Early bargain hunters and Black Friday enthusiasts have already gotten a head start and are closing in on finishing their tasks. But for many of us, we're still making our lists, checking them twice, and trying to determine who's been naughty or nice before heading out to the stores to begin our holiday shopping.

As we prepare to make the transition from November to December, it's time for the majority of Polk County residents to tackle their Christmas shopping lists. While searching for that perfect gift for a family member or friend this season, consider doing your shopping close to home and supporting independently owned businesses here in Polk County.

During our ongoing sluggish economic times, we can all play our own part in helping bolster the local economy by spending our holiday shopping dollars at area businesses owned by our friends and neighbors.

Why drive and fight the traffic and crowded concrete jungles when, in many cases, you can find what you are looking for from area businesses in Dallas, Independence, Monmouth and our other local communities?

From jewelry to hardware, bikes to books, gift certificates for local restaurants or salons, wines to micro brews, and even a few big-ticket items, Polk County businesses offer just about anything and everything you might need.

Several new businesses have come into our communities during the past year. If you haven't taken the time to check them out and see what they have to offer, please do so. At the same time, a number of businesses in the region have closed during the past year, demonstrating just how fragile our local economy still is.

Money spent in Polk County not only supports area businesses, it helps keep local jobs in the local area for local residents. It's no secret that the holiday shopping season accounts for a large percentage of sales for many retail businesses -- this is often the make-or-break period for them.

Surveys have shown that shopping close to home is a strong investment in your local community. According to the 3/50 Project, for every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spent that in a national big-box chain store, only $43 stays locally. And for those who shop online, the local economy typically receives nothing of what you spend.

With our ongoing economic downturn, now more than ever we need to support our local businesses that are vital to keeping our communities vibrant and relevant.

As a number of advertising themes have noted over the years: Live local, buy local. Support your neighbors and friends this holiday season by shopping at our Polk County merchants.

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