Be the Change You Want to See!

Edward Everett Hale once said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”  We often hear those around us say, I am just one person, what difference can I really make in my country or even in my local community.  The larger the community, the more prevalent this thought process tends to be.  I would counter this very flawed thought process by saying, historically, nearly every major change begins with a vision by one person or a very small group of individuals.

It has also been said that we can’t change the wind, but we can adjust the sails.  By adjusting our individual sails, we can indeed influence the future of our local community for the better, one individual at a time.

How do we adjust our individual community sails?  One of the more obvious answers would be to become knowledgeable and vote. Another might be volunteer to serve on a local non-profit board. You could volunteer with a civic or service club. Consider becoming more educated regarding local issues, volunteer or assist with a citywide cleanup, and so forth. All these and other avenues are certainly worthy and noteworthy, and they can make a huge impact in your community.  How we volunteer and attempt to make a difference might be viewed as somewhat intangible and hard to notice, that is okay.  Let me suggest one habit you can incorporate into your daily routine that will make a large, noticeable, and tangible impact on your local community.

When residents (and city leaders) make a commitment to spend as many of their dollars with locally owned and operated businesses, you will make a huge difference.  Studies show every dollar spent locally in this fashion carries a compounding community revenue impact of three to five times greater value than dollars spent with non-locally owned big box or National chain establishments. It is a situation where the sum is much greater than the individual parts. It is a situation where one plus one can equal three, four or even five.  Imagine what a 3-5X greater value for each local dollar spent would mean when it comes to funding our local fire fighters, local police, city services, local events, your local roads and parks or local public investments?

To put in practical terms, if a community or county with a population of 25,000 had every resident committed to spend just $25 more each month hyper-locally than they might have otherwise spent out-of-town or online, that would generate $7,500,000 additional dollars floating throughout the community each year.  What would an additional $7,500,000 floating through your community mean for jobs and standard of living in many households? It doesn’t end there, what does $7,500,000 look like after compounding?  When factoring in the 3-5X compounding impact of $7,500,000, it becomes $22,500,000 – $37,500,000. Factor in a 5% local sales tax and your community leaders now have an additional $1,875,000 for local police, fire, roads, and so forth. It all started with a small commitment by local residents to do their part in building a future for their children.

That is only the tip of the iceberg.  Imagine how much more competitive your local business base could be with those new dollars circulating throughout the community.  How many new jobs can be funded with those dollars staying within the community? How many entrepreneurs can flourish with the support of the community?  These are real dollars with enormous community impact, all starting with each person committing to support their community.

In today’s environment, the very fabric of the economic financial base in your local community is under a relentless attack on many fronts.  A community’s ability to support their hyper-local businesses isn’t just a nice thing to do, it will be a matter of financial survival for your entire community in the future.  I might even further suggest the future may already be arriving as the gale force economic and demographic trends or winds are gathering steam.

Community leaders must be forward thinking as must each citizen.  Forward thinking involves understanding the current and future trends.  It means looking ahead and adjusting your community and individual sails to the prevailing winds so we don’t get thrown off course.  I’ll close with a quote by Andre Gide.  He said, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore”.

John Newby, Pineville, MO. is a nationally recognized Publisher, a Community, Chamber, Business & Media consultant & speaker. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column runs 60+ communities around the country. The founder of Truly-Local, dedicated to assisting communities, their businesses and local media to build synergies, thus creating more vibrant communities. He can be reached at:

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