I grew up in a world that wasn't inundated with strip malls, chain stores and online shopping. The corner grocery store wasn't a myth, the family doctors didn't belong to a medical conglomerate and the local newspaper wasn't owned by out-of-state venture capitalists. Not only did we know the owners of many of the businesses where my family shopped, we went to school with their children.

I don't hold on to these memories in order to pine over "the good old days." I am far more practical than that. Instead, I think about the money my parents used to spend at their favorite stores and where that money ended up.

According to the American Inde-pendent Business Alliance, independent businesses employ more people directly per dollar of revenue. They are also the customers of local printers, accountants, wholesalers, farms, attorneys, etc., all of which helps expand opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

Every dollar we spend at local independent businesses returns three times more money to our local economy than one spent at a chain and almost 50 times more than buying from an online mega-retailer - payoffs we all can bank on.

Clearly, buying local is good for our economy, but it comes down to more than money. I am a person who thrives on personal relationships. There's nothing like biking to my food co-op and being greeted by Ben telling me that fresh turmeric is back in stock. Or walking to our local bookstore with my granddaughter to ask Holly, the owner, for a good book about gardening with a three-year-old. Or joining with other children and adults on a sidewalk chalk project in front of a neighborhood storefront.

That brings me to another advantage of buying local - community-building encounters at neighborhood, owner-operated businesses. For some, experiences like these might be at the root of nostalgia, but for practical me they are the basis of a strong, thriving and sustainable economy. That's something we can all benefit from.

Linda Winsor is a citizen member of MetroIBA - Independent Business Alliance and is passionate about strong communities, responsible government, bike commuting, her family and her lively granddaughter.

FFI: buylocaltwincities.com/membership or info@metroiba.com

What's on your mind?
We'd like to hear it. For writer's guidelines, go to www.womenspress.com. Email your 450-word personal essay to editor@womenspress.com.