By Rickey Kreps
The Cullman community is in the solid position that we are today because we charted our future based on what we could do for ourselves. Take for example the foresight to purchase land and develop the industrial parks — not with a handout but with local funds. Responsible budgeting and expenditures prevented our community from taking on long term debts that we could not pay. We’re now hearing from our legislators in both Montgomery and Washington DC that severe belt tightening is on the horizon. We’ll need to figure out ways to do more for ourselves.
We’ve heard the term “additional revenue sources” pop up quite often in the past several months. What I’d like to propose to you is that we take advantage of an additional revenue source that’s not controversial, doesn’t require any additional infrastructure and is already in place. I’m talking about the Chamber’s “Buy Local” initiative of keeping our dollars in Cullman County by buying from our local merchants. Why buy local? The most obvious advantage is the sales tax revenue. When you spend $100 in the city of Cullman, $4 goes to Montgomery. The $4.50 that stays in Cullman County is split evenly between the city and the county. It goes to the county’s general fund, the city’s general fund, the county’s road fund, the sheriff’s department, the police department, both economic development agencies, the county schools and the city schools. It also goes to the 10 municipalities around Cullman county, the rural fire departments and Cullman Regional Medical Center. That is your sales tax money.
Buying local starts a domino effect because the folks who work at the local businesses buy groceries and clothes and gasoline and prescriptions from other local businesses. They deposit their paychecks in local banks, eat in local restaurants, have their taxes prepared locally, take their pets to local veterinarians, have their cars and air conditioners repaired locally and use local attorneys for legal work. You can see that domino effect in action. But, when you spend $100 out of town or on the Internet, that first domino never has the chance to fall.
Let’s talk for a minute about local merchants. Local merchants put a lot of money into the Cullman economy because they are paying wages, they buy city and county licenses, pay sales tax on the products they consume and they financially support local charities, schools and churches. A quick look at our local leaders — city council, county commission, Wallace State Foundation, both economic development boards, Lions Club, Rotary Club, Kiwanis — are all comprised of local business persons. Probably at a minimum, a local business that has a staff of 8 to 10 people will inject over $250,000 wages into the Cullman county economy, it will pay $25,000 to $45,000 in health insurance premiums and those 10 staff members will pay approximately $15,000 in sales taxes and property taxes. But that’s just the financial side of local businesses. In addition, some of those staff members volunteer on various committees with the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce, they might have been the coach of your daughter’s softball team last summer or they cooked chili to raise money for the Cullman Caring for Kids food bank. I encourage you to support those companies that are partners in supporting the Cullman community. Those companies range from big companies like Ken Caviness and his team at Walmart Distribution to Jason White at The Final Touch, Bob Palys at The Awards Palace or Steve Singleton at Bryan Business Solutions. They join with over 1,000 Chamber members who invest in the Chamber’s mission to make the Cullman community an even better place to live and do business. How many superstores or Internet merchants are members of the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce?
How many of them serve on the local United Way board or purchase Kiwanis Pancake tickets? Have you ever noticed that the superstores will spend thousands to buy an ad on the right field fence at Yankee Stadium but have you ever seen them buy an ad on the right field fence at the Vinemont High School baseball field?
On the national front, we can support our economy in our buying decisions. Let me share some statistics compliments of Readers Digest. In Honduras, a garment worker is paid 31 cents per hour; in Bangladesh, 17 cents per hour; in China, 50 cents per hour. In 1985, 80 percent of all clothes Americans wore were made in the USA. In 2009, that figure plummeted to 5 percent. Probably everyone who lives in Cullman County believes that good workers are entitled to a safe working environment, a fair wage and reasonable benefits — we all want that for ourselves, our families and our friends. How about we begin applying that logic when we buy a product? If the pair of pliers made in the USA cost $10 and the ones imported from China are $8.50, is it not worth $1.50 to support a fellow American who is working to provide for his or her family? So I’d encourage you, when you buy something, focus on “where it’s made?” rather than “how much?”
Let me close with this. Warren Buffet said “Price is what you pay; Value is what you get”. It bears repeating — “Price is what you pay; Value is what you get”. If you spend $100 out of town or on the Internet, you get $100 worth of goods — end of story. When you spend $100 with a local merchant, along with $100 worth of goods, you get better roads, better recreation programs, better law enforcement, better programs for our retirees, better medical care and better fire protection.
Buying local is your best value. I challenge everyone in Cullman County to join together to make it happen.
‰ Rickey Kreps is the 2011-12 Chamber Chair President, Office Equipment Co., Inc.