Union Democrat staff

Shop Local.

It's the centerpiece of a Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce campaign aimed at fighting the recession. It is also a mantra that has likely been evoked by movers and shakers on main streets across the nation for decades or longer.

Amid all this long-running boosterism, however, a key fact may be lost: Shopping local works.

Economic studies by universities, think tanks and government agencies show that spending locally keeps cash in communities, creates jobs, produces local taxes, saves shoppers time, money and gas and builds prosperity. Those same studies speak to the significant "multiplier effect" of a dollar spent locally and how it's "re-invested" in the community over several business transactions.

Granted, shopping locally will not alone save the Mother Lode from the ravages of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

More than a dozen storefronts on Sonora's Washington Street stand vacant. The community Mervyn's store, along with others around the nation, have closed. Many other local businesses are struggling to survive. The Lumberyard, a brewery and restaurant in Standard, closed its door after the Super Bowl.

With retirement accounts and home equity shrinking, and unemployment rising, virtually all of us are spending less. That's not likely to change soon and - despite government hopes that American can spend its way out of this recession - our instinct is frugality.

But we still go to grocery, hardware and clothing stores. We still buy birthday presents for friends and family, repair our cars, improve our homes and even enjoy occasional nights out. The idea is when we do shop, make it right here at home.

Need reasons? Here are just a few:

• Saves time, money and gas: Modesto, our shoppers' most frequent out-of-town destination, is 50 miles each way, and the trip almost invariably turns out to be a day-long excursion involving traffic, crowds and stress. For Sacramento or the Bay Area, amplify all those negatives.

• Boosts local economy: Buy at home and merchants often use the money you spend to buy goods and services from other community businesses, which in turn do the same thing.

• Creates local tax revenues: A slice of the state sales tax is returned to cities and counties, so if you spend locally that cash can go roads, law enforcement, libraries or other projects that can benefit the community.

• Helps home-based charities: Local shops and businesses use revenues to support local causes and help local people who may be down on their luck. Those who own businesses elsewhere don't care.

• Helps your friends: In small communities like ours, you often know the owners and employees of the businesses in which you shop. They benefit from the money you spend and you benefit from friendly, knowledgeable service.

• Builds a stronger economy: Thanks to the financial straits we're in, this may not happen overnight. But success builds success, and a prosperous business district attracts new shops and spurs expansion. Each dollar spent builds toward a stronger future economy.