By Bill Derby, Publisher
Johnson City, Jonesborough and Washington County are considered the retail hub of the Tri-Cities. We have numerous retail stores and service companies in which to buy products and services.
At the annual ’State of the City, County, Town Luncheon,’ sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce serving Johnson City, Jonesborough and Washington County, all three mayors stressed the importance on which each community depends — the revenue of the sales tax dollar.
Johnson City Mayor David Tomita said, “We are a sales tax dependent economy, it’s just what makes us win or lose. There is only so much big box to go around. Big box retail is challenged right now, but not here, not yet. Because we are getting people that don’t live here, coming here to shop. We need to keep doing that.”
County Mayor Dan Eldridge and Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe echoed Tomita’s call to “spend your dollars locally.”
“We are going to have to rely on our citizens spending more,” Eldridge said. “We aren’t going to have the significant population growth that we have relied on for the last couple of decades to fuel growth in our local economy, which means we must attract new investments and better paying jobs, quite frankly so our residents have more to spend.”
While many metro brick and mortar stores are having difficulty, most of our local shopping areas are full of shoppers. On any weekend notice our local parking lots. Many are full of shoppers. Most businesses are keeping a steady pace in our communities. Locally, when you need to try on that dress or feel the fabric or check a shoe size you have a local and convenient store. Shopping for clothes online has its challenges, “not all sizes are the same.”
The best part of a locally owned retail store is it’s not just a business, but a person or family – possibly a neighbor or someone you know from church or from a civic club or school. It is our responsibility to help our local business people succeed. It is the core of a community, the lifeblood. Without our local business partners, we would be left with empty shells. Even grocery stores are facing online competition from ready-made meals.
Sure, you might pay a little more because of sales tax, but that extra money will stay in your community. And by purchasing locally, you get hometown service. It’s nice to be able to pick up the phone and get an actual person on the line or walk into a place and talk to the same person who sold you an item. There’s something to be said about walking into a place “where everyone knows your name.”
I hope you will join me in patronizing locally owned businesses, because it’s not just business, it’s personal. Shopping locally is personal. Every dollar spent with a local business stays in our community supporting our tax base, schools and other necessary activities.
Tomita said that one of the most important things that citizens can do is spend their dollars where they live.
“What can you do to help us keep going? Shop here,” Tomita said. “We are getting killed by internet sales. We win or lose on sales tax. If that sales tax goes somewhere else, that’s problematic for us. So shop here, if they don’t have it, ask them if they can order it. Do everything you can. I about ran out of gas the other day because I wasn’t going to fill up in Sullivan County.”
Look at it as an investment in making your community a better place to live, better education for your children and grandchildren. You decided to live here. Make it better.