Investing in your community

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Have I got a deal for you! I’m going to give you the opportunity to invest in your community. You can become one of those “movers and shakers” we hear about time and time again.

I don’t care what community you’re in, be it the city of Cornwall or the town of Alexandria or the village of Ingleside, I have a plan for you to invest in your community. I don’t need a lot of your money. What I do need is a lot of commitment from you to support your own community’s retailers and merchants first before you start looking elsewhere to spend your money this Christmas season. That means the shopper in Alexandria looks in his or her own backyard before looking, say to Cornwall, just down the road. It means the Cornwall resident checks out the deals in their city before looking longingly, at the big smoke of Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto. That doesn’t mean you won’t end up in another centre. I’m just urging as your Christmas shopping gets underway in earnest to check it out locally then let the pebble effect take place.

The President of the Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce, Scott Armstrong, said it all in a recent interview when he said, “It really is about investing in your community.”

Armstrong said it’s been a bit slow for our local retailers. “Our expectation is that we start to see things bounce back throughout this Christmas season and start feeling a little more like normal by the time we get into the New Year,” he said, “Our optimism about a turnaround has been impacted by the situation with our bridge, however, I’m not using that as the ultimate excuse for any hesitation by the marketplace, but I think from a resilience perspective, it’s probably been a bit slower than we would have anticipated or hoped for.”

Part of the come-back answer is shopping locally. Support your local merchants and retailers, who in turn pay taxes, employ perhaps your sons or daughters and who do their shopping locally as well. “We’ve been banging on this note for a long time on something called the ‘multiplier effect.’ What it is, if you were to think of it, from an investment perspective, then you spend a dollar and it turns into something five times its size to the local economy. A dollar spent here in Cornwall will come back to us through city taxes, through employee wages to the purchase of materials and supplies at other independent businesses. At the end of the day, you can’t ‘guilt’ people into spending money in your community but we do have great selection and we have great merchandise, products and services. You can get anything here that you can get anywhere else and at the same time you can play a part in building the future of the community because that’s been a focus—to try to take Cornwall to a new level of prosperity. Every dollar that gets spent here is going to help us do that,” said Armstrong.

Thinking you’ll get a great deal in some other centre, State-side or otherwise, tends to lose its lustre when you factor in your travel time, parking, and your personal time. Then there’s the inconvenience of what happens if something goes wrong with that item of purchase that needs to be returned or repaired. Again, time spent travelling to your point of purchase takes away from the obvious added advantages of shopping locally. Time and time again, I hear people saying, “well the so and so merchant in my community doesn’t have the selection I can find in bigger centres.” They may not have the selection immediately on hand but they have access to that selection. My advice is to let them do the leg work. You put in the order and then you sit back and wait to check it out. You’re not obligated to buy it, if it’s not the exact thing you want so you can bet the business person will do everything in their power to get exactly what you want. When they do score that sale, that money stays in the community as mentioned earlier. If you head to some community that isn’t even part of the immediate region, you can kiss those dollars goodbye. They’ll multiply five times in the community, in which they were left, but they are pretty well gone forever from your own community and we’re all the poorer for it. “When you start comparing apples to apples, the prices in Cornwall are very competitive and as you indicate, it’s not going to cost you your time; it’s not going to cost you money to travel elsewhere. If you were thinking of shopping across the border, then there’s the exchange rate and the duty factor to be taken into account not to mention the obvious trouble we’ve been having with the border crossing,” says Armstrong. “We’re stomping our feet as loud as we can for anyone who will listen. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a great sense of urgency on behalf of the federal government to find a long term solution. That’s what’s been the most frustrating part, the lack of leadership by the federal government to resolve this issue. Notwithstanding the fact this international portal is open at least with this temporary location on the Cornwall side of the bridge, there have been periods of time since that temporary location has been established, the bridge has had to close for a variety of different reasons. What that does in the longer term is it creates a perception among tourists and those Americans who would consider coming across to do some shopping in Canada. It also becomes a factor from a transportation purview. If you’re transporting goods or products internationally and the bridge is closed or productivity is slowed down, then all of a sudden Cornwall is a non-issue for your business whether you’re an importer or exporter or if you’re just someone who is doing shopping on a weekend,” said Armstrong.

It’s one thing to extol the virtues of shopping locally but there’s a message that has to be sent to retailers as well.

Scott Armstrong says, “It comes down to service. That’s what gets the customers into whatever store they shop at. If I get what I pay for and the business stood behind what they sold me, they have a customer.”

So as we approach that which is usually the busiest time of the year for any merchant or retailer, think local. Remember, each time you buy a Christmas gift or service locally, you’re giving yourself a Christmas present as well because you’re helping move ahead, the Cornwall economy or whatever community you happen to reside.

As the President of the Cornwall and area Chamber of Commerce Scott Armstrong said, “It really is about investing in your community.”

I’m John Divinski.

Organizations: Area Chamber of Commerce, Chamber of Commerce Scott Armstrong

Geographic location: Cornwall, Alexandria, Ingleside Ottawa Montreal Toronto Canada

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