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112617-adh-nws-Shop Small Saturday04-my (copy)

Barb Schoonover, owner of Bolts to Blocks, visits with a patron during downtown Albany's Shop Small Saturday in 2017. The 2018 event occurs this Saturday.

We understand that many of you like to set aside at least part of the Thanksgiving holiday to get a jump on your holiday shopping plans: It's a time to make a list, check it twice, and so forth.

Allow us to inject a suggestion as you start to solidify your plans for the holiday: Make a pledge to keep it local this shopping season.

This weekend would be a great time to start with that pledge, especially with Saturday's designation as Small Business Saturday — cradled right between Black Friday, which tends to emphasize big box stores, and Cyber Monday, with its online shopping focus.

But there's nothing that says you can't shop locally on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday — many times, a locally owned business will offer products or services that you may not be able to find at a big box store. And many local stores offer online shopping options as well.

We understand that, to some extent, we're preaching to the choir here: Our guess is that you choose local shopping options whenever possible. Good for you. 

And good for the the mid-valley as well. Consider these statistics:

• According to the Andersonville Study of Retail Economics, shopping locally generates 70 percent more local economic activity per square foot than does shopping at a big box store.

• The small businesses we tend to frequent when we decide to shop locally are the backbone of our communities: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that 67 percent of jobs in the United States come from small businesses.

• Small businesses donate more of their earnings to nonprofits and community causes than do larger companies, according to the Good Business Network.

• A recent Consumer Reports survey found more than 60 percent of respondents saying they'd be willing to pay more (up to 10 percent more) for the privilege of buying locally.

It just makes sense to frequent those local establishments that give so much back to their communities. And a successful holiday season often is the key to a successful year for many of these businesses.

In addition, as you shop at local establishments, you're helping out a significant economic sector in the mid-valley.

Figures released Tuesday by the Oregon Employment Department suggest that Linn and Benton counties now have about 9,000 workers employed in the retail sector of the economy; that number consistently has grown since 2009, when the state's economy really started to emerge from the depths of the Great Recession.

If you really wanted to give a boost to the local economy, you could cap off your shopping day with a meal at one of the mid-valley's growing number of restaurants; the leisure and hospitality sector of the economy also has grown steadily over the last decade and now employes 8,000 or so people.

So there's a strong economic reason why it's a good idea to shop locally. 

But our hunch is that there's another reason why so many of us prefer to shop locally: We know, deep down, it's just better for us.

Think about it: You could plan shopping excursions to Portland or Woodburn or Eugene, fighting crowds the whole way. Or you could stay close to home, checking off items on your list in just a couple of hours instead of crawling through traffic with your car radio stuck on a Christmas music station. "Feliz Navidad" again? Didn't they play that 15 minutes ago? 

So here's a tip of the hat to you as you set out this weekend to patronize local retailers in search of that perfect gift. It's good for your community. It's good for you as well. And if you want to spend the time you save at home, listening to "Feliz Navidad" again and again on your stereo as a fireplace roars in the hearth, well, that will be our little holiday secret. (mm)

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