Our View: 'Shop Craig First'

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Thursday in Steamboat Springs, economic development experts offered their insight into diversifying the "regional resort" economy of the Yampa Valley.

Of course, there are vast differences between economic conditions in Steamboat Springs and Craig, though our economies are intertwined.

We don't have the tourist traffic that Steamboat has, nor are we as dependent on tourist dollars, save for hunters. Coal and energy production provide many jobs and a good standard of living for those fortunate enough to hold them.

Craig doesn't have a "big-box" battle brewing between local merchants and national retail chains, either. But that doesn't mean that Craig's businesses don't feel the same pinch.

Local businesses have long complained about residents leaving town to shop for household goods, appliances, vehicles, electronics, clothes and other items.

"Shop Craig First" may sound like a hokey chamber slogan, but it's a mindset that could help the economy. Many business owners would love to expand their inventories and provide more name-brand items that people are willing to travel 250 miles to buy. But without support, they can't make the profit margins that allow them to invest in expanded product lines.

Cathy Vanatta, the director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, says most people don't purposely shop out of town. Shopping usually takes place in conjunction with a planned trip or vacation. And the chamber tries to remind businesses that they have to make an effort to let shoppers know that they can order products that aren't in stock.

Merchants can't expect residents simply to vow to shop locally, but they can provide better, friendlier service that will leave a lasting impression, she said.

When was the last time you asked a local merchant if they could have a product shipped here within three days for a reasonable price? Consumers shouldn't make blanket assumptions that our businesses don't have what they need without asking first.

Tony and Maggie St. John of Craig were so impressed with the level of customer service they received from Rocky Mountain TLC that they wrote a letter to the editor praising the work of the carpet installers.

"If we could offer a little advice to our community, we would ask that when you're buying a big-ticket item, give your local merchants an opportunity to give you a price, and if you find them higher, tell them. Just maybe they can come down on their price."

We think that's great advice. Giving our merchants a chance will not only improve price and selection down the road, it will boost our sales tax revenues and give our governments more leverage to provide quality-of-life amenities.

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