City: Keep local businesses alive

Published 2:55 am Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shopping at home isn’t just a good idea — it’s a move to preserve your hometown, city officials say.

As the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear this weekend, area merchants are hoping more people will look locally for their needs and keep those precious dollars at home.

Brewton City Clerk John Angel said shopping at home does more than help the coffers of city government.

“Of course the sales tax dollars are important to the city, but the dollars spent here are more important to the merchants,” Angel said. “Without business, those owners would go under taking any employees they have with them.”

Angel said sales tax revenue has been steady so far in 2011, with little change expected in 2012.

“Our sales tax receipts haven’t fallen to where we thought they would,” Angel said. “We’ve been maintaining this year. I don’t expect 2012 to be a strong year but expect to just be able to maintain a steady sales tax income.”

With the closure of WOW Café and Wingery, Angel said more losses would be detrimental to the city and the residents.

“We lost that business and of course the sales tax dollars are gone, too,” Angel said. “We don’t want to lose any more businesses, and it’s going to take people shopping here to keep our businesses open.”

Angel said those locally owned businesses are vital to the area’s economy and to the livelihood of many employees.

“When we lost Winn Dixie, there were 62 jobs lost in a flash,” Angel said. “Although most businesses don’t have such a large employee base, losing any jobs just hurts the economy.”

With the loss of paychecks, employees of closed businesses may find difficulty in paying their bills or buying food, clothes and consumable products for their families. That possibility, Angel said, could cause other businesses to close.

“We really need to support our local businesses,” Angel said. “Those guys have a reason to be in business. They have families to support, employees to pay. It just makes sense to keep our neighbors in business.”

Although sales tax dollars are necessary for the city to maintain services such as police and fire protection, Angel said the city could survive loss of revenues from sales taxes, but many businesses couldn’t.

“The City of Brewton has been in business since 1885 and we will survive even if we see sales tax revenues fall a little,” Angel said. “There are businesses here who can’t afford to take a loss in their revenue. Of course sales taxes help the city, but it’s so much more important to the people who own businesses here.”

With the loss of a handful of businesses over the last few years, Brewton’s retail industry has taken a hit. Angel said shopping at home can only help attract new and expanding businesses to the area.

“We do have some interest from out-of-town retailers who are looking at locating here,” Angel said. “Any business would want to locate where things are happening. We need new business here and thriving businesses are attractive to those looking to come here.”

Angel said interest is rumbling throughout the area, especially in the now-vacant property formerly occupied by Walmart.

“The water meter is still on there,” Angel said. “People are looking. We’re just hoping for a commitment from businesses looking for a place to be. We have several empty retail buildings here and it would be nice to fill them.”

In an effort to encourage shoppers to support small, locally owned businesses, American Express has begun an initiative called “Small Business Saturday.” The event, which is in its second year, is observed on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. The event slogan, “Pledge to Shop Small” is carried out with a number of deals, offers and special from the sponsoring company and local merchants.

“We want Brewton to grow,” Angel said. “The only way to do that is to continue to support our local retailers and encourage new ones to join us.”