Local services make great gifts

The Emich sisters, owners of Shine

Most people have stuff, and many have far too much of it. What a lot of people don’t have, though, and may not buy for themselves in a down economy are things like a meal at a downtown restaurant, a massage at an independently owned spa, or that much needed tune-up at a local automotive shop. This year, when thinking about what to give those special somebodies in your life, consider giving them a service that they can use or enjoy. And, when that gift comes from a local service provider, you’re also gifting that independent business owner, their employees and the local economy in general. Gifting a local service really is a gift that keeps giving.

Coloradans are expected to spend $13.1 billion throughout the 2012 holiday season on purchases from oil changes to holiday hosting expenses, according to the Mile High Business Alliance. Where we spend that money can directly impact our neighbors. If spent locally, on service-based gifts, it can actually pay for someone’s hourly wage or even create a job.

Imagine if all — or even just 10 percent of the $13.1 billion — was spent locally this year. According to Mile High Business Alliance, money spent locally recirculates at least three times directly back into communities. It creates jobs, improves wages and boosts the economic health of an area.

“Studies show that local businesses recirculate money more often and more quickly in the local economy,” says Mickki Langston, founder and executive director of Mile High Business Alliance. “The economic multiplier of a local business is much higher than a national chain.”

Last year, Coloradans spent $12.6 billion during November and December. If just 20 percent of those purchases were made at local retailers, it would translate to a $2.5 billion boost to the state’s economy over two months, explains Langston.

Spending that money on services not only gives the people on your holiday shopping list an experience rather than a thing, but it might well provide your neighbor with a job.

“The busier the service industry is, the more people who are needed to support those businesses,” says Terri Takata-Smith, director of marketing and communications for Downtown Boulder. “And, not only does it give back to the community, but giving someone an experience or a service is a great twist on the standard type of gift.”

Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place employs 40 people and sources at least 10 percent of the food they serve from local providers. And, this summer, they sourced 70 percent from local providers during peak growing season. Gifting someone a gift card to Shine or another locally owned downtown restaurant that offers local food directly supports their employees and local farmers.

“Shine’s vision is to support local businesses and the local economy,” says Jill Emich, co-owner of Shine. “We want to provide our community with jobs so we can all thrive.”

Gifting a local service also boosts the community’s sense of peace and contentment during the holiday season because business owners and their employees feel supported when their financial stresses are alleviated, explains Meredith Guthrie, spa manager at Sensorielle Natural & Organic Wellness Spa. She and owner Jewl Petteway explain that the best gift for a loved one is a gift that promotes wellness.

“When you purchase a gift certificate for a service from a local business, you not only are taking care of the person’s body and mind, which is so essential in these difficult transitory times, but are also stimulating the local economy by providing a job to your peers,” says Petteway. “Everyone benefits when you support local and independently owned businesses by keeping your money in the local economy and stimulating job growth with your mindful support.”

And, keeping money in the local economy supports jobs here, rather than abroad in places like China, explains David Pruess, coowner of Chicago Hair, a hair salon that’s been locally owned and operated in Boulder since 1989.

“Anytime you can keep money in the local economy, that’s great,” says Pruess. “Chances are that the business owners and stylists live in that same community. Gifting someone a haircut or a highlight rather than an iPod ensures that you are directly paying for someone’s living wage here and not supporting an industry based in somewhere like China where people are not making a living wage.”

And gifting a service, such as a carpet cleaning or car tune up rather than a thing has economic as well as environmental benefits.

“In a down economy, maintenance is key,” says Barry Joe Howard, owner of Request Carpet Cleaning, which has been servicing the Front Range since 2001 and employs 33 community members. “Gifting someone a service like a carpet cleaning helps that person to prevent having to replace those carpets, which is expensive. It also helps me keep my employees employed and earning a living wage.”

This holiday season, we have control over where and how we spend our money, continues Howard. Investing locally in service-based gifts empowers and enriches the life of not only the recipient, but also the people in our community who provide valuable services.

“Money is power, in so many ways,” says Langston of Mile High Business Alliance. “For each of us, it is an opportunity for us to directly impact the state of our local economy.”

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