Guest Opinion: Buy local, but what does local truly mean?

That car you just bought at the dealership around the corner from you might have been designed in Europe. The parts could have been made in China and assembled in Georgia. Is the dealership a local company?

The shirt you bought last week might have been manufactured in Mexico and the sneakers you’re wearing could have been made in Vietnam. Is that nearby store where you bought those items a local company?

In today’s global economy, it has become so much harder to define the word “local.” What does it actually mean nowadays?

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language has a lengthy definition of the word “local,” which is as follows:

1. Of or relating to a place.

2. Pertaining to, existing in, of interest to, peculiar to, or serving a locality.

That’s a pretty good definition. However, I have a simpler way of defining local, especially when looking at a company: “Local is as local does.” In other words, I determine if a company is local by its actions.

Does it employ local residents? Does it support the community either through volunteerism and/or financially? Are its employees engaged in making the community a better place to live? Does it make sponsorship decisions at the local level? In the case of a bank, does it make loan decisions at the local level? Do its actions mirror the community in which it’s located? When I examine my company and its activities, I have to conclude that we are definitely local.

To illustrate my point, Wells Fargo currently employs about 630 team members in Clark County. Last year we volunteered 15,244 hours to local schools and nonprofit groups. This includes volunteering at individual events as well as longer-term commitments, such as serving on a community board. Based on the value of a volunteer hour, established by the Independent Sector (independentsector.org), that equates to a gift of more than $325,600. In addition, Wells Fargo invested in the future success of local schools, Habitat for Humanity and other nonprofits in Clark County last year by donating $100,000 in grants, based on suggestions from our local team members.

Wells Fargo wasn’t born as a national bank that then decided to be local. We started out as a local bank in one community with two employees: Henry Wells and William Fargo. Eventually, we grew into a family of many local banks in communities across the nation. We trace our origins in Clark County back to 1863 when we opened our first office in Vancouver.

We begin every conversation with what’s best for customers and their communities, because every customer and all of our team members are part of a community somewhere – the place where they live and work and play. We employ local residents, we pay local taxes and we shop at local stores. We raise our children here, we send them to local schools and we support our local community nonprofits. That sounds like local to me.

Vancouver resident Amanda Dolley is Wells Fargo’s retail banking district manager for Clark County. A 2010 graduate of Leadership Clark County, she serves on the Development committee of the Fort Vancouver Historic Trust. Last year she volunteered 265 hours for local nonprofit groups. She can be reached at 360.693.8348.

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