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By Rhonda Abrams
This year, if you want to do something to help your community, the

environment, and yourself, there’s one easy step to take: patronize

your local small businesses. Not only should you shop local stores, but hire local contractors and use local service providers.


Once, Americans put their trust in local companies. We preferred to buy from the shop down the street or hire the contractor who lived in our community. But after decades of incessant marketing by huge corporations, many Americans now trust national brands more than their neighbors.

As small businesspeople and entrepreneurs, let’s help reverse that trend. After all, it’s in your own best interest to shop from local stores and patronize local service providers and contractors.

It’s a wise choice to buy from local, small businesses. Why?

1. Small companies have gotten smarter. With such strong competition from mega-corporations, it’s hard for a small business to survive unless they offer better products or services at competitive prices with outstanding customer service. Business improvement districts (BIDs) have brought new life to Main Streets. 

2. Big companies have gotten lazy. A brand used to mean consistent quality. Increasingly, huge companies are run by CEOs who grow their companies – and their huge reimbursement packages – by acquisitions and huge marketing budgets. Commitment to quality and the customer is lost. 

3. Local businesses build local communities. When you use a local business, you improve all of your local economy, create jobs, keep money flowing throughout your community, build your tax base, and support your schools, fire and police departments.

Let’s say you want to remodel your kitchen, and you’re deciding between using a local contractor or using a home service from a huge national chain.

A local building contractor is more likely to buy materials from local suppliers than a national chain. They’re more likely to discover the local manufacturer of unique cabinet handles, giving that local company business. They’ll buy their truck from a local car dealer. They’ll use a local accountant, bookkeeper, and attorney. When they make profits, they’re more likely than a national company to buy a home locally and donate to local charities.  When they experience hard times, small businesses are much more reluctant to make lay-offs than huge corporations.

Even if the mega-home store uses a local sub-contractor, they’re going to wring the lowest price out of them, meaning they’ll hire sub-contractors who are less likely to spend the time to do a quality job. Profits get sent back to headquarters instead of staying in your home town. And they’ll cut costs – and employees – whenever they need to improve their numbers for Wall Street investors.

That means it’s in your own best interest to use a local building contractor if you’re a local car dealer, attorney, accountant, home builder, employee, charity, teacher, or just about anyone else.

Over the last few years, a few things reminded me of the opportunities and advantages of shopping local and patronizing small contractors and service businesses:

1. I had shoulder surgery and couldn’t drive. That year, I did most of my holiday shopping at stores I could walk to in the downtown area where I live. I discovered unique products and gifts, not to mention real customer service. Many of these stores have remained my favorites.

2. Gas prices soared. Before I get in my car to drive to the big box superstore, I walk to the nearest store (alas, the local drug stores are now only outlets of national chains). It might cost a few pennies more for toothpaste, but I’ve saved the cost of gas and time. And I’m helping the environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

3. We hired Home Depot to put on a roof.  The roof immediately started leaking, failed three independent inspections, and we finally had to hire an attorney. We discovered, too late, that many others had similar experiences with Home Depot Home Services. Our reliance on a big brand name turned out to be totally misplaced.

It’s time to, once again, put your trust – and your money – in small companies. Patronize your local businesses and build your local communities at the same time.

Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2006

Rhonda Abrams is the author of Winning Presentation In A Day and other books for entrepreneurs. Register for her free business tips newsletter at