This article appeared in the September 2017 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
The numbers tell the story. “For every $100 spent in local independent businesses, $63 stays in the community in terms of salaries, purchase of other products, gasoline, mortgage payments and other expenses,” said Mary Ellen McClanahan, director of the small business entrepreneur program with the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “When you look at that same $100 being spent in a chain business, only $43 remains in the community. If that $100 is spent online, nothing stays here. With these kinds of statistics, it really makes sense to buy local, especially made in Georgia products.”
Over the past several years, programs like the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown have supported, promoted and encouraged buying local. It’s making a positive impact across the state.
Cathy and Danny Pendley moved from Atlanta to the city of Darien several years ago, knowing that even though they left their corporate jobs, they would still need to work.
“Our families have been in farming so we knew about the quality of Georgia produce and wanted to support Georgia’s economy,” said Cathy. “My nephew had started a roadside produce stand in a rural part of the state and we saw that people were going out of their way to shop there. We decided that since we live just off I-95 and US 17, opening a market with Georgia-made products would be a good idea.”
They opened Turnip Greens Country Market 18 months ago and they haven’t looked back. Much of the produce they sell is local, either from small or organic farms. They also locally source stone-ground grits products, including Canewater Farms Fish Fry, grown in McIntosh County and processed in North Georgia.
“People today want to know where their food is coming from,” said Cathy. “When it’s grown locally, it’s fresher, too, because it has less of a distance to travel in a truck.”
The store also sells jams, jellies and other Georgia-made products including Crown Candy from Macon, pimento cheese spread made in Sandersville, and turpentine from Patterson.
“It’s been amazing how many products we sell that are made in Georgia with Georgia-based ingredients,” she said. “The more we build our network the more symbiotic it becomes.”
Several years ago, Greensboro city officials with Better Hometown and the city’s Downtown Development Authority decided to rejuvenate downtown and draw more tourists. Part of the plan was to create a retail store that only sold products made in Georgia by Georgia artists. Genuine Georgia was born. Once the concept proved successful, the store was sold to Cynthia Smith, who owns it today.
“The intent was always for it to become a privately owned business,” said Smith. “Today we have more than 125 artists and have moved across the street to an even bigger building. And it continues to meet the goal of bringing more tourists here. Because we’re close to Reynolds Plantation, The Ritz and the Harbor Club, we often have shoppers from around the world.”
The Georgia Department of Economic Development offers several programs to help launch made-in-Georgia businesses.
“Our goal is to help communities build enabling environments and a network of resources to help entrepreneurs and small business owners produce products and find new markets,” said McClanahan, “Studies show that 99.8 percent of Georgia businesses are small businesses. We pay attention to their needs and want to help them succeed."