Prosperity through exporting… to ourselves

June 19th, 2012

by Sattie Clark, VOIS Founder/President, Co-Owner Eleek, Inc.

You Can't Buy Happiness But You Can Buy Local And That's Kind Of The Same Thing.Did you know the City of Portland and the State of Oregon spend significant money each year to encourage the export of Portland/Oregon products and services? Last week I attended a presentation on a Portland Development Commission initiative called “We Build Green Cities.” It got me thinking about where effort (and taxpayer money) is being applied and whether it delivers good value in terms of increasing prosperity and creating jobs here.

I’m all for exporting. I like to say that my company, Eleek, exports lighting and imports money. We sell our products across the country (and sometimes beyond). But exporting alone doesn’t create prosperity here unless it actively supports jobs. That happens when the exporting companies make things here and/or buy supplies and services here, supporting other companies that are hopefully doing the same–sourcing locally. For the companies whose goods and services are purchased by other local companies, it’s like they are exporting without all the added carbon miles. In other words, there are huge untapped markets right here in our own backyard.

As an example of implementation, at Eleek we buy more than 80 percent of our materials and services from within 50 miles of our shop. We do this in order to reduce the environmental impact of our business and our products, but also as a conscious investment in our local community and economy. Studies show that when we consumers buy locally-owned, we get a lot more bang for our buck because the money recirculates in our community longer. And locally-owned businesses are consumers too. We can walk our talk by bringing our own purchasing practices into alignment with our values. At Eleek, we created a sustainable purchasing policy (link to pdf of eleek purchasing policy) to guide our decisions in the marketplace (feel free to use it as a template for your own sustainable purchasing policy and pass it on). Voting with our dollars is one of the important ways that we can advocate for a prosperous future for Oregon. When local companies priortize buying from each other rather than sending their dollars somewhere else, we all win.

Resources: PDC’s “We Build Green Cities” site has a local business directory, and so does Neighborhood Notes.

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