Soldotna will celebrate its past, enjoy its present and look forward to a bright future during this weekend's Progress Days. The theme of this year's event There's No Business Like Soldotna Business highlights the role the city's many and diverse commercial ventures have played in making the community what it is today.
There's little doubt, the city has come a long way. Census figures from 1950 show just 21 people in Soldotna. Today, the city boasts a population of 3,759, according to the 2000 census, and is home to more than 30 restaurants, several tackle shops, an Internet cafe, hotels, variety stores, hobby shops and everything in between.
Soldotna's recognition of the contributions businesses large and small have played in shaping the community is a good reminder of how important a strong customer base is to making sure those businesses thrive in other words, how important it is to do business locally. Goods and services purchased locally not only help local businesses, they also help the community as a whole since taxes from local retail sales are a primary source of revenue to fund city governments within the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
It doesn't take an accountant or finance officer to figure out that purchases made outside of the Kenai Peninsula do nothing to contribute to the local tax base, which goes to support schools, public works, public safety, jobs and a host of other quality of life components. Purchases made outside the peninsula also do not contribute to local employment and entrepreneurial opportunity. They give nothing back to the community.
While the number of businesses and goods and services now available on the peninsula certainly has increased over the years, merchants today face challenges not dreamed about when Soldotna held its first Progress Days celebration 43 years ago. Today there are lots of reasons to forego the drive to Anchorage to shop for goods. Just ask yourself: Do you really save enough to justify the time on the road, the expense of gas and the hassle and traffic of the big city?
But the information highway offers formidable competition with its unlimited inventories and never-closed hours.
Local businesses, however, provide many things that Internet commerce cannot primarily, a personal touch and a vital social safety net for the community. Regularly, the Clarion runs "Applause" letters thanking businesses for their contributions to nonprofit groups. Those letters provide a snapshot of the overwhelming generosity of peninsula businesses. It would be impossible to put a dollar figure on what these businesses contribute to the quality of life here with their donations of time, money and talent to scores of nonprofit charitable organizations, school projects and neighbors in need.
Everyone benefits the more local dollars are kept in the community. Still, no one should patronize a business merely because of its location. Goods and services should be competitively priced and customers should be treated with respect. Some of the best business advice around is this: "If you like our business, tell others; if you don't, tell us." Residents should tell local businesses why they choose to do business elsewhere price, service, items not in stock, whatever the reason. It may be the best thing that ever happened to a business and its customers.
Area businesses and government officials can hope for nothing less than that peninsula residents consider the economic impact of their choice every time they make a purchase outside the peninsula. Residents' business could mean the difference between a good year and a bad year for a local firm. It could mean a more stable payroll. It could mean the business is able to keep more inventory, which would mean it could better serve the whole community.
As Soldotna celebrates the contributions of its businesses, it's good to remember that support for local businesses helps the entire community. It's just good business to do business with those who do business with you.
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