July 22, 2014

Economist seeing more “buy local” behavior in Iowa

An Iowa State University economist is seeing indications that Iowans are shifting more of their shopping to their local communities. However, David Swenson says the “buy local” concept will only succeed if it goes beyond customer awareness.

“It also involves an understanding within the business community that if I buy my inputs from your business and you buy your inputs from my business – all of our businesses and all of our community will do better,” Swenson said. The buy local movement is nothing new. Swenson remembers seeing a “buy local” sign on a business in his hometown back in the 1960s.

Swenson notes the overwhelming evidence shows most consumer spending in Iowa continues to be in large shopping centers and on the Internet. “But, over the…at least five years, we’ve seen an increased emphasis of small business promotion, buy local behavior. That all leads me to conclude that, yes indeed, we’re having, in selected areas, more buy local behavior and more buy local awareness,” Swenson said.

The money spent at local businesses will multiply more rapidly, according to Swenson, when all of the business owners buy into the concept. “If you have a community where you have a rich relationship with other businesses and you tend to buy your inputs, your legal services, your bookkeeping services or any number of services from folks right there in town, you’re going to have a richer social relationship – therefore, you’re going to have a richer economic relationship over time,” Swenson said.

At least two-thirds of Iowa’s communities are losing population, so Swenson notes the buy local movement is struggling in many areas of the state. Swenson made his comments on the Iowa Public Radio program “Talk of Iowa.”