Keeping it local

Buying locally first can help communities retain millions of dollars of revenue.

About 30 people attended the “From How to Wow” seminar hosted by the Webster City Chamber of Commerce, which was titled “Buy Local First.”

Deb Brown, Chamber director, opened the educational luncheon, which was catered by Seneca Street Saloon, by presenting a report on monetary leakage in Webster City and Hamilton County. The leakage reports were provided by David Toyer, Webster City Economic Development director.

Among the numbers in the report, Webster City loses about $877,000 in appliances and electronics sales; $1.12 million in clothing and $2.5 million in general merchandise to non-local businesses. Hamilton County loses about $8.6 million in food and drink, and $3 million in health and personal care sales to outside businesses.

Brook Boehmler, Executive Director Greater Franklin County Chamber, presented during the seminar. He said that research found that the Greater Franklin County area, which contains 14,987 people, lost over $1.6 million in annual sales of toilet paper alone. The total actually spent on toilet paper in the area came out to $335,800 a year.

That lost money was going to larger chain stores outside of the community. Boehmler didn’t blame those stores for their sales, but he and others never realized the impact of buying something as simple as toilet paper locally.

“The point is, how many people realize where those margins are going?” Boehmler said.

The revelation that the toilet paper study brought was the jumping off point for an entire buy local campaign in the Greater Franklin County area. They got businesses on board with the campaign to raise awareness of where that money goes, gave out stickers, and translated their campaign into spanish to appeal to the hispanic population in the area, which makes up about 30 percent of the population. Toilet paper, Boehmler said, was just a jumping off point for this campaign.

“It brings up all these other questions and concepts, which are, ‘Why are we buying this car?’ ‘Why are we buying this or that outside?’ Which then became another talking point for people to start partnering and thinking how they could do this,” Boehmler said.

Shannon Latham, of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, also spoke at the seminar on the power of internet and promotion. She helped to set up a blogger’s tour of Franklin County in October, 2011 with the goals of showcasing the county’s tourism attractions and helping non-farmers understand how their food is raised.

Latham said that understanding the strengths of a community, engaging and branding the community are important when understanding how to bring in business and buzz into a community. She said the blogger’s tour included local attractions and events that were put on by partners in the community. However, much of that came from outside of Hampton.

“We really need to redefine community,” Latham said. “How can you build the community given what you have? For us, that question was answered by what’s in our town, but what’s in Franklin County.”

The blogger’s tour promoted the County in a way that caught the eye of major news sources, including CNN, Reuters, Fox News and a network from Japan. Latham said creating unique experiences like the blogger’s tour was key to getting Franklin County on the map.