Recently in the Daily Herald was yet another announcement of another developer planning to build some half filled office space and fill things in with some out of town chain stores for good measure. Stewart Avenue is not exactly a historic district now, so more strip development can't really hurt it any, so that is not the problem. The problem, or question, if you will, is how much and what kind of economic growth do we need?
I am not at all opposed to economic growth, I think things like clean water, decent housing and a great library system are wondrous things, and it takes a certain level of economic activity to create and sustain those. But growth for it's own sake is not necessarily a good thing, in the body we call that kind of growth "cancer."
Even worse than cancerous growth is absentee growth. For some reason many people seem to think that bringing in some national chain is going to solve all of our problems. It never ceases to amaze me how many people can't wait for "civilization" in the form of a Red Lobster to arrive. Not only does Red Lobster serve some of the most boring food on the planet, but they, like every other national chain, acts as a money suck.
Yes, a money suck. They suck money out of Wausau and send it to places far from here and it never comes back. Never. You don't even need an economist to tell you this one. If you buy a book from Jankes or from a national chain, you pay about the same for the book. They probably pay their employees about the same (actually the national chain probably pays less, but that is for another post…) but the national chain sends a chunk of that money back to "headquarters." For overhead, national advertising, a big office building in LA, executive salaries and of course profits. The Jankes (for the most part, I will assume) spend that overhead here, maintain their office here and spend their profits on stuff here.
OK, if you want an economist to tell you about this, you can look here. But here are the highlights:
For every $100 in consumer spending at a national chain bookstore in Austin, Texas the local economic impact was $13. The same amount spent at locally based bookstores yielded $45, or more than three times the local economic impact.
Now it just so happens that May is apparently Eat Local Month (along with National Bike Month and a gazillion other "months.") Now we may not be able to eat all locally grown foods here (that is a lot easier in San Francisco!) but we can eat at local eateries. Hitting the locally owned and operated food joint has the same kind of good economic impact as the bookstore thing. And as summer comes on you can eat more and more locally grown food as well. Here are ten good reasons to do that.
But here is the best reason to shop and eat locally. Since you get more bang for your buck, the economy grows faster with less work. Since more of your dollar works harder for Wausau, we would have to spend less time chasing our tails — working longer and harder to send money to Arkansas, LA and New York. More money with less work — a great reason to spend your hard earned buck with your friends and neighbors here rather than some big box store.