Congresswoman Martha Roby

Representing the 2nd District of Alabama

Shopping Local Supports Jobs, Quality of Life

October 21, 2016
Representative Roby's Weekly Column

This past week I met with leaders from Alabama’s retail industry as they launched their “Shop Alabama” campaign – an effort to encourage consumers to shop at locally-owned or Alabama-based retailers. I was proud to lend my voice to this promotion, which supports thousands of home-grown Alabama businesses and the jobs they sustain.  
 
The retail industry employs more than 400,000 people in Alabama, making the industry as a whole the largest private sector employer in our state. Dollars spent shopping and dining help fuel our state’s economic engine by adding an enormous $19 billion to our economy annually. The impact is just as great on our state budgets, as retail sales tax account for $2 billion in revenue to fund critical state services. When we shop local, we support the livelihoods of our friends and neighbors and make it possible for government to function properly.
 
But, it isn’t all dollars and cents. There are intangible benefits that may be hard to measure, but are nonetheless valuable to our quality of life.  
 
Retail really can represent the heartbeat of a community. I have appreciated how so many cities and towns throughout the 2nd Congressional District have revitalized downtowns and other commerce districts to bring back shoppers and community life. All you have to do is walk down the street in Troy, Dothan, Andalusia, Abbeville, Prattville, Enterprise, Eufaula, Greenville, Ozark and others places to see how thriving local retail makes for a vibrant community. In my hometown of Montgomery, a renaissance of retail has breathed new life into downtown and helped fuel a tourism boom for our Capital City.
 
Local retailers also engage in the community in unique ways.  Whether it is sponsoring a little league team or helping host the high school drama club fundraiser, local shops play an important role in civic life. In fact, my son, George plays on a baseball team sponsored by Welle Studio, a boutique clothing store in Cloverdale that is owned and operated by friends of ours. There’s something special about shopping at an establishment that you know is investing back into your community in a personal way.
 
I think more and more people are seeing the value of community over convenience. When we shop locally, we aren’t just keeping our dollars at home and supporting the local economy, we are contributing to a sense of community that you just can’t find online. And these days, I believe we could all afford to spend a little less time on our computers and phones and a little more time interacting with our neighbors.
 
Pretty soon it will be the holiday shopping season, a critical time for most retail establishments. I encourage you to shop local first and help support the jobs and quality of life in your community.