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Jessie Levine
Town Manager
New London, NH

August 18, 2010

Picture New London for a minute. What pops into your head? Picture the businesses and restaurants that line Main Street, Newport Road and other parts of town. Focus on your three favorites – the people, the atmosphere, the products. Now try to picture New London without those establishments. Makes you shudder, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, we can all take steps to ensure the continued success of our local businesses. I know, you’ve heard it before, and I’m not here to make you feel guilty about driving to Lebanon to buy that thing from that store. But I am going to share with you a simple concept that I learned more about on Wednesday night, when the businesses and organizations that make up Destination New London welcomed Cinda Baxter, founder of the 3/50 Project.

I attended the event at Foxstand along with Selectmen Tina Helm and Mark Kaplan and Economic Development Committee members Gary Markoff and Larry Ballin, and we appreciated that the invitation was extended to town officials who share in the commitment to the local economy (a future column will address how zoning actually helps businesses in New London). I have mentioned the 3/50 Project in earlier columns, but Wednesday’s presentation by the founder gave us a chance to learn more about how we can save businesses and how businesses can save themselves and each other. 

Here is the concept in a nutshell: identify three of your favorite local businesses and spend $50 a month in those places. Not $50 in each store, restaurant, or salon, but $50 combined, spent in independently owned local businesses (since there are at least 20 work days in each month, I think even the coffee you pick up on the way to work counts). You say you already spend more than $50 per month in local businesses? Then thank you for being ahead of the game, and I certainly will not encourage you to spend any less!

What is the impact of your hard-earned $50? According to Cinda Baxter, a former small business owner whose blog about saving local businesses went viral last year (see, if only half of the employed population spent $50 a month, it would generate $42.6 billion in revenue. Imagine if the other half did it as well. Of the money spent locally, 68 cents of every dollar is returned to the local community through payroll, taxes, and other expenditures. Compare that to 43 cents of every dollar spent at a national chain (assuming there’s one in the community), and zilch-nada-zero from every dollar spent on-line (with the exception of the salaries of local postal and delivery personnel).

So let’s do the math for New London: there are roughly 4500 year-round residents in New London (including almost 1000 students at Colby-Sawyer College), and an influx of about 1000 employees every day, give or take. If half of those 5500 people were to spend $50 per month, that’s $137,500 that stays right here. Add seasonal residents and visitors from neighboring towns who come to do their banking, go to the doctor or dentist, or get their hair done, and we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars per month that can stay in the immediate area rather than go off to another regional hub or to an internet company on the west coast that is not a member of our Chamber of Commerce and does not volunteer for the Rotary Club or the Budget Committee and does not sponsor golf tournaments and fundraisers.

The message does not stop with shoppers. In fact, the presentation on Wednesday night was intended for the businesses themselves and not for us. There were folks there from all of our favorites: Serendipity, Artisan’s, Hubert’s, Spring Ledge Farm, Lis Ann’s, Clarke’s Hardware, Unleashed, Art of Nature, Pleasant Lake Inn, and many more. When I commented on the turnout of who’s who in the regional business community, one employee told me “we take care of each other,” a comforting thought and a fitting summary of Cinda Baxter’s point.

Cinda Baxter referred to the gathering as a “small business lovefest” and encouraged the businesses to work together, reminding them that they can’t be competitive on an island. She reminded businesses that they are also consumers who should frequent each other’s establishments, and that the success of all will better ensure the success of one. It is not about sour grapes, she said, and this is not David vs. Goliath, buy local vs. box stores. It is simply about finding the balance that allows the local community to thrive. 

The 3/50 Project’s slogan is “saving the brick and mortars our nation is built on.” If you were to stand at Whipple Memorial Town Hall and look west, you would see the bricks and mortar of our community. Just as Ausbon Sargent preserved the Town Common, it is up to the entire community – the Town, the businesses, and the consumers -- to preserve the rest of Main Street.


Jessie Levine, Town Administrator
375 Main Street
New London, NH 03257
603-526-4821 extension 13
Fax: 603-526-9494

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