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Support Local Economy if You Can

January 09, 2009 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

Watching the Vikings games over the past few weekends, I grew more and more frustrated--not with the play of the hometown team, but with the endless commercials for Walmart, portraying itself to be a wonderland where families could find joy among isles and isles of cheap goods. One ad features a mother who gives her son a Walmart gift card, and it seems to be the best present any child would ever want to receive. Another commercial shows a pile of groceries, then pans to the same pile, saying if you buy these goods at Walmart, you can save $700 a year.

I'll let you complete the epilogue: While some families save a few hundred dollars in the short term, hundreds of thousands are lost in revenue from Minnesota's Main Street businesses, as they shut down one by one. Those making a living wage at local grocery stores are now forced to take lower compensation at the big box store.

I know bashing Walmart and stores like it is popular among progressives, but as the economy continues to crumble and more layoffs hit Minnesota, that extra saving each week becomes more and more attractive: Why pay $4 for cereal at Cub or Rainbow, when Walmart sells the same box for $3?  When one goes from earning $2,000 monthly to receiving about $800 in unemployment, that extra $20 or $30 in savings each week could be the difference between paying the gas or phone bill.

The good of your family, keeping a warm roof over its head and food on the table becomes a far greater concern than supporting local business and protecting workers' salaries and compensation in the global economy.

That's why now -- more than ever -- it's important for those who have secure jobs and a steady income to continue and even increase their patronage of local grocery and appliance stores.  Once grocers and mom-and-pop businesses in towns like Worthington, Windom and Winona go out of business, it takes a lot more than just tax breaks and a few loyal customers to get them back. 

The unemployment rate is about 6% in Minnesota, slightly lower than the national average. We can't afford to abandon local businesses to save a few bucks in the sort term.  While losing a couple of small shops might have little effect on the Twin Cities area as a whole, losing just one local store in a small town outside the metro could cripple its economic base long after this financial crisis ends.

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