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Shopping locally is the best. I enjoy running into familiar faces and having folks who already know what type of coffee I'm going to have or who will pour my favorite wine before I even ask for it. Everything is better about it: the experience, the service, the quality.

I feel more like myself shopping locally, like I'm doing what we were made to do. We're not just buying stuff; we're interacting with each other, living in a community, and growing relationships. I'm not saying those things can't happen when we drive to Memphis to buy something at Costco. It's just never happened for me. I like when relationships grow organically. And that's what happens when we shop locally.

Shopping in west Little Rock is a great experience, too. Everything is shiny and new, and the landscaping is incredible. But supporting a locally owned business is nearly impossible there. It almost feels like there's an invisible wealth vacuum.

Central Arkansas creates an enormous amount of wealth, and then we all--me included--take what we've earned and spend it at a chain store. Our founding fathers fought a war over paying taxes to other countries. Now we do it voluntarily. We have to do a better job of supporting the higher-quality products and services of locally owned businesses.

The economic impact of shopping locally should not be ignored. There was an advertisement this holiday season promoting "small business Saturday" which falls right after Black Friday and is followed by cyber Monday and giving Tuesday. The advertisement stated that a much higher percentage of money spent at locally owned shops stays in our community, compared to spending with out-of-state or out-of-country owned stores.

And during a time when a dollar only circulates in the economy five times compared to before the great recession where it circulated 17 times, this is important. We have to start shopping locally like our financial future depends on it, because it does.

In many cases, the local option is one of higher quality. For example, Mountain Valley Spring Water, which is headquartered in Hot Springs, is on par in water quality with Fiji water. It's actually got a little higher pH, which is arguably a good thing, and is very close in having the same number of electrolytes. I think it tastes much better!

And yet at stores across Arkansas, you are far more likely to find Fiji water that takes a ship to get it here. I'm kind of a weirdo about water, so I recognize the quality of each brand. But why would Arkansans pay (sometimes more) for a water that is not better than one they can get locally?

I feel the same way about Loblolly ice cream. It's higher quality than other ice creams sold in grocery stores, and it tastes better. We also have our own bedding company. Dreamline out of Cabot makes some of the best mattresses in the world. My home has only Dreamline mattresses.

I understand there are manufacturing limitations, but if we demand it, Arkansas-owned stores will grow and supply it.

When you shop locally, you're not just supporting that one business. Locally owned businesses use local accountants, hire local marketing teams, advertise in local magazines, use local IT firms, and give to local nonprofits that are typically behind the festivals and events that give us such a rich quality of life.

They are a part of local conversations and affect decisions being made (most importantly) at the local level, whereas chain stores have hired lobbyists to conduct their affairs and do not engage in civic affairs. They pull the strings and pad campaign pockets. Also, local businesses produce more in a city's tax revenue on a per-acre comparison.

With growing inequality, we're going to have to get more disciplined about supporting locally owned businesses. We can keep our hard-earned money in circulation and grow our wealth and value instead of giving it away to surrounding states and countries. At the same time, we're getting a higher quality of goods and services.

Please join me in supporting locally owned businesses in every way that we can. And let's demand that our chain stores carry locally produced products. Let's grow our wealth and enjoy the benefits that come with supporting businesses that are owned by our neighbors.

Mike Orndorff, a home builder, moved with his family to the Pettaway neighborhood of Little Rock in 2014.

Editorial on 01/12/2020

Print Headline: Eat, drink and build wealth locally

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