RIO GRANDE — “Folks, it’s time we take care of our own. Whenever or wherever possible, we need to buy local. At the very least, we need to make the effort to buy here first. Our mindset needs to be ‘Gallia First.’ Will it be easy? No. But aren’t you tired of talking about the ‘good old days?’ I am. We all know we aren’t the shopping mecca we once were, but only we can change it one purchase at a time.”
These were the words of Tom Wiseman, lifelong Gallia County resident, president and CEO of Ohio Valley Bank and guest speaker at the 76th Annual Chamber of Commerce Meeting and Awards Banquet held on Thursday evening at the University of Rio Grande.
Wiseman, who previously served as the lead of the Ohio Valley Bank board of directors and president of The Wiseman Agency, was, and remains, involved in the implementation of the “Grow Gallia” campaign — the county’s strategic plan for economic development.
“Gallia First”, as a offshoot of the strategic plan, relates to putting the community first and the support of local business through the continued purchase of not only goods, but also services in Gallia County — where money spent equates to a stronger local economy, according to Wiseman.
“There’s more to buying local than just a shopping cart. There are plenty of opportunities to support the local economy. You have the list of your chamber members in your packets, that’s a good place to start,” Wiseman told the crowd gathered at the banquet.
Wiseman, who explained his hesitation in agreeing to speak at Thursday night’s event, stated that preparing his speech on the ideals of “Gallia First” was a humbling experience whereby he had to examine his own commitment to buying local.
While on this topic, Wiseman relayed the tale of his up bring and his “stickler” of a father who was committed to supporting those who supported his own local business.
“For the 20 years or so while I was growing up, everything, from where bought our shoes, to where we got our eyes checked, was dictated by who bought their insurance from dad,” Wiseman explained. “Every once and a while you might challenge him, his response (in a stern tone, I might add), ‘they had a choice, too, and they choose us.’ End of discussion.”
The examination of his father’s commitment to buying local, made Wiseman think about his own mindset and whether or not, he, like his father, is a “stickler” when it comes to buying local.
“Am I a stickler? Do I have that same commitment? My daughter Abby, she’s here, she might say, ‘yeah, he does,’ but the truthful answer is, sometimes,” Wiseman said. “I’m certainly not perfect, far from it. I don’t proclaim to be better than anybody in this room or anybody in this county. And, yes, let’s get it out of the way, I’ve purchased things out of town that I could have and should have purchased in Gallia County. So there you have it, throw stones at me, but before you do, if we’re all honest, my guess is, you’re in the same boat; so, no ‘holier than thou’ speech from me.”
While discussing the “Gallia First” mindset, Wiseman explained the three rules that should be followed when putting Gallia County first.
Rule #1: “The only way to make ‘Gallia First’ a success is to quit looking back and start looking forward.”
Rule #2: “If we spend our time condemning every Tom Wiseman in this county for making a purchase out of town, well, we’re just wasting that time. ‘Gallia First’ is no witch hunt.”
Rule #3: “We’ll celebrate our successes and not condemn our failures. Wipe the slate clean. ‘Gallia First’ starts tonight,” Wiseman said.
While speaking, Wiseman also spoke briefly to those at the chamber banquet who may have traveled to the event from other counties. According to Wiseman, the “Gallia First” campaign could be translated to putting any community first in our area as, residents of any particular community may not be able to influence the national economy, but their purchases can greatly impact their own hometowns.
“Let me to say to our good friends from other counties that might be here tonight, we could just as easily be talking about ‘Meigs First’ or ‘Mason First’ or ‘Jackson First’. We all share similar challenges. I’m sure that the ‘buy local’ message will travel,” Wiseman commented.
Also, as a warning, Wiseman stated that, while it may be easy to get on the “buy local bandwagon” it is much harder to stay there. He reflected on those adages that tend to slip in the local purchaser’s conscience, such as, “I’d rather go to the mall,” “the selection is not any good here,” and “it’s easier to go online.”
“Inevitably, those old attitudes creep in — attitudes that seem to justify why we didn’t, or worse, why we can’t buy local,” Wiseman said. “I didn’t realize that everything is cheaper out of Gallia County — everything. That’s our mindset, before we buy here, check out there. That has to change. We have to change.”
Possibly the biggest “attitude” that is a detriment to putting “Gallia First,” is the mindset that going out of town to purchase goods and services is cheaper — a mindset that is “simply not true,” according to Wiseman.
“When you’ve taken that money out of this county, I’d venture to say it’s the most expensive purchase you’ll ever make,” he said. “That’s right, not cheaper, even if the price tag says so, it’s more expensive. How can that be? It’s simple. Money spent out of town is gone, forever — out of this county, out of our pockets forever. Not one penny comes back. We need to turn this around, but it will take a great effort from all of us.”
Wiseman also briefly discussed the many new exciting entrepreneurial ventures that have begun recently in Gallia County, including the implementation of the Digital River Project and the opening of several new businesses in the county.
“There are some great things happening in Gallia County. So, I ask, how do we keep the momentum going? Well, we can start tonight. ‘Gallia First’ starts tonight. We should encourage ourselves, our business associates, our employees, families, friends, strangers walking down the street, anybody who will listen. We need to support each other,” Wiseman stated. “Support our local business — those new entrepreneurs and those businesses that have been here for decades. We all need to be vocal advocates, championing the ‘buy local’ cause, leading by example — sticklers.”
In closing, Wiseman offered a challenge to those business men and women and community members in attendance on Thursday night, and also those in Gallia County who may hear the “Gallia First” message in the days ahead.
“In the weeks and months to come, you will hear more and more about ‘Gallia First.’ Many of you will be called to actively participate,” he said. “In the meantime, I challenge you to keep the momentum going in Gallia County. I challenge you to embrace the ‘Gallia First’ movement and I challenge you to grow Gallia.”