When you find what you need, and within your family budget, please "buy locally."

One of our local merchants brought to our attention "The 3/50 Project: Saving the brick and mortars our nation is built on." The organization promotes saving your local economy by picking three local stores, and spending $50. According to 3/50 Project, for every $100 spent at independently owned stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend $100 out-of-town at a big chain store, $43 stays in that local market. Spend it online, and nothing stays.

Here's another aspect to consider: Virtually every community in East Otter Tail has Christmas events and activities. Perham and Ottertail have holiday parades. New York Mills has a Community Christmas Party, and a host of other events. Dent and Richville have special Christmas events, too.

Those festive activities don't come along like magic, with the wave of a wand; they happen because they are supported and organized locally-by local organizations and businesses.

We would miss those local holiday traditions if they disappeared. And they will-if we don't support local business.