As we navigate our first summer with the ferry reservation system, social media is rife with complaints about how it’s faring. But what we’re taking away from that discussion is something entirely unrelated: islanders are spending quite a bit of time and money on the mainland.
One of the biggest complaints is: “I do most of my shopping off island, and now it’s inconvenient to plan trips to Costco.”
Shopping local is more than frequenting an island store now and again. It’s about understanding the link between healthy communities and healthy businesses. It’s about hiring local contractors, buying local food, and patronizing local shops because it strengthens the island for all of us.
Buying products at home keeps that money circulating closer to where it’s being spent. Known as the multiplier effect in economics, this creates a ripple effect where those businesses and their employees spend your money locally. It is estimated that for every $1 spent at a local business, 45 cents is reinvested locally. For every $1 spent at a corporate chain, only 15 cents are reinvested locally.
Once you factor in the ferry tickets and gas, buying from mainland stores is not necessarily better on your budget. Factor in the summer time, long ferry lines and the reservation system, and it’s downright a hassle. Plus, many island stores keep their prices competitive. And it helps that we have an abundance of eclectic storefronts as well as businesses with expertise in their fields.
But we can’t ignore that Orcas simply doesn’t offer everything we need. For those items that you simply cannot get here, Councilman Rick Hughes recently told us an interesting fact: shopping online helps our local economy because San Juan County receives sales tax on items shipped here. So shopping on Amazon.com is better than going to a mainland store.
We hope these are good enough reasons to compel you to buy items at home. And for those of you who already do, thank you.
As for the ferry reservation system? Washington State Ferries IS listening. To be a part of the reservation conversation, join the Washington State Transportation Commission Ferry Riders Opinion Group and participate in their survey: http://www.ferryridersopiniongroup.com/.