West Allis mayor shops his ideas to boost local economy

Nov. 6, 2012

West Allis - As residents turn toward the holidays and shopping, Mayor Dan Devine has issued a proclamation urging residents to "Buy Local West Allis," at least through the end of the year.

Devine said he bases his thrust on research indicating that local businesses return an average of 32 percent of income to the local economy, compared with 16 percent for the average chain store.

The return of dollars is in terms of wages, income to local owners, supplies and services purchased locally and charitable giving.

The research was done by Civic Economics, a consulting group that specializes in helping build sustainable economies. The 2009 study looked at 15 locally owned businesses on Magazine Street in New Orleans, comparing their cash flows to those of an average Target super store.

Businesses buying locally

The primary reason the local stores recirculated so much more money into the local economy was that the local stores purchase many goods and services from other local businesses, while Target does not, the study concluded.

Perhaps surprisingly, the 15 stores, whose square footage added up to the same 179,000 square feet as an average Target, had sales twice as high. On $105 million in sales, the local stores recirculated $188 per square foot into the local economy, compared with $45 per square foot on Target's sales of $50 million, the study found.

An earlier Civic Economics study of two local bookstores in Austin, Texas, comparing their cash flows with an average Borders bookstore, had similar results. At both locally owned bookstores, $45 out of every $100 spent in the stores remained in the Austin economy. At a typical Borders store, that figure was just $13, the study found.

Similar findings came out of Civic Economics studies in Grand Rapids, Mich., and the San Francisco area.

Adding community flavor

Devine was careful to emphasize that all businesses contribute to the city's vitality. But local businesses generally not only give more in return but they give the community more character and uniqueness, he said.

"These businesses are often one of a kind, and this distinctive character can attract other entrepreneurs to invest in West Allis," he said.

They already bring visitors to buy unique gifts or enjoy diverse dining opportunities, he said. Within its borders, the city offers all kinds of restaurants, including American, Cajun, specialty cheese, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Mexican, Peruvian, steakhouses and Thai cuisines, the mayor noted in his proclamation.

As the holidays approach, the mayoral proclamation encourages residents to explore the city's many independent businesses, shop locally and support its small entrepreneurs whenever possible.

Devine said he wanted to issue the proclamation urging people to buy West Allis this year partly because the city lost a landmark business this year - Kaiser's Six-Points Bakery.

"It was a great local place," he said.

Added to that is his desire to help the new restaurants that opened this year flourish and give the city flavor. One of them is a Peruvian restaurant dubbed Chef Paz, after owner and chef Maritza Paz at 91st Street and National Avenue.

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