By DENIS WALSH
Councillor, City of Kamloops
MAY I INVITE YOU to imagine a city without any locally owned independent businesses?
Full disclosure — I chose this topic because, as a local independent business operator for the past 38 years, it is something I can write about from my own experience.
This subject is timely and important because I believe, as a community, we need to support locally owned independent businesses.
Where we shop, where we eat and where we have fun — all of it makes our community home. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of the distinctive character of Kamloops. I believe small independent businesses are the heart and soul of any community.
I like the example of viewing a local business as you would an original art piece.
An independent store is the creative expression of the owner. To me, our local individual bricks and mortar businesses are like real-life works of art.
In most cases, these independent businesses are unique, one-of-a-kind creations, from the design of the name, image and logo, to the location, to the unique interior, to the product, to the overall experience.
The biggest threat today, for local business, is a excessive national online shopping. Prior to the pandemic, online shopping was a growing competition to local business.
It has now exploded.
Unless it is a locally owned on-line business, such companies do not contribute to our property tax base, do not create local jobs (other than delivery) and rarely support community groups.
Their employees aren’t spending their wages in our community and nationally owned businesses are not investing in our communities’ futures.
There may be a lack of awareness of how much we individually benefit from building a strong local independent business community. Most of our buying habits are formed by price and convenience. Often price is not even the deciding factor. In most cases, convenience seems to be the primary motivator.
The key difference is that locally owned businesses contribute to our quality of life, strengthen the economic base of our community, encourage future investment and are friendlier to the environment.
They also support community groups and attract new entrepreneurs and skilled workers who are more likely to invest and settle in a community that respects the special one-of-a-kind businesses that create a distinctive retail experience.
Most cities have the same carbon-copy, corporate-owned franchises and big box stores, but the special quality and diversity of our local independent businesses is what makes each city unique.
It is important to support the right mix of businesses in our community. I find my first consideration is to support a local independent business. My second choice is a local franchise and third option is a national chain or big box store. I will occasionally find myself ordering from an online retailer, but if I follow my system, I sleep well.
Locally owned independent businesses give us a sense of place.
There are many good reasons to support local businesses. Find what works for you.
Let’s use this challenging time as an opportunity to co-create a local economy that celebrates the character, diversity and uniqueness of Kamloops and its residents.
Coun. Denis Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.