Shop Locally, Save the Economy

The 3/50 Project gains momentum in Chicago's independent businesses

The 3/50 Project, the brainchild of Minneapolis-based Cinda Baxter, an independent stationery store owner for the past 14 years and a retail consultant and professional speaker, is looking to rebuild our nation's economy, one brick-and-mortar business at a time. The mission behind the movement is simple: Choose three local independently owned businesses in your area, and spend $50 a month in them. They don't have to be frivolous purchases -- it can be as simple as choosing a mom-and-pop dry cleaner over the chain down the street, ordering your pizza from a family-owned spot or getting your hair cut at an indie salon.  

The project was launched in March and so far counts more than 200 businesses of all kinds from across the country. More than 15 Chicago-area businesses and local communities are participants and supporters of The 3/50 Project, including the Hinsdale Chamber of Commerce and Lombard Town Centre. Baxter lists all of the participating supporters on her Web site and offers members badges for businesses to display and other marketing materials to help get the word out.

By Baxter's estimations, if half of the employed population in America spent $50 a month in locally owned independent businesses, those purchases would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. And for every $100 spent in those same indie venues, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. By comparison, only $43 of every $100 spent in a national chain gets reinvested in the community, while online purchases contribute a big fat goose egg to the local economy. Which just begs the question: Have you gotten your tax refund yet? Because we've got a few recommendations where you can spend it.

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