Just a few short years ago, the McLean County Chamber of Commerce initiated a campaign titled “Make Your Money Mean More.” This was a significant effort created and driven by small business owners, talented creative professionals and community leaders committed to building and sustaining our local economy. There were advertisements on billboards, in the paper - we even had our own mascot Max, who flew through our local parades!
Make Your Money Mean More was a reminder that the money you spend here stays here. While this message has been and will always be important, the concept of “buying local” and its relevance for you as a citizen of our community to understand and embrace is more meaningful now than ever.
Together, we have all embarked on a time that is economically, socially, and even politically unfamiliar. This trifecta has influenced and diverted the way we act, the way we interact, the way we think, and the way we spend in a matter of weeks. What we knew to be true at the beginning of 2020 is no longer the case. Our new “norm” may be short term, it may be long term - we simply don’t know. What we do know is the time to “Make Your Money Mean More” is more relevant now, and this is why:
Big business, small business, and all business - regardless of the current classification of the executive order - is essential! Nearly every business owner I’ve visited with this last week is struggling. Businesses have been forced to close or significantly alter their operations. Businesses have been deemed “non-essential,” businesses no longer have a supply chain, businesses can no longer afford their employees and some businesses have already closed for good.
When a business is successfully operating, not only does it employ people, but it can enhance the goods and services that we as consumers appreciate and expect. There is revenue to invest in community development, philanthropy to our non-profits and social services. Businesses pay taxes which invest in municipal efforts. How important is that today with our first responders in the battlegrounds of COVID-19! Let’s also not forget with our “stay-at-home order” the importance of municipal infrastructure so our toilets flush, our water drains, and our homes have access to electricity. Successful business is imperative for our community’s economy and ability to thrive and prosper.
In today’s environment, the business is the what, but their owners and employees are the who. Everyone knows someone that lost their job, lost their benefits or has decreased hours. There are those who have a spouse who no longer works or a family that can’t find adequate childcare. The employees, our residents and citizens, have been crippled by COVID-19. Statewide unemployment claims were 133,776 for March alone. This compares to 27,493 just a year ago.
When you see social media posts about carryout, curbside or delivery, it’s real. When you read about businesses that are now selling product online and providing porch delivery, it’s real. When you see the unemployment number skyrocket as indicated, it’s real. These are our friends, our neighbors, our people, who make our community and our economy.
If you find yourself asking how you can make a difference, my response is, “Make Your Money Mean More”! Your purchase from our local businesses supporting their employees who are our friends and neighbors is more important than you know.
Moore is president and CEO, McLean County Chamber of Commerce.
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