*The view expressed in this article is solely of its author and may not represent the direct views of Bluedog Cycles.
Everybody wants that thriving downtown district, the kind of happening small town that's fun to show off to your friends from the city. That type of town that has things to do, places to eat, shows to see, good music, good food, exceptional commerce, and incredible recreation opportunities. To me and to many that town is Viroqua, WI.
It hasn't always been that way though, as always there is room for improvement, and people are still working towards wonderful goals all the time to make the community a better place. As a 20-something my views of what makes a community great may differ from yours... and that is okay. I remember as a kid the "no bikes on the sidewalk" fight, getting hassled by cops on a regular basis because there was nowhere they would let us skateboard, having to play soccer for Christian Cornerstone because we had no soccer team, and having to drive all the way to La Crosse to buy a bike because there wasn't a bike shop.... yet. Having grown up in Viroqua I feel comfortable saying things have changed quite dramatically, and for the better. So maybe it goes without saying (but I feel it should be said) that the good work that you do for your community doesn't go unnoticed, and neither does where and how you spend your money.
You don't have to be a community organizer or do something drastic to make a positive impact on your community, it's quite simple really, where you spend your money is where it stays. Most people are aware of the "Buy Local" campaign but I expect few spend much time thinking about the true effects. There are a wealth of studies available backing the concept of "buy local", here is an excerpt from “Local Works: Examining the Impact of Local Business on the West Michigan Economy” Civic Economics, Sept. 2008.
"If residents of Grand Rapids and surrounding Kent County, Michigan, were to redirect 10 percent of their total spending from chains to locally owned businesses, the result would be $140 million in new economic activity for the region, including 1,600 new jobs and $53 million in additional payroll."
For more studies regarding the effect of small business on local economies you can visit the Institute for Local Self Reliance,
However I don't think we need studies of other cities to tell us that spending money locally is good for our community, it's perfectly measurable in our own city. Let's just take Bluedog for example. Since opening, Bluedog has employed over 40 community residents, we have gone from 0 to 50 miles of local singletrack (in just 10 years), and Bluedog Cycles/Vernon Trails will be hosting at least 8 cycling events this year, many of which come at a direct expense to Bluedog Cycles. It's not just Bluedog itself that invests in our community either, many of the brands that Bluedog carries directly invest in our community. Without the help of Kona bicycles there might not be a kid with a brand new bike every year at the end of Camp Bluedog and without money spent locally on bikes, repairs, and other gear we wouldn't get this....
In the age of internet buying and clicking around for the lowest price it's easy to forget the true cost of that item that was purchased from the internet retailer. After 4 years of working in bike shops I've heard it all, I've had customers pull out their phone right in front of me and tell me they can get these pedals for $20 cheaper online after I just explained the difference between Shimano M520 pedals and the A530 pedals to them. The difference was Greek to them before the talk. Information isn't free most places, it's just that most great bike shops are just too nice to withhold this information even without a purchase. We want more butts on bikes, it's simple, but we also want people to have places to ride and have a positive sense of community. When the doors close at Amazon (if they ever do really close) just remember, they aren't going out and pulling parsnip, designing a new section of trail, fundraising, or gaining access through conversations with land owners, the list goes on.
So go vote with your dollar, whatever it is you're buying, vote to make your community a better place.