Changing our behavior to buy local first

Keeping 68 cents of every dollar you spend local has a positive impact on our community.

Keith Livingston

Keith Livingston

Dignity in work comes from feeling fulfilled, being valued and compensated. Labor Day in this country is a holiday celebrating the productivity, ingenuity and the fruits generated from the efforts of human endeavor. It recognizes our personal and collective value.

In the current hyper-partisan and economically shifting climate, most of us have difficulty figuring out the politics of the politics, who is winning, as well as the how and why many of us are losing. Therefore, we may need to re-think our perceptions of profit, loss, and who actually benefits.

The fruits of our labor seem to benefit fewer people, and local communities are seeing dollars spent within their boundaries travel to corporate pockets and communities elsewhere. Our goal as a community should be to keep more of the profit from our labor in Federal Way.

Money can be a sticky substance that builds community and elevates the lives of those who are recipients of its value. But if that money, the efforts of our labor, is not staying in our community, due to lack of a local ownership economy and culture, then that money is benefitting other communities.

Building a strong local economy starts with each of us changing our buying behavior and making the effort to buy local first. Think of it this way, when you buy at the big box and national chain stores, only 14 cents of the dollar spent in that store stays local. Purchase an item at a locally owned store or business, and 68 cents of your dollar stays local.

Federal Way, like many cities across America, has lost the pride of local business ownership. What happens to be here are the ubiquitous chain stores and franchises that may be corporate or locally owned, but in either case the profits largely go to cities where the corporate headquarters or major stockholders reside.

Our society has become dependent on corporate supply chains and global manufacturing designed to give us cheaper products. The consequence is that we have minimal sense of local ownership. Federal Way is no different, and locally-owned options for retail, specialty services, manufacturing, contractors, and food establishments need our support. Money spent at locally-owned independent restaurants return twice as much to our local economy than chain restaurants per dollar of revenue.

Think about where the money flows from our purchases at Costco, Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, Fred Meyer, HMart, Safeway, Starbucks, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, Macys, and more. Just know the profits made by those corporations are not being used or reinvested here. For Federal Way to again become a city worthy of business investment we need to spend our money with our local merchants and business owners – as best we can.

Purchasing online has also changed the landscape. For example, Amazon’s profits are reshaping Seattle and the cities where their executives and well-paid employees reside. But their community investments or philanthropy, where they have fulfillment centers, equates to doing no more than is necessary to keep the locals placated.

When Federal Way’s 30% of vacant office space begins being filled with new jobs and companies desiring to be entrepreneurs and local community investors, the future of this city will begin being realized. This is not an easy process.

This country was built by ingenuity, acceptance of risk, and the hands of many doing hard work. The rules are constantly changing but this country functions best when the strength of farm workers, employees, and unions, are respected and valued by business owners, employers and corporations.

Balance occurs when government maintains a labor market that is well regulated and fair to the wage earner as well as the owner risk taker. Workers the world over have always been seeking a fair deal and communities the same.

We all make our future one day at a time, but understanding how and where we spend our money matters. Part of this city’s economic challenge starts with being a city with an average household income of $62,000 in a county where the average household income is $84,000. Average household income tells part of the story but expendable income is where the fruits of labor get realized.

Think about how your disposable income could be used to grow the potential of Federal Way. Keeping 68 cents of every dollar you spend local has a positive impact on our community.

Making our dollars sticky in ways that can benefit our friends, neighbors, and community builds wealth locally. When dollars are spent at local shops, restaurants, and service providers, the profits are local, the community prospers and becomes attractive to the business of business.

Assuring a living wage and benefits for all is a necessity for a better life. Strategically and collectively supporting local businesses builds an economic synergy, our tax base, as well as a brighter future for all who live and work in Federal Way.

The business flavor of America is cut-throat capitalism, but local commerce and being mindful of how and where we spend our hard-earned dollars has the effect of building wealth at home.

Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at

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