Be Local. Buy Local.

Chamber President Susan Guess talks about the economic lifeblood of the community.

USA Today recently ran the story of a group of citizens in Clark, South Dakota, who banded together to buy shares in a general store that was being closed by parent company Duckwall-Alco Stores of Kansas. More than 100 local residents purchased $500 shares to finance the opening of the Clark Hometown Variety Store. “We had no place in town to buy a pair of shoelaces or socks or underwear,” said Greg Furness, a shareholder who runs the local funeral home. Residents, he said, had to make a 40-minute drive to Watertown every time they needed supplies.Through the community’s cooperative investment, the small town has saved the life of its only general store.

It’s an extreme case of “local retail loss,” but it does point out the vulnerability of communities who could be left “high and dry” if chain stores and huge national holding companies move out. Consider our own vacant spaces where once thrived the likes of Linens N Things, Office Max, and Circuit City.

BeBuyLocalPaducah certainly doesn’t run the risk of finding itself with no place to buy underwear, but we do need to be aware that the old adage of use it or lose it might be a fitting future scenario for towns of our size and scope.

The Chamber is making every attempt to heighten that awareness of the need to support local businesses and service providers with our new BUY LOCAL initiative. And this is not about bashing the big guys. Our tag line says it all. It’s Everybody’s Business. Large retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, and JCPenney provide economical viability that is essential to our community’s future prosperity. And so do boutiques, restaurants, medical professionals, attorneys, car dealers, accountants, caterers, and car washes. Everyone in business in Paducah is a stakeholder in what happens to our community. Everyone who lives, works, and BUYS in Paducah shares that responsibility, knowing that every dollar each of us spends here is an investment in the shared provision of things like education, municipal services, arts programs, parks, playgrounds, and jobs!

Economic researcher and author David Boyle says that many local economies are languishing, not because too little cash comes in, but as a result of what happens to that money. “Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going,” he says, noting that when money is spent elsewhere, it flows out, like a wound. By buying locally, Boyle believes that communities can help to ensure that they don’t become “ghost towns”—areas devoid of neighborhood shops and services or “clone towns,” where Main Street now looks like every other Main Street with the same fast food and chain stores. (For more on Buying Local, go to time.com and read an article by Judith Schwartz from the June 11, 2009 issue of TIME Magazine.)

Paducah has shown its creative credibility many times over in its long and lustrous history. So let’s add our generation to that long line of Paducah patrons who have shown their belief in our uniquely local personality and productivity.

Be Local. Buy Local.