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Campaign urges shopping at home

With unemployment up and general spending down, city leaders areworking hard to help keep Brookhaven’s revenue up by encouragingpeople to spend their money locally.

The “Buy Local” campaign put together by a subcommittee of cityofficials and business owners and headed up by Ward Six AldermanDavid Phillips has begun. It is aimed at making the citizens ofBrookhaven and Lincoln County much more aware of the many benefitsof buying locally as much as possible.

“Too often we don’t realize when we buy that tank of gas inanother town or buy that product in another town that reallyaffects our local economy,” said Mayor Bob Massengill. “But we’vegot businesses in Brookhaven and Lincoln County that have made asignificant investment in our community.”

The effort begins with a media campaign of advertisementspointing out all the things paid for by sales tax, which amounts tosix out of every 10 dollars of the city’s income.

“Sales tax accounts for almost 60 percent of our revenue. Andlooking at it beyond the services aspect, people need to rememberit helps their neighbors, and the people that work in Brookhavenand operate businesses here,” said Massengill. “Shopping at homehelps everyone.”

Brookhaven officials have set out to use the campaign to showthat police and fire protection, as well as streets andinfrastructure, parks and recreation, and other city services arefunded largely through sales tax dollars.

“When you spend your dollars elsewhere, your money goes to serveand protect someone else’s community,” says one ad depicting afirefighter and a policeman at the scene of an overturned vehicle.Officials said it is imperative that local buyers keep in mind allthe services the city provides them, and that many of them areservices city residents need to live.

“Where people shop is essentially where they vote to showeconomic support, not only in the retail base but also in supportof local services,” said Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce Executive Vice President Cliff Brumfield. “People shouldremember when they spend money in another city they are voting withthose dollars to support that city and its leadership and servicesand needs.”

In addition to helping the city government flourish and nourishcity departments, buying locally is also important to localbusinesses and service providers.

The catchphrase of the campaign, “Spend it here, keep it here,”encourages local shoppers to invest in the community they callhome, no matter what other cities seem to offer. City leaders saidthis is especially important during tough economic times likethese.

“Brookhaven has a very strong retail base, and that supportsthese things we enjoy,” Brumfield said. “Without that retail bythese local entrepreneurs, we can’t enjoy these things that areday-to-day needs. We need to spend locally to support not only ourlocal government but these fine retailers that risk all they haveto provide us with these retail outlets and products enjoyed notonly by shoppers in our city but statewide.”

Phillips said the more he researched the city’s income, the morehe realized the large role sales tax can play in fueling the cityeconomically.

“The other source, of course, would be property tax, and it’snever popular to raise those,” he said. “But it’s an easy andpainless process to encourage people to shop at home to keep thecity moving ahead.”

And the more money that is poured into the local economy, thelower the chance that property taxes will be raised, Massengillsaid.

“The purpose of the campaign is to show folks how important tothe merchants and to the city itself to be able to provide serviceslike police, fire, roads and lighting, whatever those services maybe, and we can only provide those in the manner in which people areaccustomed if we have an adequate amount of sales tax,” Massengillsaid. “Nobody wants us to raise property taxes and we are seriousabout not wanting to do that.”

And the issue is a crucial one not only for Brookhaven but alsofor all of Lincoln County, officials said.

“As we went through comprehensive planning we learned that alarge number of people come in from the county to work in the cityevery day, and those jobs are the economic engine for LincolnCounty,” Phillips said. “It’s important for those jobs to beprovided, and keeping local dollars local allows businesses togrow. You have to be able to provide for the entrepreneurial basein your community, because you need the people who’ll get out thereand risk everything and provide that economic momentum.”