Nov. 23—As Albert Lea and the rest of the nation move into the holiday shopping season, business leaders in Albert Lea are encouraging residents to shop local and support area businesses before taking their money outside of the community or online.
Holly Karsjens, executive director of the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau and Main Street Albert Lea, said the organizations she oversees, as well as the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency and the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, are teaming up to promote shop small campaigns and to remind people through both social media and print that now is the time to shop local.
Karsjens said of every $100 spent at a local business, $68 of that stays in the local economy.
"Local stores are who the community goes to when they're in need," she said.
The businesses are who community members turn to for silent auction donations and for sponsorships for projects and events taking place.
"Without our small businesses, we wouldn't have the thriving community we want," she said.
In anticipation of Small Business Saturday, the organizations have been collecting information about the sales and events happening at the businesses in the community and are posting them under an event page on Facebook available through the Main Street and chamber pages. It includes information about hours businesses will be open, doorbusters, gift bags available for the first groups of customers and other festivities taking place.
"For a long time, especially over the last 2 1/2 years, we've thought, 'Let's get over this hump and then everything's going to be fine,'" she said. "That's really not the case."
She said the outcome of the local economy depends on the support businesses receive in the community and will be what shapes where the community is in five or 10 years.
Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. presented a proclamation at the Albert Lea City Council meeting on Monday for Small Business Saturday, which Karsjens said she hopes got the word out a little more, as well, about supporting local businesses.
Though some people say they are frustrated with the retail options available in the city, she reminded those people that the stores, boutiques and even restaurants make changes to their inventory regularly — some even every week.
"What you saw three months ago is very different now," she said. "They're constantly going to market and constantly getting new vendors."
She noted it is important to keep in mind the many layers that are involved in what a community can offer for retail establishments, many which often are driven by traffic.
"The only way we can grow and prove that we can have more things or have more offerings is to do that with our own dollars," Karsjens said. "We have to be able to support what we have before we can demand we can support more."
Shari Sprague, executive director of the chamber, also encouraged people to consider purchasing Chamber Bucks, which can then be spent at local businesses, and to support local restaurants as well. She wanted to remind people that several local places also offer merchandise online.
Karsjens encouraged people in the community who want to know more about the retail businesses or events in the community or who may want to open a business or who are looking for space to contact ALEDA, the chamber, the CVB or Main Street leaders.
"One or more of our organizations can help," Karsjens said.