How far could we move toward strengthening our locally-owned businesses if we spent our local money locally. Or more narrowly, what if just our anchor institutions within our communities mostly bought local? How many farms would spring up if school cafeterias bought their produce from local grocers and farms? Or consider if our hospitals, jails, and colleges were added to the scenario. An article which appeared in the Michigan Citizen answers discusses these questions:

Far too much of our recent history has been shaped by efforts to recapture the giant industrial production of a century ago. These efforts dominate our public policies in spite of the fact that statistics demonstrate that small, community-based businesses drive economic and creative development.

Small businesses generated 64 percent of the net new jobs over the last 15 years, creating more than half of our GNP. The majority of these businesses are locally based, employing a range of skilled workers, including about 40 percent of all high tech workers in the country, and they produce 13 times the patents per employee of large firms.

Several anchor institutions have voluntarily committed to increasing local purchasing there in Detroit:

Fostering small cooperative businesses means redirecting our spending in ways that encourage local production. That is why we should all welcome the recent efforts by the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State University to increase their local purchasing. These are key anchor institutions in Detroit that could have a tremendous economic impact on the local business community. Currently the combined spending of these institutions is about $1.6 billion annually. Less than 10 percent of that is spent in Detroit.

The City of San Francisco has taken it one step further by enacting policies for all municipal agencies and municipally-owned anchor institutions:

The city of San Francisco has taken even more direct measures. In an effort to stimulate local employment, San Francisco passed a local hire ordinance that requires all county-funded projects worth $400,000 or more built within 70 miles of the county borders hire at least 20 percent of their people from the city by the end of this year. Over the next seven years, the goal will be to hire 50 percent of all workers from within the city limits.

The author encourages their municipal leadership to set minimum purchasing requirements:

There is no reason why our mayor and city council cannot begin to establish policies that direct local spending by all of our anchor institutions. A modest goal of increasing local spending by these institutions to 15 percent would more than double what they are currently spending, stimulating further activity.

Think of the economic impact if our anchor institutions: the Clay County Hospital, Southern Union University, and all public schools in Clay County for instance purchased just 15% of their food and needs from within 30 mile radius? As noted elsewhere before:

Each school, prison, and public hospital should purchase a percentage of its food from local farms and ranches. We could rapidly revitalize local, family farming if a percentage of every school lunch was grown within its county’s borders. Consider the impact on small farming operations if each prison purchased all its food from nearby.

A recent study from the University of Minnesota corroborates this policy direction (ht to my mom).  According to the study:  Filling school lunch trays with fresh, locally grown foods that are easy to incorporate into school menus can contribute as much as $430,000 annually to a regional economy, according to new research from University of Minnesota Extension.

The study focused on five rural counties with only 20,840 students and examined the potential economic impact of farm-to-school programs. According to the author, “a $400,000 annual impact could support two to three full-time farms.”

$400,000 could go a long way in east, central Alabama too. Combine this $400,000 with the monetary velocity of money spent locally, the impact multiplies to $1.6 million.