‘Tis Always the Season to Shop Local

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Last week, we gathered with family and friends and observed our national day of gratitude. As Thanksgiving drew to a close, it signaled the holiday season being in full swing – and where better to spend this special time of year than in San Francisco?

Whether it’s ice skating beneath Union Square’s 80-foot fir, or taking in the musical delights of the San Francisco Symphony’s holiday concert lineup, visiting the Fairmont’s two-story-high Victorian Gingerbread House, or enjoying the festivities of the historic Union Street Fantasy of Lights – to name a few – San Francisco is a unique place to celebrate the holiday season.

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The Chamber is a champion of Small Business Saturday, a nation-wide initiative encouraging shopping locally.

This time of year, we’re also reminded that San Francisco’s local business community is unique and that supporting San Francisco businesses helps preserve our communities’ character, supports neighborhood jobs, and bolsters the San Francisco economy.

No San Franciscan is a bigger champion for local businesses than Mayor Edwin Lee who, last year over the holidays, led San Francisco’s launch of “Shop & Dine in the 49” – a citywide campaign designed to raise the visibility and importance of buying local.

According to the City, San Francisco has more than 90,000 registered businesses that employee more than 326,000 local residents – and that a one percent increase in local spending generates an additional $100 million for our local San Francisco economy that helps fund vital city services.

Last year’s Shop & Dine in the 49 local shopping initiative was a great success and, recently, Mayor Lee re-launched the program as a year-round initiative. The Chamber is an ardent supporter of Shop & Dine in the 49, and this year the initiative was tied in with the Small Business Saturday program – an initiative that connects local businesses and organizations across the nation on the Saturday following Thanksgiving to help small businesses do more business. Since its inception, more than $14.3 billion has been spent at independent small businesses on Small Business Saturday.

We are also strongly engaged in programs and activities designed to encourage local patronage throughout the entire year.

The Chamber is proud to lead “SF Biz Connect” – a Mayor Lee initiative that challenges local businesses to take a pledge to support other local San Francisco businesses by shifting 5 percent of their spending to local and small businesses. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) in partnership with the Chamber developed a website to help facilitate this interaction, and the two groups jointly host events and provide concierge services to further support this initiative.

Additional Chamber programs designed to facilitate local businesses and cultivate relationships include Small Business University, Neighborhood Business Summits, Business After Hours, the Small Business Advisory Council, and Business Alliance.

The Chamber has committed to these and other programs because we strongly believe investing in local business is good for San Francisco – and the numbers suggest a high return on that investment.

It’s estimated that, nationwide, local business generates 70 percent more economic activity per square foot than big box retail. It’s also projected that, if every family in the U.S. spent an extra $10 per month at a locally owned, independent business instead of a national chain, more than $9.3 billion would be directly returned to our local economies.

Those are persuasive numbers, but local businesses also provide our city with qualitative value, as they help define the character of our communities and drive San Francisco’s special brand of innovation that is recognized around the globe.

This holiday season, remember to shop locally – it’s easy to do and it has positive effects that benefit all San Franciscans. But, as the holiday season comes to a close and 2016 draws near, remember also that ‘tis always the season to shop local.

Bob Linscheid is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

This piece was originally published as an op-ed in the Examiner on Thursday, December 3. View the op-ed here