When I pause and reflect back on 2015 and our accomplishments for the year – it’s not necessarily the number of businesses involved, the impacts made or partnerships developed that come to mind – but rather the stories that have come my way either directly or through the media.

One of our long-time supporters is a non-local company, WestRock (formerly Mead Westvaco) — a fantastic example of a good corporate citizen who is supporting the community that they have decided to invest in. In the past year WestRock Land and Development has spent more than $30 million in goods and services with South Carolina-based businesses. They are true believers in the “Buy Local Movement,” and through the cultivation of both Nexton and Summers Corner, are keeping more dollars flowing back into our community by working with local bakers, chefs, musicians, craftsmen, florist, local media, builders, surveyors and engineers as well as supporting area nonprofits. To me, this is a BIG win!

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I recently read an article by Warren Wise in the Post & Courier, sharing how Steve Varn of Varn Realty recently chose a local business for one of his prime King Street locations over a non-local business. Steve is quoted as saying, “I probably left money on the table, but I feel strongly that we need to keep locals on King Street.”

“You don’t want to lose that local feeling. I want other landlords to know that it’s important that we keep that local character. If not, we are going to look like anywhere else in America.” While I have met Steve, I don’t have a relationship with him – yet I can see that the Local movement has taken hold of his values. Steve is investing back into the community that has made his business successful and is protecting what makes Charleston a place we are happy to call home.

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Photo credit: homeaway.com

We often talk about the uniqueness of our city, the great local flavor, but it’s something that can’t be taken for granted and demands effort from both the City and property owners like Steve Varn. In December, I was asked to speak at the Hall’s Small Business luncheon, put on by the King Street Marketing Group. After the announcement email was sent, a woman from Calgary, Canada reached out to me and told me of her and her mother’s frequent visits and obsession with the Holy City. “Our last visit was one year ago … we literally spent the first four days luxuriating in the shopping on King Street. Seriously … we were shopping/dining all day/everyday covering the length of King for four days! Again, it’s the quality, selection and value … we will never stop returning!”

These examples of the needle moving toward local are not just a win for Lowcountry Local First but they are a win for all of us who choose to call the Lowcountry home! In this new year, my challenge to all of you is to keep us abreast of your stories — either of your own business, your neighbor’s business, or anything you happen to see within the community. While it’s often necessary for us to delve into issues we see the business and farming community facing, we love sharing success stories and examples of locals supporting locals. Keep them coming!

Jamee Haley
Executive Director at Lowcountry Local First