Op-Ed

Think locally, spend locally by shopping Kentucky

While I am not an economist, I do know one thing about the economy. It seems that just as we start to get some momentum along comes some release of data that throws a damper on our spirits and the economic bogeyman returns.

I am living this experience. My spouse, Larry, and I own an advertising agency in Lexington and have the good fortune to have purchased Meridian Communications, led by iconic advertising and public-relations executive Mary Ellen Slone, in the now-infamous October, 2008. To put this on your timeline, think failure of Lehman Brothers and its domino effect nearly taking down Wall Street.

Wall Street crashed into Main Street and businesses of all sizes have struggled, collapsed, shrunk and regrouped in an effort to adjust to the new order of things. Again, I am not an economist but I sure know a tidal wave of bad economic news when it hits the shores of Lexington.

Even Lexington, thought to be recession-proof due to the nature of its major employers, has suffered immensely.

In previous economic downturns, Lexington did manage pretty well. But not this time around. Current unemployment has not discriminated. Economic sectors which had been spared in the past were not spared this time. I have found myself engaged in conversations with friends who were visiting the unemployment office routinely to keep themselves in good standing so that during job searches the check would continue to arrive in their mailbox. I didn't have those conversations in past times of economic challenge.

Houses in Lexington's hottest neighborhoods are no longer being flipped. In fact, a SOLD sign takes a long time to show up anywhere these days. Throughout Lexington, business is soft and fragile.

I do not write this piece to wallow in gloom and doom. I have a simple thought. What if we all did a little bit better thinking locally with our spending? From the largest spenders to the smallest, this could make a difference.

What if the University of Kentucky looked at its vendors and gave an edge to those based in Kentucky? What if we, as local and regional businesses, spent our money with Kentucky-based companies? What if our families worked to spend our dollars at places that are employing our friends and neighbors?

I know how easy it is to go online for our consumer needs, but why not visit the Web sites of local businesses? You would still have the convenience of shopping online, but those dollars would stay near home.

I want my friends to get back to work. I want the housing industry that is vital to the success of so many other businesses to improve. I want local businesses that we know to be talented and competitive to have a shot at the dollars being spent, rather than have those dollars go to Nashville, to New York, to any place other than Kentucky.

We are all spending our money more carefully these days. Let's not just think about how much we spend. Let's think about where we spend it. Lexington is a great city in which to live and, with some thought to spending more intentionally, we can keep dollars moving in Lexington.

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