Is buying local really -that- important?

Local shops on Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla.

Local shops on Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg.

We all have heard the phrase, “buy local.” It’s the new, hip thing to do. I’ve even overheard someone say, “You’ve got to buy local. All the cool kids are doing it.” And he was dead serious when saying that phrase. But, are all the “cool kids” really buying local? And why?

            Most major cities around the country have an organization making a case for its citizens to buy local, and there is no shortage of support for those purchasing habits. But is it really that important to invest in local produce from farmer’s markets, and shop at those Mom and Pop stores?

            The short answer is yes, it is important to keep your money local. But on the other hand, cutting out the big-box stores isn’t the best for local economies either. The best option is to shop local as much as you can, but don’t forget the big-box stores in our communities employ a lot of your fellow citizens. A delicate balance is essential for the benefit of our local economies.

Keep St. Petersburg Local, or KSPL for short, is an independent business alliance, currently enjoying its third year of operation. Its members include dozens of artists, brewers, craftsmen, and non-profits throughout St. Petersburg, Fla. According to their website,, investing in local, independent businesses and services is beneficial on many levels.

Buying local creates jobs, encourages prosperity, and promotes the circulation of local money which boosts the economy. Aside from the obvious reasons buying local is good for a community, it ensures a vibrant and diverse destination for local shoppers and tourists alike.

Strong local economies lead to increased tourism, which leads to developers coming to the area, which encourages more companies to establish themselves in the area. The St. Petersburg area has seen dynamic growth in the past few years, arguably helped by the prospering downtown corridor.

The New York Times recently named St. Petersburg as one of the 52 destinations to see in 2014. According to the Tampa Tribune article about the accolade, “while St. Petersburg has always had cultural attractions and natural beauty, it was small business owners who led the way in the downtown revival, said Kimberly Bailey, economic development analyst for the city.”

As a celebration of all things local in St. Petersburg, KSPL put on the 2nd annual “Localtopia” on February 7th, 2015. Localtopia boasts over 100 vendors and participants, including live music throughout the day. It will be taking place in Williams Park, one of St. Petersburg’s first public parks, located in downtown St. Petersburg.

Localtopia is meant to showcase all things diverse and worthwhile when it comes to buying local. Williams Park was broken into sections, each area catering to a specific aspect of the city’s unique niche. There was a beer garden featuring several local craft breweries, an arts village, a skate village, the St. Pete Indie Market village, and the family village. The entire event is family oriented and, much like most of downtown’s destinations, pet-friendly as well.

Not only does supporting local, small-business help boost a city’s economy, the camaraderie and closeness that comes from keeping your money local is beyond compare.

While it is nearly impossible – and often inconvenient – for most of us to only support local businesses for all of our shopping needs, whenever you are wandering down your city or town’s Main Street, stop in a new store. Strike up a little conversation with the owners. Buy a little something if something speaks to you. Every little bit helps.

Plus, you’ll never imagine some of the great people you will meet along the way.

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