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The Billion Dollar Question:

Fall has arrived and with it we have some new faces on our Co-op Board of Directors. As a refresher, newly elected Board members are Karen Bassler, Marti Ryan, and of course incumbent Raechel Pundsack. Their ideas, leadership, and representation of you the Owners are great assets to the Willy Street Co-op community.

Have you noticed both of our Co-op stores have Community Rooms? This is just one way that we are different from some of your grocery shopping alternatives. We value the community of our Ownership. We try to emphasize this by featuring a plethora of fun and educational events to benefit you and the community-at-large. These events also spill outside in fair weather. Many of these events (Brats in the Lot, etc.) benefit other organizations through donations of the event’s profits.

Have you ever wondered how your choice to shop at our Co-op builds community? Of course shopping at your Co-op provides access to excellent healthy local food choices while eliminating some of the bad choices that may tempt you elsewhere. I’d be a little more worried about my son’s choices wandering the aisles elsewhere.

All of us are looking for good deals on food. At our Co-op you can get good deals and pay it forward too. Below are just some of ways that we together contribute to a better community. Perhaps you can use them when inviting your friends and family to join us. Or simply to pat yourself on the back for making our community better through your choices.

The business research firm Civic Economics conducted a 2008 study in Grand Rapids, MI. Among the study’s findings:
Local businesses buy more goods and services from other local businesses and employ more people locally. Every $1 million spent at local stores creates $321,000 in additional economic activity in the area, including $119,000 in wages paid to local employees. That same $1 million spent at chain stores generates only $188,000 in local economic activity, including $71,000 in local wages.
When we shop at locally owned stores, a lot more money stays in the community.

In Willy Street Co-op’s Fiscal Year 2011, your Co-op purchases amount to $8,911,001 in additional economic activity in the area, including $3,303,455 in wages paid to local employees. Our Co-op also pays property, sales, and income tax that support a host of public services.

If we change just 10% of our spending from chains to local businesses, we can have a huge impact. In Grand Rapids, redirecting 10% of their total spending from chains to locally owned businesses resulted in $140 million in new economic activity for the region, including 1,600 new jobs and $53 million in additional payroll. Imagine the positive impact if our elected government representatives put their focus on this.

If each Willy Street Co-op Owner (we have 28,000 Owners; many of these Ownerships have multiple people in their household) spent just an additional $10 a week on Wisconsin-grown food products, we can re-direct $9,102,080 each year to local farmers and producers. Those of you who like math can have fun with this concept. If everyone in Dane County participated, the impact would be more than 27 times this—$253,797,960.

So how will we achieve a $1 billion food-shed? When each person in Dane County spends $39 a week on locally grown or produced food. That’s a number that seems realistic. Much like our recent Eat Local Challenge, the idea is to encourage each of us to be a catalyst for a thriving community, not to find fault with anyone’s decision or the reason behind it. Look for those purple local tags at our Co-op and buy those items when you can. A local farmer or producer will thank you. As will the rest of us, who benefit from your hard-earned dollars staying with us in our community.

We are your representatives in the direction of your Cooperative. See page 2 of the Reader to voice your comments, questions, or concerns on the governance of this fabulous democratically run food cooperative.

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