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Shopping locally benefits community
new deh shop local pic
Great Bend Mayor Mike Allison loads his trunk with Christmas gifts hes purchased locally. Allison is emphasizing the need to shop local this holiday season. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Brownback signs ‘Small Business Saturday’ proclamation

Gov. Sam Brownback has signed a proclamation declaring Nov. 26 as “Small Business Saturday” in Kansas and encourages holiday shoppers to support small businesses in their communities on that day and throughout the holiday season.
“Small businesses are the vital part of the Kansas economy and are the lifeblood of our communities,” Brownback said. “We need small businesses to thrive in order to grow the Kansas economy and create jobs.”
Kansas joins a nationwide effort to highlight small businesses. This is the second annual Small Business Saturday observance, which was started by American Express as a day dedicated to supporting small businesses on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.
“We are asking Kansas to shop at their favorite, local stores,” said Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George. “They are key to the state’s economic health and job growth.”
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there were nearly 28 million small businesses in the United States last year, creating 65 percent of the net new jobs over the past two decades. Small businesses totaled 237,543 in Kansas, based on the latest SBA data available. Of these, more than 59,000 were employers, and they accounted for 53.4 percent of private-sector jobs in the state.

Despite the inundation of Christmas advertising luring consumers to far-flung shopping destinations, Great Bend economic development and civic leaders have a simple message – shop local.
 To this end, Saturday is being dubbed Small Business Saturday, where most local businesses will offer savings or promotions. Also, Thirsty Thursdays will begin with a downtown celebration starting at 5 p.m. on Dec. 1 with the placing of the topper on the Mayor’s Christmas Tree in the courthouse square. Thirsty Thursdays involve Great Bend businesses joining together to stay open late and offer special deals and a fun shopping experience until at least 7 p.m. every week.
“By shopping locally we keep our dollars in town,” said Dawn Jaeger, Great Bend assistant city administrator. “This means we pay for our streets, parks and more – our neighbors continue to be employed and we ourselves have a better quality of life.”
Likewise, she said, when shoppers spend their money in outlying areas, they help those cities at the detriment of our own. “The more shopping we can do in Great Bend, the better it is for all of us. It is our job, as residents, to keep local money from trickling out of the area.”
In 2010, the city brought in roughly $2.5 million from its sales tax and the city’s portion of the county-wide sales tax amounted to just over $2 million, City Administrator Howard Partington said. As for 2011, “it’s been a good year.”
This highlights the importance of local spending, Partington said. “The more money we capture locally, the better our bottom line.”
To help bolster this effort, Christina Hayes was hired as community coordinator.
“Great Bend stores have a lot to offer,” Hayes said. “What’s really fun is getting to know the retailers and going into the store and they point out some things you might like or that fit your taste. It gives shopping that hometown feel and builds loyalty for both the customers and the retailers.”
But, there is more. “With this revenue, businesses have more flexibility to get unique items and cater to not only the locals, but the tourists who are attracted to the distinctive character of small businesses.” 
In addition, Hayes said it provides businesses the ability to give back to the community through donations to non-profit organizations, schools, and other programs/events that need or request incentives.
Great Bend Mayor Mike Allison is also onboard with the shop local concept. He is going to try to buy 100 percent of the Christmas gifts in Great Bend, without resorting to giving gift cards or writing checks for his family.
“It’s important to shop local for the obvious reasons, such as sales tax revenue and supporting our friends and neighbors,” the mayor said. “But more than that, I’ve found that by watching the sales, I can get everything I need from the local stores for less, and save money on gas and travel too.”
For the past several weeks, Allison has been visiting the local stores in town and noticing the distinctive character in each store.
“This has not been an easy task for me,” he admitted. “I’ve never had to be the shopper in my family, my wife used to take care of it all. However I have found this has been a pleasurable experience because I’ve had a chance to get to know the retailers. I like that they take the time to provide suggestions and give me gift ideas.”
Allison has to buy for three sons, two daughter-in-laws and eight grandchildren ages 3-22. So far in his shopping experience he found great sales on gift items and learned each day there are some sale or coupons to use at many of the downtown businesses. 
The mayor said he is invested in the community’s future and finds that it’s important for his dollars to stay in Great Bend. “I know my kids enjoy getting cash, but this year I’m finding unique gifts for each of them.”
There are many documented benefits when citizens choose local, the mayor said. “It’s understandable that it’s not always possible to buy what you need locally, but I’m asking you to think and look local first.”