This city needs a concentrated, coordinated Shop Local campaign. It needs its birth to begin with the City's Economic Development offices, be embraced by Tourism Barrie and the Downtown Business Improvement Board, the Golden Mile, all the Mall Merchants associations, BIN Management and Aerarium who are landlords to so many, the Chamber of Commerce, the newspapers, radio and television stations, online business directories, and the library. And me. And you.

It needs to be an economic mantra that reaches every person in the community who is spending money. Would the person in this community who's NOT spending money, please stand up!

While many of us 'oldtimers' (gosh--did I say that?) try to remain downtown-loyal, many others are racing into malls, into all-night box stores, and into large chains that are managed locally but not owned locally. Each location offers a choice.

This is not a 'shop downtown' column. It's a shop-where-the-business-is-owned-locally column. The children's used clothing store at Cedar Pte, locally owned. The vacuum cleaner store, locally owned. The bookstore that may be part of a franchise chain, but is owned locally. These businesses are all over Barrie; in our malls, in our business parks, in strip malls, in our commercial meccas. There is always a choice.

To honour the business of a franchise owner, a business owner, a retail owner, an owner who's part of a buying group, a locally owned electronics store with a real repair counter... well, it just makes sense.

To think you're saving $20 shopping anywhere else is surface foolhardiness. It's the most expensive purchase we can make... supporting the economy of somewhere else.

To buy the lawnmower at the small hardware store may be a $20 investment in our own community. That's an investment in a business that employs people with full time jobs, that participates in community fundraisers, that sponsors ball teams and hockey teams, that accepts a coin box at its cash register for a local charity. It's a business that is the economic backbone of our community.

In the next few years we're going to continue to feel the winds of economic change in this community. They blew in about a decade ago and continue to take shape, along with new populations. The thinking buyer, the consumer who wants to make a truly smart buying decision will be much more effective by standing back for a minute and looking at the big picture.

Live here. Work here (ideally). Shop here. Contribute here. Benefit here. Access products and services that are grown here. Contribute to our joint strength.

It's to be encouraged. It needs to be a city-wide campaign. It needs to include social media, billboards on the 400, messages in tax and utility bills, thank-you's on park benches and in media ads.

"Thank you for spending your money with a Barrie-owned business."

It's so important.

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