In a “normal” year — that is, a year without a pandemic disrupting everything under the sun — we would greet the run-up to the holiday shopping season with a reminder to shop local.

It’s always important to consider local merchants for the way they help keep money in local circulation. But this year, the idea is more important than ever.

First, consider yourself lucky if your holiday shopping list has changed little from previous years. Holiday-related spending is a faraway dream for many Grand Valley residents who are just trying to pay for groceries and medicine without falling too far behind on rent or mortgage payments, utilities and credit card bills.

If you’re one of the fortunate residents whose income stream hasn’t been disrupted by the pandemic, you’re in the unique position to be a difference-maker in how the pandemic affects others.

We don’t want to harangue people. Let’s just say in the season of giving, we can maximize the spreading of good cheer by being thoughtful about how we shop — provided we have a choice in the matter.

That’s still to be determined. If we don’t flatten the curve quickly, we may have no choice. Reverting to a stay-at-home situation in which all non-essential businesses operations are shuttered would be a boon to online retail giants. So our first order of business is to do our part to keep the local economy open enough to preserve choice.

From there, everyone from the governor to the local chamber president is saying the same thing: the fate of a post-vaccine economy hinges on keeping businesses alive through the darkest days of this pandemic.

“The small businesses of Mesa County need residents now more than ever to shop local,” said Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. “For many small businesses, up to 40% of their annual income is derived from the holiday shopping season. Because of the Five Star designations, customers have the added knowledge that our businesses are doing everything possible to keep them safe.”

Gov. Jared Polis and the Office of Economic Development and International Trade have launched an awareness campaign to remind consumers that livelihoods hang in the balance. Small businesses employ more than 1.1 million Coloradans or nearly half of the entire workforce statewide.

For every $100 that consumers spend locally, about $70 of that money stays local, helping boost employment and tax revenue for local governments.

Explore online if you must. But buy local.

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