Local is lovely

Katelyn Lamb, Content and Assistant Editor

   “Local is lovely.” Perhaps you have seen the motto on cute bumper stickers or trendy t-shirts. This mantra reminds people to support their local economies through patronage of small, independent businesses. While the catchphrase is a casual way to encourage change, more formal efforts are being made to advocate “localism.” Organizations like Keep It Local OK highlight Oklahoma businesses by collecting shops, restaurants and other services into a collaborative group. This organization is helping spread the word, and the rewards, on local shopping.

   Begun in 2010 by Bryce Bandy and Chris Branson, the inspiration for OKC’s local-loving operation actually came from foreign parts. Well, Austin, Texas, that is. While on a road-trip in the Lone Star State, Bandy and Branson noticed a lot of local promotion around the city. Curious, the duo returned home to research the phenomenon of local living and discovered the variety of initiatives around the country promoting the sustainable growth of city and state economies. Bandy and Branson explain that the experience of shopping local “brings a sense of pride to the people who live in our communities and also attracts visitors who want to check out what’s new.” The duo claims that Okies have a “case of local fever,” purchasing over 15,000 Keep It Local OK cards in 2013.

   The way it works: Keep It Local OK rewards customers for shopping at independent businesses by offering discounts, coupons and other benefits for their patronage. The organization’s rewards help create loyal consumers and a more tangible sense of community. Keep It Local cards are a customer’s ticket to rewards. Purchased annually, these cards can be used an unlimited number of times in a calendar year. The cards cost $10 and can be purchased online (www.keepitlocalok.com) or at several metro shops. Keep It Local participating shops are found in OKC, Edmond, Yukon, Norman, Tulsa and a few other cities. With benefits such as 10% off purchases or free drinks at restaurants, the Keep It Local card quickly pays for itself. In addition to saving money, this card also helps introduce people to new home-grown businesses. Also, Keep It Local OK makes utilizing their cards easy with a free iPhone app which lists local shops and their offered rewards.

   Shopping local may initially seem like nothing but the latest trend in consumer culture. However, this practice has some spine to support its swagger. According to the Keep It Local OK website, for every $100 spent in a chain store, $57 of that money leaves the local economy. This large percentage pays for non-local supplies, imports and outsourced business services. That same $100 spent at an independent business, though, channels $73 back into the community’s economy. In fact, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance estimates that of every $100 spent at a Target store, a mere $16 remains in the neighborhood economy. Although chain stores often offer a lot in the way of convenience, they may cost dearly in the area of local economic development and sustainability. Thanks to the work of Keep It Local OK, consumers can easily support their communities through their spending and truly understand why local is, in fact, lovely.