Our community has a problem. It’s difficult to earn a livelihood here in large part because too much money is leaving the community as a result of local institutions hiring people from elsewhere. Our local tradespeople find they must work outside the area while local residents must find tradespeople from other areas, draining more money going from our community. This column explains why to live locally, institutions and businesses need to hire locally first.
I have earned my livelihood primarily as an author since my wife and I wrote the first commercially published book about how to work from home. Because most home-based businesses rely on a local economy, I have had a professional interest in local business conditions.
We moved to a mountain community outside Los Angeles and became even more interested in localization, and, of course, localization is a well-recognized national movement that enables people to live, work and shop in their community. For us who live in a beautiful location, this means being able to be here 24/7.
So six years ago we founded Let’s Live Local. One of our primary missions is to help stimulate a local economy. I am concerned about the survivability of small towns in general with the rise in energy costs. A recent article entitled American Ghost Towns of the 21st Century identified towns and counties with vacancy rates above 55%. Here in California, one of these is Mono County, which has a 59% vacancy rate.
Non-urban locations are under pressure generally and so anything that undermines the economy of local community is troubling. In our communities local institutions are displacing local people by hiring people hires from elsewhere for jobs – from educational positions to meter reading. In some cases hiring preferences may be sporadic; in others, it appears to be systematic. Bear in mind the money our agencies spend comes from us as taxpayers and ratepayers. While this may be thought of as localism in reverse, why is this a problem? When a job goes to someone outside our area, it has a larger affect. It does not occur in isolation.
- Chances are the non-local hire who leaves at the end of the workday doesn’t patronize the local stores and restaurants in our community often because items are not available and the selection of goods is better where they live.
- Local residents who commutes to jobs elsewhere –jobs that may not be all that different than ones here that are going to non-residents – are apt to shop in the larger community in which they work. As the study Let’s Live Local co-sponsored, we found 71% of households in which a commuter is present, the household shopping is usually done by a member commuting outside the mountain communities.
- Even if the local resident wants to shop locally, the commuting expenses gallon lessens their spending power.
- With gas between $3.00 and $4.00 a gallon, people decide to get rid of the long commute. Chances are they won’t put their house on the market – they will leave their homes– contributing to the 53% of home sales in California that are short sales or foreclosures.
- So the effect of people not being able to work where they live contributes to more business closures, lower home prices, less sales tax and a lower real estate tax base for the schools and county making this area even more dependent on the county as a whole, and, of course, at the bottom of the list when the county prioritizes where it provides services.
What can be done: Our local agencies need to adopt PREFERENTIAL HIRING OF LOCAL LABOR policies. Such policies are being put into practice from one end of the country to another . Here in California, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles are among those cities that have adopted local hiring requirements. I believe it’s to initiate and support campaigns to get local hiring policies adopted.
For an initial free consultation to discuss this or finding a sustainable livelihood that bests suits your personality and your community, contact us.
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