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I subscribe to a newsletter by Becky McCray called “Small Biz Survival” and a concept struck me as being particularly relevant to Pagosa Springs as we stand at a crossroad in terms of our economic development and future growth. Do we become “Anytown USA,” or something uniquely Pagosa? With the recent arrival of two big box stores on the scene, it begs the question, “Where we are headed?”
Is it an intentional destination?
According to the article: A copy-and-paste town, “consists of nothing more than retailers that have ‘copied and pasted’ their standard template into the town simply to milk profit out of the town, often by using minimum wage jobs, without contributing any kind of uniqueness or livability to the town.”
“Small town people have a complex view of chains, especially chain restaurants.” You know we’ve often heard something like this: “If only we had an Olive Garden!” or some other popular chain.
It’s often viewed as a status issue. If we get that certain chain, we think we’ve finally “arrived.” According to McCray, “This is only reinforced when big city people think we have nothing because we don’t have their favorite chain. ‘No IHOP? Kill me now!’”
But, “landing a chain is only a half-win. You may gain some status, but you lose some prosperity. Local people still want chains, and outsiders use them to judge your town. But surely we’re creative enough to come up with a translation guide. (“Craving Hungry Jack’s burgers? Check out TJ’s Grill.”) And maybe we can help support local entrepreneurs to fill those needs.”
So I wondered if there were any studies showing how much a local business contributes to the local economy versus a chain and I found many:
According to, “Going Local: Quantifying the Economic Impacts of Buying from Locally Owned Businesses in Portland, Maine” by Garrett Martin and Amar Patel, Maine Center for Economic Policy, December 2011, “On a dollar-for-dollar basis, the local economic impact of independently owned businesses is significantly greater than that of national chains, this study concludes. Analyzing data collected from 28 locally owned retail businesses in Portland, Maine, along with corporate filings for a representative national chain, the researchers found that every $100 spent at locally owned businesses contributes an additional $58 to the local economy. By comparison, $100 spent at a chain store in Portland yields just $33 in local economic impact. The study concludes that, if residents of the region were to shift 10 percent of their spending from chains to locally owned businesses, “they” would generate significantly more local economic activity and jobs.
Another study, “Thinking Outside the Box” by Civic Economics from September 2009 concludes, “Studies have confirmed that, to varying degrees, locally-owned businesses generate as much as two to three times the local economic activity as do chains.”
There is room in Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County for chains, but let’s not lose our small town, walkable main street appeal and uniqueness in the process.