The Path to Universal Success Begins in Your Backyard

When and where we can buy local, we must do so. The impact to our local economies and quality of life is clearly impacted in a positive way by such purchasing decisions. As the global economic landscape continues to change, it becomes more important to retain dollars, increase jobs, and grow. The result of supporting local independently owned businesses strengthens our economy.

Local collaboration and consciousness is an effective mode of creating traction and demand by allowing our neighbors to drive growth and build and share wealth and sustainability. It is easier to keep local customers than to attract them from a competitive global landscape. We can grow stronger locally and then act and deliver more successfully globally. We go to the global market in a more meaningful and lasting way when we have grown strong in our own backyards.

As a young camper 40-plus years ago at the Centerville Mills YMCA camp in Bainbridge, I was taught by a young camp counselor the meaning of community and strength in numbers. Sitting around a campfire, he introduced sticks to the circle. One by one he passed out individual sticks to us and asked us to break them. We all broke our singular sticks rather easily. Then he passed each of us another stick and then had us pass them to one fellow camper in the circle. He asked each of us to try and break that bundle of sticks. None of us could do so as we passed it along to the camper next to us. Clearly around that campfire he demonstrated all we ever needed to know about strength in numbers and how valuable we are to the whole. Together we are strong and unbreakable. Alone we are fragile and not as strong. We needed each other.

This year you can increase your local spending consciousness and impact by thinking about and applying the following:

Local purchasing power and impactful results begin by identifying with a local city that is part of a region in which one lives or where a company is headquartered. The region I live in is Northeast Ohio. It is considered to be composed of four metropolitan areas known as Greater Cleveland, the Akron metropolitan area, the Canton–Massillon metropolitan area, and the Youngstown metropolitan area. Backed by the State of Ohio’s new tax structure and millions of dollars put into education, technology, and workforce development, the Northeast Ohio region provides all the fundamentals of success in today’s worldwide market. This allows us to satisfy shopping and service needs in our own backyard. These resources empower residents to make conscious purchasing decisions with the knowledge that minor changes in our spending habits can make a major impact on the region.

When and where we are able, we should start out by buying within the communities in which we live, own homes, and pay taxes in … then in the region in which we live … and then the state … and so on. The closer to home we make our purchases and pay for services, the more the dollars stay in the area and have a direct impact.

When we are in stores we can begin a dialogue with the owners, managers, and workers by asking the five basic questions of who, what, when, where and why they buy from? If they do not carry a locally made grown or manufactured product you are aware of, you can ask if they know it exists as an alternative. Can they bring it in? As a consumer, we have a right to ask, “Who do you use?” or “Where do you source that?” and to perhaps suggest where they could procure a local item or service.

A Heights Story: The Wine Spot

According to Angie Pohlman, executive director of the Heights-Hillcrest Regional Chamber of Commerce, “Almost every time we make a decision to spend a dollar, whether it is for a good or a service, we can choose to spend locally. We can think of the decision of where our dollars are spent, truly, as the life-blood of our community and our region. Where are our dollars flowing? Are they circulating here to keep us healthy? Or flowing out beyond where our neighbors and friends are building the local economy? Additionally, we can choose to have bona fide relationships with local business owners. My experience has certainly taught me that when you have a relationship with the business owners and their employees, they’re invested in creating long-term customer relationships, and that translates into great customer experiences as well.”

Adam and Susan Fleischer founded The Wine Spot in December 2011. They decided to follow a passion of family and community and invest their time, talent, and treasure in their community into a store on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. A sustainable model was designed to buy and sell local — in Cleveland Heights first, then Northeast Ohio, and then Ohio, in that order, when and where possible. They make their home in the city, send their kids to the schools there, and pay taxes there. They decided in a strong way to make a commitment locally. They would put money right back into the community they loved and lived in, paid taxes to, and in which they were raising their families.

Adam took a step back after 20 years of working outside Cleveland in the IT healthcare field. He had worked for companies located in places such as Atlanta and St. Louis. His wife Susan is a pharmacist. With their children getting older, the vision of doing something else close to home became more important to him and his wife. They strived to see the city be vibrant and dynamic. They wished to see things go in a better direction. They became entrepreneurs and combined their love of community, family, and wine and opened The Wine Spot. Adam and Sue made a conscious effort to invest 100 percent in Cleveland Heights. They would further their commitment not just by living there and raising their family there but also by going into business there.

“We are working 350 (to) 365 days a year employing people, eating, shopping, paying taxes, and supporting the community here,” Adam voices with enthusiasm. “We are all in.”

Adam is able to stay committed to local and Northeast Ohio and Ohio products in most areas (although wine is a little less local). He is able to remain very true to his commitment with the micro craft beer he procures. Lucky for those who enjoy craft beer, Northeast Ohio and Ohio is producing some of the best beer in country and is increasingly landing on the map by continuing to realize gold medals and attention at national events. Three brewers are now rated as being in the top 100 craft breweries in the world, including No. 17 Hoppin’ Frog Brewery of Akron, No. 35 Great Lakes Brewing, and No. 97 Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery of Athens, Ohio. “We are blessed to be creating some of the finest craft beers in the world,” Adam says. “Now we have three top craft beers in the world. It is a no brainer to source these and other fantastic beers locally, including right from our own back yard.”

Adam and Susan remain big advocates and leaders in the city and Cedar Lee Special Improvement District. There are other SID’s in the area, including Coventry and Cedar Fairmount, that specifically are in place to promote businesses in the area and attracting new businesses to locate there. The strength of the SID allows it to help attract and promote locally independently owned business in the Cedar Lee Area — an example of many such organizations focused on promoting the local model.

The efforts of collaborative branding and advertising of events and promotions sponsored by the SID help to create a brand for the area as a destination — the “Cedar Lee District 1 Amazing Mile.” This work helps brand the area as a destination and attracts and retains customers from the far east and west to come and spend the day or evening at one of the theaters and parks and enjoy one of its many eateries or craft shops, such as Mitchell’s Candies, The Stone Oven, Parnell’s Pub, The Katz Club Diner or The Bottle House. “The creation of this branding is important for the success of all of us, for if one us does well, it helps all of us, as we are all in it together,” Adam claims. He goes on to add, “Statistics prove that about 45 cents of every dollar spent locally stays in the community vs. about 15 cents of every dollar spent otherwise.”

In the wine reference books, more and more maps of the major wine-producing areas around the world include Northeast Ohio. Don’t laugh — yes, it’s often thought of as too sweet, cheap or non-sophisticated. However, according to Mr. Fleischer, “We have serious people making very serious wines in the area — from The Grand River area and other parts. We have great Ohio wines and beers and cheese and food products from the region.”

Many other local complimentary food products to wine and beer are stocked and sourced for purchase at The Wine Spot and for inclusion in gift baskets, including Mayfield Road Creamery, Mitchell’s Candies, Restless Coffee, Clark Pope Catering, Uncommon Grains, and Hummingbird Bakery.

Adam takes great pride in telling that much of his store is built with A Piece of Cleveland furniture, which utilizes repurposed wood from the area — yet again an example to demonstrate sustainable local support for the local economy. He also engaged two Cleveland Heights firms, Blatchford Architects (to help design the shop) and Monroe Constructs, led by Kevin Monroe (to help build out the store).

A unique feature of their store is The Art Spot — a partnership through the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA). The student-run gallery features art on The Wine Spot walls in two-month segments — new exhibits for art to be shown and sold by local students. The gallery also generates interest and foot traffic in the store. The Fleischers participated in the Cleveland Garlic Festival presented last summer by the North Union Farmers Market along with other local entities that support locally sustainable farmer produce. The event draws over 20,000 from five states. This unique festival partners with other locally minded.

Adam notes that, “The Wine Spot’s participation in community events and fundraising is an effort to help build on the generation of revenue-producing events that can be counted on to help raise the collective conscious of supporting the local economy. We need to augment other sources of revenue. The work we do helps generate value and income through tax generation, streetscape work, building better school systems and community. When we buy local, we are investing in our neighbors and our neighborhoods.”

This year we purchased gift baskets for many of our customers from The Wine Spot as it includes many local products in its wonderful gift baskets. At BlueBridge, we believe in the powerful tool of buying local and the positive multiplier effect it has in our community.

Local Service Providers

When considering a service provider, it is just as economically important as when choosing products. The company I work at, BlueBridge Networks, serves many small, mid-market, and enterprise-class companies and institutions. BlueBridge Networks, a major Northeast Ohio provider of data-center services, such as cloud computing and managed services, is now the primary data center for Cleveland-based CampusEAI, a provider of shared IT services for more than 250 K-12 and higher-education institutions around the world. Through this union, CampusEAI will rely on BlueBridge’s best-in-class collocation centers to ensure secure and reliable IT services for millions of students, faculty, and alumni of schools in more than 10 countries. This is an example of two great and innovative Cleveland companies serving the world.

CampusEAI’s products and services include the myCampus portal, the most widely used campus portal and web content management solution in higher education; a private cloud network, application, and database monitoring; and cloud-based disaster recovery. Member schools include University of Arizona, Staffordshire University in the United Kingdom, and The Australian National University.

Because of its vast reach, CampusEAI’s IT services must be readily accessible to meet the 24/7 needs of member schools around the world. “We are pleased to expand our CampusCloud footprint to BlueBridge Networks in Downtown Cleveland,” says Anjli Jain, executive director of the CampusEAI Consortium. “The BlueBridge best-in-class datacenter services provide our members with the assurance that their data is secure and available 24x7x365.”

“We’re blessed in Northeast Ohio with an abundance and variety of technology firms to support local companies and their IT needs,” says Brad Nellis, executive director of the Northeast Ohio Software Association. “We certainly support enterprise IT executives buying best-of-breed software or services for their operations. We’d ask nothing less. However, we’re quite certain that our local tech companies can offer that best-of-breed service. Local executives need to be sure to look for it here in their own backyard. Doing so not only supports their company but also helps the local tech industry grow, adding jobs, career opportunities, taxes, and more. And those are good things for all of us.”

Local utilization of service organizations headquartered here helps to retain dollars and supports an augmentation of your staff and business. Local reinvestments enable strong strategic partnerships in a more effective manner, extending one’s reach from local to global. Put your dollars in with others and make your community and businesses stronger and more viable, adding to your quality of life.

Link to CBC Magazine: