We are changing banks again. We left the mammoth Bank of America to a smaller regional bank about a year ago. Seeing the writing on the wall regarding fees and charges with the regional establishment, we made the move to a local bank and have already seen a glowing difference. For starters, I don’t have to press #1 on my phone and wait through a catalog of options – I talk to an actual person in Nashville. We also received a gift card to a restaurant with a hand written thank you note from the manager of the branch where we opened our account. They are neighborly and make us feel at home. I imagine their business is booming from other customers fleeing national banks who are increasing fees and charges.
Why had we waited so long to go local? Were we just victims of slick advertising and “bigger is better” mentality? I was reminded that this was no huge revelation or breaking ground here; this is how it used to be done. We come from local. Local banks, local hardware, local doctor, local produce, local auto mechanic, local radio station, local eggs, and so on. I’m reminded of that small town feel, where you were known, appreciated, and felt connected.
You see local happening in other areas besides banking. Some embrace it as a hip trend, while others recognize it as going back to a better time. Either way, both sides view it as a better option in most cases.
Local cannot be forced to be embraced again. It has to happen naturally and will thanks to major corporations who are pressured to keep their stock up and play to the lowest common denominator, which causes them to bite the hand that feeds. While some people will allow the feeding to continue, others are moving on to a more personal substitute. What they currently long for in local is something that has been lost among the masses for a while now.
True, some localization is more expensive and in today’s economy we are all inclined to save money where we can. However, as local makes a return the competition increases and prices will come down. Also, lower prices will occur as the quantity of people go local. The more the better for us all.
I’m no anti-capitalist and believe that the same process that spurred mega-corporate growth will be the process that will move companies and industries to go more local and win. As long as the government doesn’t get in the way, which they have a habit of doing. Whether that would be food markets, financial institutions, bookstores, radio, or any other business that has gotten away from what once made them desirable or relevant. It’s just a matter of time before others are driven away by the impersonal and unappealing ways of large companies that have lost their way.
Yet, we must be watchful that “local” isn’t just a misleading statement or a strategic brand imaging ploy. There are bad local businesses as much as bad national businesses and people in each looking to rip the consumer off. The key is always to evaluate the quality of product, customer service, follow up, and true local authenticity.
Don’t get me wrong, I still like my Lowe’s and Target, but there is room for local to come back and take hold in many segments of daily life. Filling a place that has been lost, forgotten, or ignored. A place that will be reclaimed by smart businesses and down home people that wish to reconnect to genuine community.
Have you made any moves to local? What businesses would you like to see become more local?