What can you, as one person, as a family and as a household, do to positively impact your town, county, state and region this summer? Get out and spend locally.

Shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders kept most of us at home this spring. As those orders relax this summer, I suggest the following: Spend locally.

Yes, please continue to follow COVID-19 precautions — but put some economic oomph behind your spending and keep as much as possible local.

Katie Pinke, Agweek Publisher
Katie Pinke, Agweek Publisher

You’ve heard it before but whether we’re putting words into action is yet to be determined. I called and spoke to a representative of the North Dakota Office of State Tax Commissioner to understand more about how and when we’ll know just how deep sales revenues will dive in my home state. The answer: We don’t know yet until final reports are published in weeks and months to come.

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South Dakota publishes monthly sales tax reports, which I recently skimmed. I’ve seen two friends share via social media they believe their small towns have benefited during the stay-at-home orders this spring because spending has remained local. While I haven’t found numbers to validate any rural town growth claims, the concept of a rural renaissance in times of economic despair gives me hope.

One positive I did discover is North Dakota registered around 1,800 remote online sellers, those with no physical presence in the state, since the June 2018 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the “South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc.” case. The case affirmed the ability of the states to require remote online sellers to collect sales tax from their online customers and remit the tax to the state. In North Dakota, the growth of remote online sales tax could significantly increase during our shelter-in-place practices. Since October 2018, the collection of state and local sales taxes by remote sellers totaled nearly $58 million, with $17 million coming in the first four months of 2020, says Kathy Strombeck, director of research and communication of the North Dakota Office of State Tax Commissioner.

No matter what sales tax revenue reports find or how much remote online retailers sales tax collections help state and local governments, the reality is shopping locally at brick-and-mortar small businesses drives our economic strength. Remote online retailers aren’t driving community and state economic strength.

You need the mom-and-pop shops in your town — and the mom-and-pop shops need you.

Almost all businesses have reopened after COVID-19 shutdowns, and small businesses await your patronage. Many small businesses had limited or no new revenue this spring. Your community and local business owners and employees depend on you.

Your support creates a swell, a grassroots movement as you influence those around you. Do not stay silent in your support of your community. Share it.

Yesterday, I read a news article about a yoga studio shutting down rather than renewing its building lease. Then a friend shared her favorite café announced its closure. The dry cleaners I use recently sent me a text to let me know I needed to pick up my dry cleaning because they were permanently closing their doors in two days.

While I am deeply saddened by the business closures, it makes me want to dig in and show more support to the brick-and-mortar stores still standing.

Spend locally this summer. Can someone write a jingle for us to sing about this mantra?

Rural America rises to overcome obstacles. Do not be a statistic where you call home. We are not self-made. We are community-driven and support one another based on how we choose to spend our dollars.

Behind every storefront is a story, a business, a family and employees supporting their families and spending their paychecks in their communities. Spend locally this summer to show your support.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.