Commentary: Supporting local is a gift

Goodwill San Antonio customer

As a former city of San Antonio official and newly appointed member of the Community Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank, I’ve observed and learned of the many challenges small businesses face.

Three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, local businesses have less money saved and more debt. This has put a significant strain on family-owned businesses that often operate on very thin margins, relying heavily on support from their local community.

According to a 2022 Small Business Economic Impact Study from American Express, for every $1 spent with a local business, more than two-thirds — $0.68 — stays in the local community to support local families, local causes, and other local businesses. The impact that choosing locally can make on the community and the economy is of great significance.

When consumers make the choice to frequent local establishments, they contribute to the creation and maintenance of meaningful employment opportunities within their community. Moreover, local businesses give back to their community in addition to creating jobs.

At Goodwill San Antonio, we offer employment opportunities and serve as a hub for sustainable practices, promoting the reuse of goods and reducing environmental impact. We employ more than 1,800 people within our area, providing workforce development training and education at no cost to the community. Program offerings include short-term certifications, including medical assistant, nurse’s aide, pharmacy technician, and commercial driver’s license.

There are many ways to support locals in our community. 

Choose local first: Before making a purchase, consider if there's a local option available. Whether it's a gift, clothing, or household items, local businesses offer a unique charm that big-box stores cannot replicate.

Explore thrift stores: Embrace thrifting trends by exploring local thrift stores and second-hand shops. You'll contribute to a more sustainable environment and support community initiatives and employment opportunities.

Spread the word: Share the benefits of shopping locally and thrifting with your friends and family. Encourage them to join the movement and make choices that positively impact both the community and the planet.

Support local events: Attend local markets, fairs, and events showcasing the talents of local artisans and businesses. By participating in these events, you directly contribute to the growth and visibility of local enterprises.

Volunteer or donate: Volunteer at local charities or donate gently used items to organizations like Goodwill. Your contributions can make a significant difference in supporting those in need.

We can all be catalysts for positive change. Our choices extend far beyond the act of purchasing, becoming part of a collective effort to build stronger, more sustainable communities. This holiday season, let's unite in making choices that bring joy to our loved ones and nurture the economic and environmental well-being of our community. 

Carlos J. Contreras III is president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of San Antonio. He served as assistant city manager for the City of San Antonio for almost nine years.

Originally published on December 18, 2023 - San Antonio Express-News