To the Editor,
Broadly speaking there are two kinds of jobs, those that are tradable and those that are not, non-tradable in the vernacular. A tradable job is not location specific, if can be done anywhere where the labor and other inputs are available, and generally at the lowest cost, for example mobile phone assembly. It has little to do with where the consumer of the product or service is located.
A non-tradable job is a different animal; if you live in Pawling and you want a hairdresser or your lawn mowed, the provider of that service needs to live and/or work in the neighborhood. These jobs are location specific and are the lifeblood of local communities since they are not susceptible to re-location. They are also vitally important since the dollars expended tend to stay in the community and are re-circulated. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, in one of their studies, found that for every $100 spent at a locally owned, independent business it generated $45 in local secondary spending. The comparative number for a typical big-box chain was $14. This is dubbed the multiplier effect.
Why is this relevant to Pawling?
In recent years, technological advances and globalization have disrupted our livelihoods, sometimes for the better and sometimes less so. Those communities, like Pawling, that are not part of a large metropolitan area or a regional center like White Plains have been disproportionately affected by the growth in tradable jobs, with the consequent impact upon their vibrancy. The growth in Internet trading platforms has also had an impact upon our local purchasing patterns.
The disruption of our livelihoods and the impact upon our communities is likely to intensify and unless we, as a community, actively take steps to counter these trends, we can expect fewer dollars to be expended locally with a reduction in the multiplier effect.
There are some important and constructive steps that can be taken to combat these trends:
First, actively support our locally owned businesses even if we can purchase what they have to offer more cheaply elsewhere. Supporting an existing business is easier than finding a replacement. Second, develop a policy of identifying and soliciting business activities that provide non-tradable jobs. This could be a policy direction adopted by our municipal leaders.
Third, our Anchor Institutions – schools, health care providers and manufacturers – may be willing to allocate up to 10% of their budgets to locally sourced goods and services. This will amplify the multiplier effect described above.
“The times they are a-changin’” but, if we are willing, we have the power to shape those changes.