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As we approach the holiday season, for many of us that means shopping for gifts. So as you make your list and check it twice, be certain to Shop Southern Illinois.

In 2009, Regional Chambers of Commerce joined together and created the Shop Southern Illinois campaign. The objective of the campaign is to bring awareness of the importance for residents to shop locally. Over time the campaign has increased awareness to us all and many residents have made a concerted effort to spend their money in locally-owned businesses.

Everything that you desire for your community must be invested in. If you want accessible shopping, gas stations, jobs, schools, hospitals, and nice roads it is imperative that we shop locally.

Consider these statistics — for every $100 spent locally, $46 spent at a small business stays in your community. Only $18 spent at a chain business stays in your community. The money gets ‘recycled’ to other local businesses.

Local businesses give up to five times more to groups and charities in their communities. If you’ve helped a school-aged child with a fundraiser or an organization raise money for a project, you’ve undoubtedly had more success getting donations from local businesses than large chain stores.

Local businesses create 2.6 times more employment opportunities in your local community. Shopping locally provides tax dollars to help improve roads, education, the arts, as well as several other causes. Environmentally, local businesses have reduced transportation footprints.

What we ask you to do is take the pledge to shop locally. We also ask you to help spread the word by tagging any social media posts with the hashtag #IBuySI. You can also update your Facebook profile picture and use the IBuySI frame after you have ‘liked’ the Shop Southern Illinois Facebook page.

If you are a tweeter you can follow @ShopSouthernIll on Twitter. Weekly drawings will be posted on these accounts with prizes from various chambers. Winners will be chosen from users who like, share, and comment on prize posts on the Shop Southern Illinois Facebook page. Prizes will be given from the following chambers and the drawing dates are:

Marion: November 9

Pinckneyville: November 16

Du Quoin: November 23

Murphysboro: November 30

Union County: December 7

Saline County: December 14

Jefferson County: December 23

Nashville: December 23

Grand Prize Awarded: December 28

Carterville, Herrin and Carbondale drawing dates have already passed.

Shop Southern Illinois will be hosting “Snapchat takeovers” with participating chamber members. Follow @ShopSouthernIL on Snapchat to see local businesses across Southern Illinois.

A misconception with some of us is that it costs more to buy local. That’s not always true. When you factor in all the benefits, some of which I listed above, it makes more sense to support the businesses, even if something costs us a few dollars more.

We love the Southern Illinois region and the communities that make up this place we call home. Each town is unique and offers a wide variety of choices when it comes to shopping, dining and entertainment.

If we all will make a conscious effort to support those businesses that make our region so special, we will be ensuring that our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy the same way of life that we are privileged to be a part of.

Let’s work together this year and make Shop Southern Illinois more than just a slogan, let’s make it a way of life.

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