Editor's MessageThe holiday season is approaching and with it the shopping frenzy. This year I’m hopeful that more and more people will see the wisdom of shopping local. It’s important to the continuing prosperity and vitality of our region.

My advice:

—Look for your gifts at locally owned stores first.

—If a local shop hasn’t got what you want and can’t order it, go to a chain.

—If you still can’t get an item, only then order online.

Why is it so important to shop local? Here are five good reasons.

Keep the Money Here
When you buy locally, more of the money gets re-spent here, invigorating the entire economy. According to a study conducted in Michigan, when $100 is spent locally, $73 stays in the community and $27 leaves. When $100 is spent at a chain, just $43 stays around while $57 departs, most likely to a distant corporate headquarters. When you shop online or from catalogues, $0 stays in the community.

Job Creation
It’s a fact that small businesses create more jobs than large businesses. Small businesses (fewer than 100 employees) employ 52 percent of the nation’s workers. Local businesses also generally offer higher wages and better career opportunities. An additional benefit: Entrepreneurs are drawn to communities that support small, start-up businesses, creating even more jobs.

Better Service
Want to be seen as a consumer statistic or a good customer? The chains see you as a number; local business owners see you as a person. They get to know you, to know your likes and dislikes, and they value you. They tailor their sales strategies to your taste, not to sales data collected nationwide.

Keep the Character of Our Community
Local businesses are part of what define a place and give a community its distinctive character. A preponderance of large chains does the opposite; their sameness homogenizes a community, making it like many other places. Character is particularly important in a college town like Bloomington where milieu and quality of life are so important to attracting first-rate minds.

Local Businesses Give Back
Locally owned businesses give more to local charities and nonprofits than do large national corporations. In one case study conducted in Maine by the Institute of Local Self-Reliance, the charitable contributions made by local businesses far exceeded those made by Walmart. Of every $1 million in sales, the locals gave $4,000; Walmart contributed $1,000.

It makes sense that when you are living, raising a family, involved, and vested in a community, you are more likely to support its schools, libraries, arts organizations, and charities, both with donations and volunteerism. Let’s face it, corporate CEOs in New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and elsewhere don’t give a hoot about Bloomington.

I have a fear that one day I’m going to walk around the downtown Square and there will be no more shops—just restaurants and drinking establishments. Five new beverage businesses have either opened recently or are about to open. And while all may be terrific businesses, I think it would be a tragedy if retail stores all but disappear from the mix.

Purchasing on the Internet, from catalogues, and at chains is tempting and you can save a few bucks. But the price, in terms of who we are as a community, is high. Do your best to shop locally this holiday season.

Thanks and congratulations
Another great Lotus Festival—maybe better than ever. Thank you Team Lotus: Lee Williams, LuAnne Holladay, Loraine Martin, Tamara Loewenthal, and Kristin Varelle. And thank you to the hundreds of volunteers.

Malcolm Abrams
editor and publisher