Port Angeles Choose Local campaign kicks off

PORT ANGELES — The city’s Choose Local campaign, which organizers said could turn $10 purchases into millions for Port Angeles’ economy, is here at last.

After eight months of volunteer work, retired Microsoft manager Mike Edwards introduced the new www.ChooseLocalPA.org website, plus related paraphernalia, at Tuesday’s Port Angeles Business Association breakfast.

“This is an education program,” Edwards said, aiming to show how it pays to spend locally.

He added that instead of driving away to, say, Silverdale, spending your dollars close to home translates to local employee wages, local tax revenue — and better quality of life.

This city-funded initiative will make its presence known starting now, Edwards promised, through the website and 10,000 brochures outlining “10 important reasons why you should choose local.”

Shopping at home

Those reasons, or rather results, of shopping at home include a lighter environmental footprint, investment in local entrepreneurship and job creation.

In other words, “What goes around comes around.”

Edwards was at pains, however, to emphasize that he’s neither anti-Sequim nor anti-chain store.

“We’re not actively going out and saying ‘Don’t buy there,’” he said.

The message is simply that if you live in Port Angeles, you can help your community by shopping here first.

Hundreds of other communities have “choose local” programs, Edwards said; he’s spent the past eight months studying those.

When you spend $100 in your hometown, $68 stays home, Edwards noted, citing research conducted in cities across the United States.

After this week’s Choose Local launch will come “a series of events . . . over the next several months” leading up to Christmas, added Port Angeles City Manager Kent Myers.

Nathan West, the city’s director of community and economic development, said volunteers from local businesses, by serving on the Choose Local committee, made the whole campaign possible.

Other business owners who want to join the effort should phone West at 360-417-4751.

Signs of campaign

Edwards, meanwhile, listed Choose Local street banners, bus decals, key chains, stickers and utility-bill fliers among the campaign elements people will see this fall and winter.

Port Angeles has plenty of organizations charged with promoting local shopping, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Port Angeles Downtown Association. These have “overlapping charters,” Edwards observed. He finds that “everyone is in charge of some things, and no one’s in charge of other things.”

But, he added, he’s not the one to “fix that.”

Edwards did pass out Choose Local brochures, asserting that “if everyone in greater Port Angeles spent an extra $10 per month locally,” they would generate $1.6 million per year for the city’s economy.

Yet at a time when families are trekking to Silverdale for school clothes, Edwards knows he’s walking uphill.

“If we can encourage people to reinvest in their own communities,” he said, they can help turn the economy around. They can prevent more stores from closing down and more jobs from being lost, he believes.

Then former Sequim City Councilman Paul McHugh took aim at the Choose Local PA idea.

Work together

“I would rather see the two communities [of Sequim and Port Angeles] work together,” McHugh said in an interview. He called Choose Local PA a “misguided” effort to “divide and conquer.”

And “retail leakage,” McHugh said, isn’t the most pressing problem to address.

An owner of property in Port Angeles and Sequim, McHugh said the fundamental problem plaguing both is a lack of diverse job opportunities.

He also believes state and federal regulations hurt job growth and development in rural Clallam County.

“I’m worried about the economy in PA,” said McHugh, who remembers a time — the 1960s — when Sequim residents traveled to their more populous neighbor to shop.

Edwards, in a later interview, said it was the city of Port Angeles that provided the limited funding for Choose Local PA materials, so he needed to focus on this community first. And since it took eight months to put together the Port Angeles project, extending it to include other towns would take even longer.

“Once this gets off the ground,” he said, “I would welcome working with Sequim,” though he added that that city would do well to start its own choose-local initiative.

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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