Tricounty News

Buying local stimulates Minnesota's economy

The holiday shopping season officially starts each year on the day after Thanksgiving. That means Minnesotans are again asking themselves what gifts they should get for loved ones this season. Simply put, do you want your holiday season purchases to stimulate the Chinese economy, or Minnesota's? The answer begins with buying Minnesota-made items like K.C. Miles Leatherworks, Kimball. Moving Minnesota's economy forward, Minnesota 2020 offers a Made in Minnesota online directory of manufacturers and gift items, accompanied by our report, "Made in Minnesota 2008: Boosting Minnesota's Economy in Tough Economic Times." They're both available at. The report notes that local and state economies keep 68 cents of every dollar at home and circulating in the economy when gift purchases are made and sold at local, independent businesses. That contrasts with 43 cents of every dollar spent at national retail chains not based in Minnesota. Even more dramatic, nearly the entire dollar spent on buying a Minnesota-made product from local retailers and manufacturers stays here if most raw materials are also locally grown or made. Given an opportunity to let gift buying spur the local economy, we encourage holiday shoppers to set aside at least 10 percent of their gift purchases for locally made and sold Minnesota products. Households capable of such discretionary spending could genuinely influence the Minnesota economy by targeting 25 percent of their purchases for local products. This can be done if shoppers pause for a moment and think about what gifts from Minnesota would be welcomed by distant relatives and friends scattered about the country and world. Every corner of rural Minnesota, and not just the Twin Cities, has unique entrepreneurs making high-quality food, clothing, art, craft and general merchandise products that send the message of love and friendship from Minnesota. For instance, the Heritage Shop at the Heritage Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead offers a wide assortment of products from northwestern Minnesota entrepreneurs. The White Bear Gift Basket Company in Forest Lake prepares and ships baskets of Minnesota made products almost everywhere. And there are gourmet chocolatiers across the state, from Wabasha to Willmar to the Sweet Swede Candy Shoppe in Lindstrom, doing the same. Art cooperatives in Rochester and Grand Marais, plus individual artist galleries like Gossman Pottery in New London, all offer unique, quality products suitable for gift giving. For that matter, really unique Minnesota wood products can be secured through the Minnesota Wood Campaign collaborative and its True North Woods Wood Products offices in Deer River and St. Paul. Southwestern Minnesota entrepreneurs offer such diverse products as Buffalo Billfolds in Worthington and Brau Brothers beers in Lucan. Going online for research in the Minnesota Gift Guide can be fun as you discover creative entrepreneurs in your area. And it can be economically important for your city, county and state. Keep in mind that all Minnesota-based retailing companies, including Target, Best Buy and Christopher & Banks, reported disappointing October sales leading up to the holiday season. Nationally, retailers had anticipated a 4 percent November-December sales increase from last year, but no one now believes that is possible. In response, the National Retail Federation is asking Congress for another stimulus package to encourage consumer spending this holiday season. This is understandable given that 70 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product relies on retail sales transactions. But it is, at best, a quick fix-not a solution to America's economic problems. What is overlooked with such quick fixes is that a huge percentage-perhaps nearly 50 percent of a consumer economic stimulus package ends up as unintended foreign aid to China and other major exporters of consumer goods to the United States. One doesn't have to be anti-China or anti-free trade to see the shortfall in such stimulus activity. Minnesotans won't solve the nation's economic problems through gift buying. But we do have the capacity to make this a memorable holiday season by helping ourselves by helping our neighbors and our local economy. Matt Entenza & Lee Egerstrom  Minnesota 2020