By Tim Pierick
President, Chamber of Commerce board of directors
When I was growing up on a small farm (165 acres) in Wisconsin there seemed to be a sense of loyalty to your family, your neighbors, your state and your country. My dad was a contract farmer and in a cooperative fashion worked with 12 other local farmers to produce and harvest crops that were then sold to Del Monte. In return, during the winter my dad worked in the shop repairing equipment. While I don’t remember any barns being raised, if you needed fence work, you would just call your neighbor for help.
If you needed to buy something, you went to the local grocery, hardware or department store.
I think we’ve lost that in recent years. The drive to the bottom of prices has an effect on every community. The chains are getting larger and larger and more impersonal by the day. Large corporations seem to have lost their sense of loyalty to their country, shipping jobs overseas and often locating off shore to reduce their tax load. Because wages have been stagnant for the last 30 years relative to inflation there is the need to save money on our purchases. In this consumer-driven economy we have great control of our future through our purchases but have ceded our power through our buying practices. How does this affect my friends and neighbors?
I believe in free and fair trade, but how can a worker here, making a living wage, compete against someone making 10 cents an hour? I don’t believe you can drive your foreign-made car to Walmart, buy everything made in China and then legitimately complain that your children can’t land a decent, well-paying job. The search for the lowest prices depresses the local wages and creates the vicious cycle we are in.
It is time to think about how our every purchase affects those around us. What I like to do it is think about Enumclaw first, then the Plateau, the county, the state of Washington and the United States. When you do have to buy something internationally, which we all do, our intentions should be to buy from a democracy where workers earn good wages, one that takes care of its environment.
There are plenty of local produce options around Enumclaw, there are great feed stores, an office supply store, lumber store just up the road on 410, two hardware stores in town, lots of great restaurants and locally-based coffee shops. I could go on forever. Even most franchises are locally owned and hire local people. The Internet is awesome but how do our purchases there benefit our local economy? The key is striking a balance to support your local economy by spending your money here as much as possible and send less overseas.
When it comes to having an impact on businesses through our purchasing power it only makes sense to keep it as local or national as possible. We have little influence on a company based in a foreign country, it is a lot easier to walk into a local business and talk to the owner about something you would like to purchase or file a complaint than spend time playing large corporation customer service run around or talking to someone in India.
What could be more patriotic than buying American and supporting and taking care of our own fellow citizens? We need to be strong here first before we can lead the rest of the world.
The Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce supports local businesses while realizing we live in a global economy.