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Hubby and I were in St. Cloud today and saw a billboard of the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce. In big letters it said:

STAY LOCAL.

In smaller letters it expounded on that message with:

Shop local. Eat local. Invest local.

This is a common sentiment among communities, yet it is diametrically opposed to another goal communities want to achieve – that of courting tourists. On first blush, these ideas may seem to work together. Wouldn’t it be great to have everyone who lives in a community shop locally and also nab tourists for their spending potential? Trouble is that EVERY community wants this, but in order to have this happen, those tourists have to leave their own local communities in order to be tourists in another community. Which means they are no longer shopping locally.

Billboards such as the one we saw annoy me no end because of their inherent contradiction. Besides, as a tourist in St. Cloud, seeing that sign made me feel not particularly welcome. If you only want local dollars, I’ll go somewhere else.

Rather than convince people they need to shop based on whether they are residents or visitors, how about offering products and services I need and throw in excellent customer service and decent hours? Make sure you have a web presence and expand your market beyond a limited geographic region. Then it won’t matter where your customers live.

(I don’t mean to pick on St. Cloud exclusively. Its billboard expressed the same slogan my own community is guilty of chanting. I don’t like it wherever it is used.)

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