BERKLEY — Oakland County passed its 2014 fiscal year budget Sept. 19 and included $200,000 to support a new program that aims to strengthen the local economy.
Democratic Oakland County Commissioner David Woodward, who represents Berkley and Royal Oak, pushed for the new program that will serve up several “Buy Local” public campaigns and a website database that will allow local businesses to find other businesses in the area they can work with.
“I’ve been a strong advocate of taking advantage of the assets we have in our communities, particularly communities with a downtown business district,” Woodward said. “Royal Oak and Berkley both have the mom-and-pop shops and local businesses that have been around forever. Those types of businesses offer up a unique sense of space and are a desire of the people living in those communities.”
Woodward cited reports that suggest 30 percent of every dollar spent in local businesses stays in the local economy. On top of that, Woodward said studies also show that shifting consumer spending by as little as 10 percent to local businesses yields significant job creation in the area.
“Local businesses have relationships with other local businesses, like accounting, printing or the local newspaper, so people network naturally and use each other because they have personal relationships,” Woodward said. “Money is the blood of the local economy, and if too much seeps out, it will bleed to death.”
The program is still in the planning stages, headed up by Economic Development and Community Affairs Director Irene Spanos. Spanos said the program has a tentative launch date of Jan. 1, 2014, but it could be sooner.
The main purpose of the program will be for people to go online to see if they can find what they are looking to buy locally, as well as businesses being able to find local distributors.
“There was a medical device company in the industrial park in Orion, and the company they were buying their parts from in California — the original products came from the same industrial park two doors down,” Spanos said. “We can also use this tool on trade missions to attract companies to Oakland County. We want it to be a big online marketing campaign that can save companies money and keep money in our economy.”
Spanos said for about every $120,000-$150,000 in sales that happen in Michigan, it equates to one new job in the state. Buying local not only keeps businesses in Oakland County, she said, but also helps create new jobs for the residents.
“Instead of buying a product of the same quality and same price from out of state, you can buy it from your neighbor, and the money stays here and circulates in our economy and creates jobs,” she said. “By creating new jobs, that is money circulating in our economy in our downtowns and at our shops. We want to help make those connections easier so that people can buy the things they need in their own community.”
Woodward said the investment by the county in the Buy Local campaign is one of the biggest by any county in the country. The program will work alongside the county’s Main Street program that aims to help communities build vibrant downtowns.
“The truth of the matter is, local shops are the backbone of the local economy, and when they are successful, other aspects are successful, and therefore the whole community is more resilient to national and sometimes global effects we can’t control,” Woodward said. “We can control where we buy our goods and services, and if we shift that to support our local economy, it will pay massive dividends long-term for the community.”