Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Paul Fraughton | Salt Lake Tribune The Red Iguana 2, at 866 West South Temple is a popular Mexican Restaurant that is locally owned and operated. Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Study: Buying local pays off locally

Spending » Data show independent retailers return more to communities than national chains.

First Published Aug 15 2012 07:19 pm • Last Updated Aug 16 2012 03:45 pm

A staffer for Bill Clinton stepped into the Red Iguana on North Temple Monday night and ordered take-out.

An hour later, the restaurant manager got a telephone call, saying the former President and his entourage loved the killer vegetarian nachos, chili verde and pollo a la moreliana.

At a glance

‘I am Local’ free exhibit

When » 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday

Features » 14 photo narratives of Utah businesses.

Where » Poor Yorick Art Studios, 126 Crystal Ave. (2590 South) Salt Lake City

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"Imagine," said restaurant co-owner Bill Coker. "Not McDonald’s. Not Burger King. But Red Iguana."

On Wednesday, Coker and wife Lucy Cardenas were on hand during a press conference at Harmons Emigration Market touting locally owned businesses.

They and others were armed with a study conducted in the Salt Lake Valley that showed independent retailers return 52 percent of their revenue to the local economy — compared with 14 percent by national chains. The data from 2011 compiled by national research firm Civic Economics also calculated that locally owned restaurants returned nearly 79 percent of their revenue, compared with 30 percent by their national counterparts.

The study concluded that shifting just 10 percent of purchases from national chains to local retailers and restaurants would keep $487 million in the Utah economy — money that now leaves the state to be spent elsewhere.

"Most of us have a sense that local businesses are good for communities," said Betsy Burton, owner of the King’s English Bookstore. "And studies in other parts of the country have borne this out over the past decade. Now, we have hard evidence right here that consumers can have a huge impact on the local economy."

Nan Seymour, executive director of the nonprofit Local First Utah that advocates for independent businesses, called the study the first of its kind in the Intermountain West.

The analysis was paid for by Salt Lake City and Local First Utah, with a matching grant from the American Booksellers Association. Ongoing support by Zions Bank and Harmons also made the study possible, Seymour said.

Daniel Houston, a partner at Civic Economics, said similar studies in Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans, Phoenix, and Grand Rapids, Mich., by the national research group shows that shopping locally can keep at least three times more revenue in local economies.

story continues below
story continues below

"Salt Lake City is no exception," he said in a statement. "If anything, the local effect may be even stronger in Utah."

Fifteen retailers and seven restaurants, all independent and locally owned, participated in the local survey.

For comparison purposes, Civic Economics analyzed annual reports for four major national chain stores (Barnes & Noble, The Home Depot, Office Max and Target). In addition, researchers analyzed reports for three national restaurant chains (Darden, McDonald’s and P.F. Chang’s).

While chain stores and restaurants extract locally generated revenue from the community with each nightly bank transaction, independents create a cycle of local spending, according to the study.

The extra dollars in local communities produce more jobs, extra tax revenue, more investment in commercial and residential districts, and enhanced support for local nonprofits. In short, these businesses create better places, it said.

Red Iguana’s Cardenas attributes the restaurant’s success to loyal local patrons who have made the eatery so popular that its owners have built a second restaurant on South Temple, Red Iguana 2, just blocks away from the original.

The two restaurants serve 1,200 people a day and " provide a gathering place for special occasions," while employing 160 people "who spend their money here," she said.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.