Get More Than Vocal About Local!

As We Re-Open the Economy, Let’s Re-Prioritize What’s in Our Wallets

By Virginia A. Varela

I very much appreciate the commitment of Inside Sacramento and its partners to our local economy—and I think it’s high time the rest of us get more than vocal about “local.”

As we re-open the economy, we should re-prioritize our wallets in terms of where each bill or credit card charge should be directed. The reasoning is simple: Unless you’re leading a double life, you don’t live somewhere else. You live and probably work here.

If you Google taglines about the value and benefit of buying “local” you may be surprised—and likely delighted—by how many there are and in how many cities throughout the country. They urge you to do almost everything local: shop, bank, spend, eat, enjoy and simply be.

We hope this feeling seizes visitors to the Sacramento region when they patronize our philharmonic, opera, ballet companies, theaters, youth symphony, art galleries, shops and restaurants. We want them to know we’re proud of our homegrown culture, which is diverse, creative, lively and uncompromising.

After the tragedy of 9/11, Visit Sacramento reset its focus: It realized people were apprehensive about flying to a conference across the country (or up and down their own state) and began to position Sacramento as a perfect destination you could drive to, from most parts of California, in a day or less. And they urged the region’s residents to visit their capital city and enjoy what it had to offer. It was a smart move, the kind of thing we need to adapt for today’s uncertain economy.

But the risk-takers—who dare to open their own Midtown, Downtown and suburban jewelry stores, ethnic restaurants, yarn shops, craft boutiques, hair salons, tattoo parlors and maker spaces, or who cover local stories for local news outlets, including social media—are the true engineers of our economy.

According to the United States Small Business Administration, small businesses make up 99.7 percent of U.S. employer firms, 64 percent of net new private-sector jobs, more than 49 percent of private-sector employment and nearly 43 percent of private-sector payroll.
As I write this, many of our local restaurants, specialty stores and Downtown retailers are on the brink of insolvency or closure, through no fault of their own. Many small business owners are suffering economic hardship, especially those affected by the vandalism and looting. They’re operating with skeletal crews, worried about meeting payroll and unsure what the future will bring. They are in need of every sort of support possible as they seek to recover from the extended coronavirus shutdown.

Large chain stores and national and global banks benefited from government regulations. Let’s help local businesses recover by “local-izing” our shopping (and yes, our banking) to help our small businesses keep our neighbors employed. Let’s link arms, figuratively or literally, walk into the brave new world of here and now, and be more than vocal about local.

Virginia A. Varela is president and chief executive officer of Golden Pacific Bank, which has three branches—its headquarters in Sacramento’s Midtown area and two in the Sutter/Yuba region.

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