Shopping local benefits many

Published 12:54 am Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Note: Third in a series.

Although declining gas prices have created a brighter economic outlook in the eyes of most consumers, surveys indicate that many shoppers will be reluctant to travel for their shopping needs and hesitant to drop big money for the gift-giving season. The combination has local officials optimistic for the local economy.

The Conference Board, a New York-based business research group, said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 44.9 in November from an all-time low of 38 in October. It was significantly better than the 39.5 reading that economists surveyed by had forecast.

John Thompson, Andalusia’s city clerk and treasurer, said residents who choose to shop locally will be contributing directly to betterment of the city and its schools.

“When we shop in Andalusia we pay sales taxes that come directly into the general fund of the city that is used to provide police and fire protection, safe and clean streets, education and extracurricular activities for our children, senior programs, beautification and enhancement projects, infrastructure improvements, the list goes on and on,” he said. “It is also important to note that our businesses reinvest increased sales in their operations by increasing inventories, payrolls, and infrastructure improvements. Additionally, reinvested capital usually enhances productivity, which attracts outsiders and keeps established customers.”

Michael Smithart, superintendent of Opp City Schools, said the local economy has been healthy this year despite less than desirable economic conditions.

“This year we expect about $800,000 in sales tax collections from the city,” he said. “There are a lot of factors that play into that. We have flexibility with that money. It enables us to do some things we need to do.”

Smithart said residents should also be aware that money spent locally supports much more than just the city’s school system.

“Shopping locally is just the right thing to do,” he said. “The benefits do not stop here at the school. We are currently experiencing tough economic times and any way we can help out local merchants we should. Local merchants provide revenue for our city, employment for its residents and help to breathe life into our streets.”

Thompson said that shopping locally and maintaining a healthy local economy allows the city to provide essential services to its residents.

“Ideally, we generate more sales taxes for the general fund that will provide more and better services for our citizens,” he said. “Then the process feeds on itself and keeps pressure on expansion. The bottom line is that it is vitally essential that we shop in Andalusia always, especially at Christmas.”