Tonight marks my last meeting on the board of Somerville Local First.
After three and half years, I’m stepping back in order to focus on my studies as I begin a Ph.D. program this fall.
But the work goes on.
Somerville Local First builds a sustainable local economy and vibrant community. We work with business owners and entrepreneurs, providing technical assistance and networking opportunities. We educate community members on the value of shopping locally, and we bring the community together in celebration of our local charm.
(Pro Tip: Somerville Local First is hosting a Back to the Future, 50’s-themed prom on June 26._
There are lots of reasons while local is important.
Local businesses create more and better jobs. Locally sourced products tend to be more environmentally friendly. Locally owned businesses are better for the local economy – bolstering the tax base and benefiting from owners invested in the community.
But more even than that, local businesses are important because –
Local businesses are who we are.
Local businesses determine the character of a community.
Whether quirky or traditional, upscale or casual, it’s the local businesses that stand out when thinking about what makes a community unique.
Anyone can have an iHop, but only Somerville has the Neighborhood Restaurant.
A community with local businesses is one where people know each other. Where neighbors say hello and the guy behind the bar is an old friend. Indeed, they are communities where everybody knows your name.
In our increasingly anonymous, standardized world, you can’t undervalue the importance of that.
Nobody wants to be a cog in the machine or a brick in the wall, and local businesses help fight that tendency.
There’s something profoundly radical, something subversively democratizing, in the local movement.
In response to the trend of big box stores putting mom & pop shops out of business, the local movement seeks not only to counteract the negative environmental and economic impact, but more fundamentally, the local movement seeks to reclaim our communities as our communities.
There may be red states and blue state, liberal brands and conservative brands, but local businesses remind us – we are all just people.
People with different interests, experiences, and affiliations, of course, but people who share a community, and who can find – literally – common ground, even if they can’t seem to agree.
If we are ever to solve the great problems of our country, if we are ever to unite and find ways of working together and improving together, we will need local businesses to get us there.
So, yes, even as I step back from leadership with Somerville Local First, the work goes on.
The work always goes on.