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Small is Beautiful

Communities Over Corporations

Like most other retail businesses since the 1950’s, the growth of large chains have been driven by globalization and consolidation.  The consequence has been the industrialization of our food system with a collection of “too big to fail” agribusinesses and food corporations, just like other segments of our economy. It has diminished the trust and personal relationship between those who grow our food and those who buy it, and it raises worries about a decline in quality and ethical standards, when big businesses driven by bottom lines buy smaller brands.  Wall Street's emphasis on scale to expand market share also encourages the competitive and predatory behavior of large chains.  Now that you can shop at the same name across the country, many smaller, local grocers can't compete on price and have vanished.

Although these big corporations strive to appear locally connected, their scale naturally aligns them with big farmers and big vendors.  At this scale, we lose quality of food and sense of community, and our culture is poorer for it. 

Large corporate systems are stock market companies that must grow and secure greater and greater profits. This encourages the building of more and more stores which promotes more and more consumption.  A future goal in an ideal world must be to limit consumption and resource use and instead find a replacement for the psychological crutch of consumerism.  With a planet of limited natural resources, there is on other result but environmental degradation.

Large corporations concentrate power and wealth in fewer folk’s hands which exacerbates income inequality.  Increasing these giant companies' tightening grip is stifling competition, eroding jobs, and threatening communities.  We promise to continually deepen our commitment to people and community as opposed to only profits.

We believe the economy needs to be relocalized.  Instead of economies of scale, we need economies of community.  Economies of community can counter with a movement to create networks of farms, small manufacturers, local restaurants, independent distributors and motivated citizens all deeply engaged and connected with Richmond. Such a system makes people a part of something greater than themselves: a community of human beings who choose to establish healthy lifestyles and a clean sustainable environment.

This better system is a more transparent smaller, local one that emphasizes personal connection and a sustainable community over profits, dividends and market share.  Collaboration among local independent food business, all focused intently on a smaller food system economy can create efficiencies, more consistency and competitive pricing. Most importantly, this inclusive and cooperative mentality fosters a stronger community. 

 

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Unchecked Corporate Power

Just imagine, huge, gas-guzzling, delivery trucks driving up and down the same small neighborhood streets everyday in an effort to drop off one package in 24 hours.  Delivery times may be shrinking but the negative economic impact is increasing.

Online retailers deliver to consumers straight from huge warehouses which cut down the need to distribute to stores.  Instead, delivery trucks are constantly moving products through communities to millions of customers, often times delivering only one product.  The products are not only traveling farther, but also using fleets of trucks and increasing amounts of boxes and packing materials, generating more waste and emissions. 

Online offerings are increasing to consumers today, but behind these newfound conveniences are hidden costs. Online retailers create less than half as many jobs as local brick-and-mortar stores do.  This means the more online retailers grow and crowd out other businesses, the fewer jobs there are available.  For every $10 million in sales made in North America, online retailers employ approximately 20 people.

Property and sales taxes are the main sources of funds for our schools and public services.  If local businesses are squeezed out by online outlets, households will have to shoulder a higher tax burden.  In most communities, online retailers don’t have facilities and therefore pay no property taxes.  In nearly half the states, they do not collect state and local sales taxes.

While local retailers are engines of economic activity, spending their revenue at a wide variety of other businesses in the community, online retailers merely extract money, leaving little behind.  They don't need local printers, designers, lawyers, or bankers.  Except for a small amount companies pay to delivery drivers and third-party sellers, all of the money consumers spend with online retailers leaves their local economy.

How we choose to direct our spending shapes the future of the place we live – and how interesting, special, and healthy it will be.  Online retailers aren’t involved in the communities where the majority of its customers live.  In fact, in the case of Amazon, its dominance (50% of all online purchases) makes it harder to start a business, gives one company too much power to pick winners and losers and steers the choices we have as consumers.  It doesn't give to local charities or help solve local problems in these places.  It contributes nothing to the vitality of our streets and neighborhoods.

Live your values and know that the convenience of e-commerce can come at a price to the environment & community. 

 

Thought Leaders in the Local Food Movement

Helena Norberg Hodge

Author and filmmaker Helena Norberg-Hodge is a pioneer of the local economy movement. Through writing and public lectures on three continents, she has been promoting an economics of personal, social and ecological well-being for more than 30 years. She is a widely respected analyst of the impact of the global economy and international development on local communities, local economies, and personal identity, and is a leading proponent of ‘localization’, or decentralization, as a means of countering those impacts.

Helena is the founder and director of Local Futures/International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) and The International Alliance for Localization (IAL). Based in the US and UK, with subsidiaries in Germany and Australia, Local Futures examines the root causes of our current social and environmental crises, while promoting more sustainable and equitable patterns of living in both North and South. Helena is also a founding member of the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture, the International Forum on Globalization and the Global Ecovillage Network.

SOURCE: Local Futures

 

Michael Shuman

Michael H. Shuman is an economist, attorney, author, and entrepreneur, and a globally recognized expert on community economics. He is one of the architects of the crowdfunding reforms that became the “JOBS Act,” signed into law by President Obama in April 2012.  Shuman is currently Director of Community Portals for Mission Markets and a Fellow at Cutting Edge Capital and Post-Carbon Institute.  He’s also a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). He is also an adjunct instructor in community economic development for Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. 

Shuman has authored or coauthored eight books.  His most recent book, published by Chelsea Green, is Local Dollars, Local Sense:  How to Move Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity. His previous book, The Small Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition (Berrett-Koehler, 2006), received as bronze prize from the Independent Publishers Association for best business book of 2006.

SOURCE: Michael Shuman

 

Paul Saginaw

Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig joined forces, to found Zingerman’s Delicatessen, and opened the doors on March 15, 1982. All they wanted at that time was a great corned beef sandwich and an organization with soul.

Zingerman’s started as 1300 square feet of combined restaurant and specialty food retail space, run solely by Paul, Ari and two employees. The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses now has 17 partners, employs over 500 people and generates over $40 million in annual sales from eight separate businesses: Zingerman’s Delicatessen (including Zingerman’s Catering), Zingerman’s Mail Order, Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Zingerman’s Training Inc., Zingerman’s Coffee Company, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Zingerman’s Creamery and Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory.

Paul believes that he has been successful in spite of the fact that he has limited natural talent and abilities because he has always believed that the only real limits are those of vision. Paul also believes that if in fact he has any talent at all it would be the ability to pick great partners.

SOURCE: Zingerman's Community of Business

 

Stacy Mitchell 

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its Community-Scaled Economy Initiative, which produces research and analysis, and partners with a range of allies to design and implement policies that curb economic consolidation and strengthen community-rooted enterprise.

Much of Stacy’s work has focused on two pivotal sectors of the economy: retail and banking.  Among the first to raise the alarm about the rise of mega-retailers in the 1990s, Stacy is a nationally recognized leader in the movement to counter their power. Her book, Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses, has appeared on several top-ten lists and was described by Bill McKibben as “the ultimate account of the single most important economic trend in our country.”

Her research and writing on the advantages of devolving economic power have influenced policy-makers and helped guide grassroots strategies.  She has produced pivotal analysis on the banking sector, monopoly power, Amazon, and independent business. She has written for a wide range of publications, including Business Week, The Nation, and Wall Street Journal, and produces a popular monthly newsletter, The Hometown Advantage Bulletin.

Stacy has led collaborative efforts to build stronger organizing and advocacy networks among local businesses.  She serves as an advisor to many small business groups and coordinates the Advocates for Independent Business, a coalition of national small business organizations.  She was also a founding board member of the Portland Independent Business & Community Alliance.

SOURCE: Institute of Local Self Reliance