Specht: Eating, shopping local brings potential for economic growth

On any given Friday night, if you listen closely, you can hear the hum of hundreds of car engines as they leave Minden on their way for dinner and entertainment in Shreveport and Bossier City. That sound is often repeated on Saturday as shoppers head west to make purchases.

Local foodies complain there is nowhere to eat or shop in Minden that doesn’t involve fast, or Mexican food, while their retail counterparts say there aren’t adequate choices for much needed “therapy.” Is that really the case?

If one is willing to refuse that premise and look around town, they may see a different Minden. Careful observers will find upscale dining at places like Grace Estates and Roma Italian Bistro, along with a host of boutiques and local retailers sporting the latest fashions and goods.

Minden has three new car dealerships, which is rare for a city our size, not to mention two furniture retailers. Add to that some of our national chains, and one would be hard-pressed to justify a trip out of town.

So why do we leave? What is the allure of the big city? Perhaps it is more habit than convenience. After all, those who drive 70 miles per hour, or a little over, can be at a big city mall/center in less than 30 minutes. But at what cost?

As Mayor Tommy Davis has been quick to point out, the city receives just two cents in taxes on every dollar spent in Minden. To put that in perspective, if $1 million is spent in Minden, the city receives $20,000 in sales taxes. For a city that needs to raise salaries, along with improving infrastructure, we as citizens need to spend a lot more locally.

The benefits of shopping locally go beyond the taxes raised. Local businesses employ local people. Those people spend their money in other local businesses, and the economic wheel turns.

According to the 2017 Downtown Market Analysis for Minden produced by Louisiana Main Street, some retail categories are “leaked” outside of the area by more than 50 percent. Furniture, shoes, and jewelry all ranked in the over 50 percent leakage column. In the Food and Drink categories, the Minden trade area is losing nearly $48 million annually.

“The overall conclusion is that the Minden trade area is losing a significant amount of resident spending from shopping outside the trade area,” the report said.

That’s on us, folks.

This weekend, there is a sales tax holiday for “second amendment” items. While the tax dollars are suspended through Sunday, the other benefits of shopping locally are still in effect. Many of those items are available at places like D.C. Pawn, Minden Pawn & Gun, Ramsey’s Southern Outfitters, Mike’s Outdoor, Minden Farm and Garden, Walmart, and a whole host of others. Please forgive me if I’ve missed your establishment.

Would it be too much to ask those who are taking advantage of this opportunity to check the local stores first? I am sure the stores would appreciate it, and Minden could use your money more than Shreveport-Bossier.

This could be the beginning of a retail comeback in Minden. Success breeds success, and we would have more here if we shopped more here.

While you’re at it, dine at a local restaurant. It’s the least all of us can do.

David Specht is president of Specht Newspapers, Inc. He may be reached via email at dspecht@press-herald.com.

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