Share the love: Spend local 

Valentine's Day can come with a pretty hefty price tag. And while we aren't going to lecture you on the fact that material goods are a poor substitute for what really matters in life, we would like to ask you to consider spending your money in a way that can benefit the whole community.

This past year, NUVO joined with more than 70 other alternative newsweeklies across the United States in a campaign to encourage readers to support locally owned stores in their communities -- a move that could pump billions of dollars into urban economies such as ours during these recession-plagued times.

While the campaign began as a way of encouraging readers to shop local during the December holiday season, we're just as certain that any Valentine's Day related spending could continue the momentum NUVO readers always bring to local retailers.

The spend local campaign project is based on data showing that money spent in locally owned businesses tends to stay in the area and circulate through the community, increasing economic activity. Economists call this the "multiplier effect," and in the case of spending local versus spending at a big-box or chain store, the economic impact is tripled.

There are any number of great reasons to support local businesses, here's ten of the best we've found:

1. Protecting local flavor

Indianapolis is unlike any other city in the world. By choosing to support locally owned businesses, you help maintain the city's diversity and distinctive character.

2. Community well-being

Locally owned businesses build strong neighborhoods by sustaining communities, linking neighbors, and by contributing more to local causes.

3. Local decision making

Local ownership means that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.

4. Keeping dollars in the local economy

Your dollars spent in locally-owned businesses have three times the impact on your community as dollars spent at national chains.

5. Your neighbor's paycheck

Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.

6. Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship fuels America's economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.

7. Public benefits and costs

Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls.

8. Environmental sustainability

Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers-which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution.

9. Competition

A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.

10. Product diversity

A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

What follows in this Share the love: Spend local Valentine's Day supplement are a few of the retailers and restaurants and special events we think you'll love as much as we do, as as much as NUVO readers do.

In each category, we've given you the winner's from the 2008 NUVO Best of Indy awards, as well as a few editor and staff favorites that we can't get enough of. Looking for flowers, chocolates, candles or wine? We've got you covered. Want a dinner and date that neither one of you are likely to soon forget? Trust us, we've gathered quite the variety from which you can choose.

All we ask in return is that you share the love and, where applicable, show these and other local retailers, restauranteurs, artists and artisans a little Valentine love of your own this week.

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