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County, municipal leaders urge shoppers to spend dollars locally to fuel job creation, bolster sales tax revenues
By Christian W. Peck
Public Information Officer
Niagara County Public Information Office
County economic development officials and municipal leaders have a simple message for local shoppers ahead of Black Friday: Spend locally, and you'll see a return on your investment.
They're calling the effort "Shop Niagara."
The message, which is tied in part to this weekend's Small Business Saturday, is particularly important this year, as local budget forecasters are anticipating an ongoing drop in sales tax revenues tied to fluctuations in the value of the Canadian dollar and low inflation as measured by the consumer price index. Officials note local cross-border commercial activity is off its peak seen in recent years, and lower inflation has slowed the anticipated growth in sales tax revenues on goods and services, most notably fuel purchases.
"Every dollar spent in our local economy generates sales tax revenues, and every dollar of sales tax revenue to fund our state- and federally mandated government programs is one less dollar that has to come out of property taxes," explained Legislator Kathryn L. Lance, who chairs the Niagara County Legislature's economic development committee. "This effect is even more pronounced at the town and city level, and anything that helps keep our homeowners' taxes down is important."
Niagara County government is projecting more than $66 million in sales tax revenue for its operating expenses through the end of the year. This equates to roughly one-fifth of the cost of operating county government. Property taxes and pass-through funding from other levels of government makes up the rest of the county budget.
A total of approximately $125 million in sales tax revenues will be retained locally, according to the Niagara County Office of Management and Budget. This includes the $66 million that funds county services, as well as the funds distributed to local municipal governments.
The impact of this money is significant. The Town of Hartland, for example, projects approximately 30 percent of its operating income is generated through sales tax, while the Town of Lockport says that, for its government, the figure is nearly 50 percent.
A resolution passed by the Town of Lockport and provided by Supervisor Mark C. Crocker, stated, "Every time you make a purchase you have a choice. Purchases made outside of Niagara County improve the lives of others and lowerstheir tax bills. Purchasing goods and services within Niagara County improves your life."
Several municipalities in Niagara County have passed similar resolutions endorsing the "Shop Niagara" initiative.
The City of Lockport's chief executive pointed out that, under the law governing sales tax, any commerce in the county results in tax revenue being pooled and shared with the governments of the county's 12 towns, three cities and five villages, where it funds everything from police and fire protection to park systems patronized by youth.
"As we approach the holiday season, it is important our residents know that shopping locally not only supports our community's business owners, but also offsets the cost of city government through sales tax which is distributed to each municipality," Lockport Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said. "Lockport has a great Main Street, as do other communities, and patronizing those businesses also helps create local jobs and help local families."
Echoing McCaffrey was Lockport Main Street Program Manager Jessica Dittly.
"Lockport is a great place to 'Shop Niagara' and has a lot to offer for those looking for unique gifts for their loved ones," she said. "Small Business Saturday is a great time to remind people the true impact their shopping has."
This theme was shared in the Lumber City, where North Tonawanda Mayor Art Pappas called small business "the backbone of our community."
"The best place to spend your dollars to have a real impact, to see a return, is in your local business district," Pappas said. "When we keep sales tax here in North Tonawanda, we can invest in city infrastructure. We can improve our waterfront. We can continue to keep taxes down."
Events Planned Around County for Small Business Saturday
•Lockport Main Street will host a "Small Shops Open House" from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.
•North Tonawanda is planning a "Shop Small" event on Webster Street from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This includes a planned vendor show at Studio 74, 74 Webster St.
•In Niagara Falls, events bolstering Small Business Saturday are planned beginning in the morning. Local economic development boosters have urged residents to start their day with breakfast at a local establishment, and are asking them to share the experience on social media, using the hashtag "#ShopNF." Horse and carriage rides are slated for 1-6 p.m. on Old Falls Street. A Small Business Saturday happy hour is planned at Carmine's Restaurant, 1701 Pine Ave., from 5-8 p.m.
•Lewiston will hold various Small Business Saturday themes and promotions at its Center Street businesses, town and village leaders said.
Small Business Saturday a Testament to Massive Impact of Local Commerce
Meanwhile, economic development officials stress there is a national movement toward shopping local. They cite studies such as a 2014 American Express Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey that found 82 percent of U.S. consumers planned to eat at independently owned stores and restaurants on that year's Small Business Saturday.
AmEx originated the Small Business Saturday shopping "holiday" concept in 2010.
A 2014 article appearing in USA Today noted economists project that, for every $100 spent at a small business, $68 stays in the local community - while almost no money stays local from online shopping.
The USA Today article also asserted vibrant local economies can raise property values - and that shopping local is the first step toward generating that level of economic success locally.
The focus on consumers turning to small, locally originated businesses sets well with officials at the Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce.
"We recognize that small businesses are the lifeblood of Niagara County, and appreciate Small Business Saturday as a way to recognize and support those businesses," Chamber President and CEO Deanna Alterio Brennen said. "We encourage everyone to not only go out on Saturday, but to be sure to support our local businesses all year long."