HARLINGEN, TEXAS - Rather than spending your dollars at online retailers this season, think about the power your money holds and the difference you could make in your community. One single transaction has the potential to create a ripple effect in our own backyard.
Dr. Bonnie De La Rosa-Villarreal, Harlingen Chamber of Commerce chairwoman, highlights the effect shopping local has on the overall economy.
“Shopping local does not mean just spending money at a local store. Shopping local has so much more magnitude than that,” she said. “If we shop locally, that effect actually is much grander. You get this effect that helps the entire community.
Our small businesses don’t just offer unique inventory but help create an identity in our towns and build a sense of community. Harlingen Economic Development Corporation (Harlingen EDC) is dedicated to growing commerce and in doing so, the Harlingen EDC encourages Rio Grande Valley residents to shop local.
“There are many positive impacts of shopping locally not just during holidays, but throughout the year,” said Dr. Linda Burke, Harlingen EDC Board of Directors vice president. “It’s important to remember that studies show that local businesses typically will reinvest into their local economy at a much faster rate than chains will.”
An example of this can be portrayed in the amount of money that gets recirculated back into our local economy, she added. If you have $100 that you spend at a local business, we see $68 circulate back into our local economy, whereas only $43 of $100 spent at a chain retailer will circle back into our infrastructure.
“Small businesses play a major role in economic development by stimulating our economic growth by providing employment opportunities and basically creating more jobs in our community,” said Dr. Burke.
“We want to show businesses that we have the infrastructure they need, we have a wonderful community and a very safe place to live, and we are poised geographically in such an incredible area being so close to the border of Mexico.”
The Downtown Harlingen District is a favorite shopping spot and this Texas Main Street, combined with its historic buildings and charm, is home to more than 150 businesses — some of which have been around for more than 50 years.
Many of those stores are locally owned boutiques, antique shops, café’s, and home décor stores, all carrying those perfect one-of-a-kind items for any occasion.
“What’s so unique about this downtown area is everybody just comes together as one — we are one community, one small business venue and a destination for our community,” Alexis Alaniz, City of Harlingen downtown director said.
“Now more than ever with the crazy year we've all had, it is crucial to support the local businesses who employ our neighbors, invest in our cities, and aim to bring different products and services to the Rio Grande Valley,” said Lisa Marie Human, manager at Bloomer’s Flowers & Gifts, a local flower shop that has been in business for more than 25 years.
Residents sometimes don’t realize the positive impact shopping local has on their quality of life. The more sales tax money that remains in the community, the more opportunity there is to build up a town’s infrastructure, parks, sidewalks, and more.
“When you shop locally there is a sales tax that is produced,” Dr. De La Rosa-Villarreal explained.
“That sales tax will stay in Harlingen — it’s money generated for your parks, quality of living, your police or fire department. It stays in town and is not only benefiting that business, but it's actually benefiting you at the same time.”
One of the most impactful effects of shopping locally can be seen in our surrounding areas in schools and libraries. When a successful business thrives, the neighborhood it is located in becomes a desirable area to live, which in turn causes an influx of people moving to that neighborhood. When that happens, there is an increase in property value which as a result increases local tax revenue.
“Businesses have a tendency to want to hire individuals that represent their demographic area and the surrounding area and underserved areas as well,” said Dr. Burke.“Shopping local strengthens our communities and it helps us drive future growth [to the area].”