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Staff column

By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Thinking outside the traditional

I certainly don't want to take credit for the base issues that I am presenting in this column. I got the ideas from an email sent to me a couple of weeks ago by Alan Peterson. It was a thought provoking email, one which we all should consider. But I do want to comment on the concepts.

Over the years, our country has been losing jobs; they are traveling across our borders and many have ended up in Asia, particularly in China. America still is the largest manufacturer in the world, but not in regular consumer goods. And we are falling fast on our faces in other areas like comercial and industrial manufacturing as well. We won't be the biggest even in those areas of making things much longer, unfortunately.

The late Steve Jobs built his first Macintosh manufacturing plant in Fremont, Calif. in the mid-1980s. When he started the NEXT company with backing from Ross Perot he also built a plant in the United States to build that computer. But after he came back to Apple, and started building iPods and iPads, he moved his manufacturing to Asia. You know why? He said it in an interview I saw. He said it took so much work, so much red tape, so much political maneuvering to get a plant built anywhere in the United States, it just wasn't worth it anymore.

So even those that would prefer to keep the manufacturing of things we like to buy American, even those with the clout and the money to do so, are shying away.

So, because of that and other factors, we are left with a service economy. I believe that most manufacturing will never return and that is particularly true of the small and medium priced items we buy as presents for birthdays, graduations, and yes, Christmas.

We are in a deep recession. Utah seems to be faring better than much of the rest of the nation, but here locally we are not doing as well as the rest of the state. In the last year our area has lost some valuable mining jobs with Consol closing, Dugout Mine near closure and Horizon Mine set back because of logistical problems in the mine. Those jobs are some of the best paying in the area, and their loss cuts into everyone's local revenue, whether a business sells groceries or one that sells gadgets. Those closures eventually costs jobs too, affecting your town, your neighbors and ultimately you, even if you weren't one of the people laid off.

But how can you spend locally for Christmas gifts without buying something that is made in China or Korea?

Alan's email made a lot of sense. It said, basically, spend money on gifts that can benefit your local area. Sure merchandise you purchase here does that because it provides jobs to those who are employed at local retail outlets. Most of us will spend a lot there.

But what the email got at was learning to consume what is produced in the local area; and in the case of our area, that is largely service.

Each year I spend at least two or three hundred bucks on the young man that mows my lawn. I also get haircuts, go to local restaurants and get my vehicles oil changed. Some of the other things that were detailed in Alan's email included car detailing and car washes, golfing certificates, a gift for mom or the lady of the house by having someone come in and clean their house, tickets for entertainment venues, certificates for ice cream shops, etc.

There are also a lot of local crafts in the area, and certainly local art. We have some world class artists in eastern Utah who produce beautiful stuff, and the dollars you might pay for that big new Chinese-made flat screen you are buying off the internet with free shipping, would fit much more nicely in one of our artists pockets. The best thing to remember is that class act art will almost always increase in value. That television that was shipped to you from LA will be worth much less than you paid for it next Christmas. Most consumer goods never gain value until they are considered antiques.

The point is buy local, not just American. And if you are going to buy an object rather than a service, buy it here, not on the web. If there is a service that can help someone you know, get them a certificate, voucher, ticket, or whatever it is called and you will support local people who support you in your job.

After all, what the holidays are about is caring for and helping your neighbors and family.

So what could be more important than helping them through exercising true local economic stimulus rather than through some soon to be meaningless object that was made in a foreign country?

If everyone even spent 50 percent of what they will put out for Christmas gifts this year on gifts of local service and manufacture, think of the message this would send, the lives it would help and the effects on our local economy?

It's time to think outside of the common Christmas box and to form new traditions.




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