Consumer behavior

Guest CommentaryDecember 3, 2013 

Mountain Area chambers of commerce organizations are comprised of volunteers who dedicate their time and expertise to revitalize our economy. We believe the quality-of-life we enjoy as residents parallels that warm, nurturing- feeling families get when they visit Eastern Madera County. Our mission as the North Fork Chamber of Commerce encompasses this pride to build sustainable economic communities which benefit residents, business owners and tourists alike.

We invite you to participate in our mission this holiday season to strengthen the community by asking you to consider making even more of your holiday purchases in the Mountain Area and support local business by 'Thinking Local First.'

In October, the chamber analyzed consumer behaviors of Eastern Madera County residents. The data indicates that you are likely to purchase certain goods more than others away from our community such as clothing, footwear, groceries, house wares, and home improvement supplies among other things like dining and entertainment services.

Only 1% of local residents are goods sufficient — meaning they only shop locally for their goods, while just 4% of the community are services sufficient. Our data shows that $147 million is spent by residents on these top-five tier goods mentioned above (which does not include services or other goods).

This leakage of wealth by residents occurring outside of our community can sustain 1900 to 3000 jobs locally. Considering that Eastern Madera County's population of 29,000 faces an unemployment rate of 10.5% — it's easy to see how changing a fraction of our spending habits could relieve our unemployment burden.

We know many factors incentivize local residents to shop outside of their community. Perhaps the lack of variety or unavailability of certain things, are substantial enough reasons to compel you to leave the Eastern Madera County region to acquire them. Or maybe you are not satisfied with the level of customer care provided by local businesses. Local chambers of commerce work together to improve the economy and solve these issues so that residents and visitors would otherwise be more inclined to develop relationships with our local merchants.

Madera County continues its efforts to address the unprecedented high unemployment rate. One of several plans to provide more jobs for Eastern Madera County residents is the development of residential, commercial and light industrial spaces on the Highway 41 corridor. Research indicates that 99% of Eastern Madera County's out-of-area spending occurs in Fresno, and the proposed projects will stop this continued leakage of retail dollars into Fresno. Coincidentally, the City of Fresno has filed a lawsuit against Madera County in an attempt to halt this development.

'Thinking Local First' this holiday season matters because local charities receive three times greater support from smaller-resident owned businesses. And since "local" business are owned by the very same families that live within the area, they are more likely to continue investing in their community while providing more local jobs for people you might know.

Statistics show that a dollar spent locally is usually spent six to 15 times before it leaves the community. This recirculation of a local dollar makes seasonal and tourism-based communities like Eastern Madera County function.

This letter is not an attempt to keep you from spending money out of the county but rather to make you aware of the incentives to shop local. We know that you will spend money to show your appreciation for loved ones in the coming months. Eastern Madera County contains a multitude of retailers from gift shops which feature local artwork to grocers with locally grown ingredients for your holiday dinners.

Your area's chamber of commerce website contains a member-directory of these businesses to help locate them. However, if you must make purchases away from Eastern Madera County this holiday season, many of the same big box stores you may visit, even though they may not be located in your immediate area, can be found within greater Madera County.

Irrespective of whether you will purchase big ticket items such as a new vehicle this holiday season or a gift for that favorite motorsport enthusiast in your life — to find that special gift for someone, you don't have to go far to find it.

On behalf of the chamber of commerce, we want to thank you for reading our message. We encourage you to share this with your family, friends and neighbors by bringing this conversation to your dinner table this holiday season. To pick up a handout containing a summary of our local consumer research data and a list of greater Madera big-box stores, visit the North Fork Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center at 33037 Road 222, North Fork.

We wish you a safe, joyful and memorable Christmas and New Year's holiday.

Scott Marsh is president of the North Fork Chamber of Commerce and Neil O'Brien is the chamber's intern office manager.

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