Osakis is a town that is one to be proud of. We have a trailhead for a massive paved trail through Central Minnesota, we've got a fisherman's dream with Lake Osakis, schools with a proven academic track record and a downtown that has had quite the facelift recently! It's those downtown shops that need your patronage. If you'd like to see our beautiful town continue to flourish, we all need to remember to shop local when we can.

I'd like to remind all of you reading this the importance of shopping local. By shopping local, you are not only supporting the businesses, you're also supporting your neighbor that owns that business and you're supporting the employees of that business, many of whom could also be your neighbor. Your dollar isn't going to go and get shipped off to another city into someone's pocket that you've never met. By investing local, you are in turn investing in local families. That's the thought process that should be happening when you're at a cash register.

Your dollar can go even further when that business directly supports our community with sponsorships of events, school activities and growth of their business, which in turn increases the number of items or services that business can offer to the community. When a community sponsors an event or festival, the event planner is more capable of putting on larger and larger events, which in turn brings more business directly into our very own community. When more and more people patron local businesses and those businesses expand their amount of crafts/merchandise or services, more people will seek out that business, which in turn again grows our community.

Shopping local keeps a community strong by developing consumer relationships with that business owner. You're working with someone who has a passion for what their business sells or what service they offer, and therefore you are working with someone who can be considered an artisan, specialist or craftsperson. That intangible benefit isn't one you'll get online or from a big box store.

As local businesses grow, so does the outside desire of those looking to open a business within the community. Before you know it, we've got additional storefronts coming in and an expanding downtown. Granted, all these changes take time, but every effort counts. We saw it firsthand with the number of new businesses we've had downtown just in the last year - it's been fantastic!

As you can see, shopping local can be the snowball rolling down the hill that just keeps growing with benefits. To keep our town moving forward, we all need to remember to invest in it. The rewards for doing so may be much larger than the good feeling you get supporting local; it has the power to change lives.

Osakis Voices is a rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.