By Russ Lay | Outer Banks Voice on August 13, 2012
Unlike other parts of the country, where government, manufacturing or large corporations dominate, entrepreneurs are the backbone of local employment.
But local residents may not understand how important supporting local businesses can be. As Diane Nordstrom, director of Currituck’s County’s Travel and Tourism Department, explains, their revenues contribute significantly to the local economy.
“It starts with tax revenues. The money locals spend here helps pay for the police, fire and other services we need,” Nordstrom says. “In addition, those sales revenues keep our neighbors employed.”
The cascading effect is evident. Not only are tax revenues generated, but those gross sale revenues pay the salaries of owners and workers, who as residents in turn own property (business and personal) that generates further revenues.
Which is why Currituck County started its Buy Local campaign, now in its third quarter.
Nordstrom and John Wiltgen, a marketing specialist for the Travel & Tourism Department, related how the idea of a Buy Local campaign was born.
Four years ago, one county commissioner, a couple of business owners and the county Economic Development Department began a discussion and thought it would be a great idea if a program could be developed to encourage people to spend money in Currituck County rather than outside their borders.
“There were a couple of meetings and some talk” Nordstrom recalls, “but the idea never went anywhere.”
The long-term economic crisis, which began locally in 2005 ,finally began to worry the county’s Tourism Department.About 18 months ago, as the economic slowdown lingered, the Tourism Department approached the county manager with an observation: “We know this isn’t directly tourist-related” the manager was informed, “but business after business is closing and it is definitely impacting tourism in Currituck. If these businesses keep closing there will be nowhere for tourists to stop on their way to the beach, much less support the business climate in Corolla.”
The county manager agreed, and the Buy Local campaign was revived. This time, the county Economic Development department and the Currituck County Chamber of Commerce joined forces to design a campaign.
The three entities shared data bases of businesses and began to reach out to the business community. The group hit the road and held meetings with business owners. They researched “Buy Local” programs across the nation and began to develop plan.
There are two components to the Buy Local campaign. The first is to educate local people on how important buying local is to the economy and to make them aware of “businesses in their own backyard” that may have escaped their attention, Nordstrom said.
The second was a plan to encourage the local community to patronize Currituck businesses. And, of course, any revenues generated from visitors are the frosting on the cake.
According to Nordstrom, “the business community was fantastic” with their ideas during the planning stage. And when she asked them if they would contribute prizes to an incentive campaign, “they said absolutely. We haven’t had to ask anyone for prize donations. The businesses stepped forward on their own. And they are very, very happy with the program.”
In fact, incentive prizes for the third quarter campaign come to over $3,000 so far.
The rules are on the Buy Local website, but in simple terms, people who buy local save five sales receipts of $3 or more from Currituck businesses. They can then mail those receipts in using envelopes supplied at participating businesses, or they can drop them off at county libraries, senior centers, visitor centers or the Currituck YMCA.
The county, using occupancy tax revenues, supports the program by supplying participating businesses with fliers, posters, door stickers, napkins, coasters and maps, as well the website and other forms of advertising. (Full disclosure: The Voice is one of the participating advertising outlets).
Entrants need not be locals, so visitors passing through Currituck or staying in the county for their vacation can save their receipts and enter the incentive program.
Local businesses can sign up on the website for free; there are no membership or other costs.
In fact, Nordstrom not only encourages local businesses to join the program, she is anxious for Currituck business owners to keep them apprised of any specials, open houses or other events that can be publicized as part of the program.
The Buy Local campaign recognizes many small businesses cannot afford media advertising, so the program provides a virtually no-cost vehicle for businesses to spread the word about their products and services.
Some examples of the prizes one can win for sending in those five receipts include a simple will, health power of attorney or a living will for couples from the Twiford Law Firm, P.C., as well as a “Whalehead Package” that includes a catered sunset dinner for two, a bottle of white wine, two tickets to the Whalehead’s “Wednesday Wine Festival, a private curator tour of the Whalehead Club, a $100 membership to the “Friends of Whalehead” and two tickets to the Anniversary Gala.
Wild Horse Adventure Tours is giving away a wild horse tour for two, and the Cotton Gin is offering up a $50 wine basket.
More than one prize is awarded each quarter, so there’s even more reason to participate.
Nordstrom wants locals to become involved. She related an anecdote about a local restaurant owner who told a customer he was heading to J.I. Hayman & Son in Coinjock to buy some hardware. He was told it was probably cheaper at The Home Depot in Dare County.
The business owner responded that in reality, Hayman’s prices were comparable to The Home Depot, and if one added in the gas and travel time, buying local was actually saving him money.
For visitors, Nordstrom wonders why anyone would visit a new area and not wish to sample the local restaurant flavors or unique retail products offered by local businesses — experiences and products you can’t buy anywhere else.
The program has already attracted the attention of Tyrell County, and Nordstrom was invited to speak to community leaders there about the Currituck program.
And, on a parting note, Nordstrom mentioned many people ask her when the program will end.
Her response is there are no plans to end the program. She envisions Buy Local Currituck as an ongoing process that will enhance the lives of residents and visitors alike.
NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING TO REVIEW PLANS FOR AN OUTER BANKS EVENT CENTER
County Dare, North Carolina
Dare County Tourism Board
NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Visitors Bureau will hold a public meeting to review the plans for an Outer Banks Event Center. The meeting will take place on Monday, June 6, 2022 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Keeper’s Galley building at Haven on the Banks, 115 Dove Street, Nags Head North Carolina 27959.
Still in the conceptual phase, the Event Center is intended to provide suitable and flexible space for year-round events, concerts, sports, meetings, smaller tradeshows, galas and any number of other uses. Learn more about the benefits for visitors and residents and how the Event Center is planned to complement the new Soundside boardwalk that is being designed.
Staff will be on hand to answer any questions. For additional information, please visit our Event Center FAQ page.