Monday, August 15, 2011

Action Idea #1: Support Local Independent Businesses

I don’t pretend to have a deep understanding of economics, other than mastering some basic fundamental concepts thanks to my high school teacher Mr. Kearney (any other Hibbing High School grads that forever associate the concept of diminishing marginal utility with peanut butter sandwiches, please raise your hands).  Honestly, I struggle as much as the next person when it comes to understanding the current global financial crisis on one hand and regional/local economic development initiatives on the other.  

Growing up on the Iron Range, my understanding of economic development was as follows:
Economic development means studies and plans, which come from consultants, who come from the Twin Cities, who usually spend a limited amount of time in the area, create elaborate analysis, which is disputed by the local powers that be, and eventually abandoned.  Of course a significant amount of money has usually been spent on this process with little to show for it.  Everyone loses and cynicism mounts.  And thus, in my experience, the term “outside consultant” is sure to elicit icy glares at a minimum in my dear hometown.  

That said, I must say I was quite impressed when I learned of a project developed by Twin Cities retail consultant Cinda Baxter—The 3/50 Project.  There’s really a lot to like about this idea, which started with a blog post in March 2009.  Here’s the scoop:  “Think of three businesses you'd hate to see disappear, then pop in and say hello.... Pick 3. Spend 50. Save your local economy.”  You can find the details at the project’s website  Fifty bucks a month, split between 3 locally owned independent Hibbing businesses.  

What do you think Hibbing?  Are we up for this?  We often complain about businesses that close, those that never begin, and the empty buildings we are left with as painful reminders.  Is this something we can do to reverse the trend?  

I don’t know about you, but independent local businesses played a big part of my childhood in Hibbing.  I remember going school shopping and turning in S&H stamps at Feldman’s department store on Howard Street.  I also remember waiting in the car when my mother stopped at Geary’s (or was it Gary’s?) Grocery on the way home from figure skating practice. Picking up day old bread—and glazed donuts or apple pies if we were with my dad—was a standard Saturday routine at Sunrise Bakery.  I’d like to think that those kind of options will be around for the next generation of Hibbingites.  

As stated at the beginning of this post, I’m far from an economic expert, but I have to believe that coming together on something like this can have an impact on our local business community.  You know, collective action?  Something tells me that historically, Hibbing is kinda into that stuff.  

What do you think?  Are you on board with The 3/50 Project?  

Note: Special thanks to Alex, fellow HHS class of 1999'er who swooped in with the assist on this one.  Without his tech troubleshooting, half of this post would be illegible.  :)


  1. I am all for the 3/50 project [and I have a certain blogger to thank for that :) ]. The idea behind it is so simple and so DO-able for the average person. it isn't a major policy change that needs to be enacted at high levels of government. It is our opportunity, as the people, to show that we want our economy back. We want to trust to our own ingenuity and hard work to take back what we piddled away putting too much focus on international issues. This is a way for Average Joe to stand up and say-- we're not gonna take it anymore. I, for one, would be pretty proud to say that we ran WalMart out of town because their customers found local merchants to get their products from.

  2. Jennifer, I, too am not an economist. But this I know, that the more times a community circulates a dollar, the richer the community. The 3/50 project encourages people to spread their dollars around town, which is great. The more we spend our dollars locally, more jobs and services are created. Whenever we spend our money at box stores or corporate franchises, most of those dollars leave town. Self sustaining economies are conscious of something other than the bottom line of cheap goods and profit. These economies thrive on growth that comes from "buying local" and utilizing resources close to home as a priority. Thanks for the opportunity to comment and be part of this community process. Joan H. Beech, Bovey, MN.