Whatcom Think Local First Gift Card and Local Gift Guide serve as simple ways to give back and support our small businesses during COVID- 19 and beyond and are supported through a collaboration between Whatcom County Chambers of Commerce (Bellingham Regional, Birch Bay, Blaine, Ferndale, Lynden, Mt. Baker Foothills), Sustainable Connections, Downtown Bellingham Partnership, Historic Fairhaven Association, Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, the Regional Economic Partnership (REP) at the Port of Bellingham, employers, and merchants.

Why supporting local businesses is so important during COVID-19

Shopping at local businesses means supporting the heart of what makes Whatcom County unique. The purchase of a Whatcom Think Local First Gift Card creates a pool of cash that local businesses in Whatcom County can rely on during the pandemic. Studies have shown that local independent retailers recirculate 47% of their revenue back into the community, while only 14% of national chains’ revenue stays in the community.More dramatically, restaurants, who have been hit especially hard during the pandemic, recirculate 73% of their revenue back into the community, versus only 30% for national chains.

By supporting local businesses, more money continues circulating through the local community—this is achieved through a combination of profits paid to local business owners, wages paid to local workers, goods and services procured locally for internal use or resale, and charitable giving within the community. People looking for a way to do some good or who want to know how to help the community they love, especially during COVID-19, can still find local online stores in the Local Gift Guide, and purchase Whatcom Think Local First Gift Cards for others or themselves.

The Whatcom Think Local First Gift Card, a community-based digital gift card that makes it fun and easy to keep local spending local, can be purchased at thinklocalfirst.org and used at any participating local merchant in Whatcom County. Purchasers can write a personal message to send along with the card to family, friends and colleagues via email, text, or physical copy. Recipients can choose to spend it at one of 100+ participating merchants in Whatcom County – or mix it up and spend flexibly at multiple locations. All digital and always available on your phone, the Whatcom Think Local First Gift Card is great for holidays, birthdays, teacher or coach appreciation gifts, or just to show your appreciation to a friend. Especially important during the pandemic is the ability to order locally online for takeout, delivery, and curbside pickup at restaurants and retailers, which is a perfect way to use this card. While supplies last, bonus gift cards will be given to those who purchase gift cards. For every $25 spent in gift cards, an additional $10 bonus gift card is awarded; for every $50 spent, $20 is awarded; and for every $100 spent, $40 is awarded. The bonus gift cards have an expiration date of December 31, 2020 to ensure that the money benefits our local businesses as quickly as possible. For more information or to participate as a merchant in the program, visit thinklocalfirst.org.

The Local Gift Guide takes the guess work out of choosing gifts this holiday season. With a directory of over 430 locally owned businesses in Whatcom County, shoppers are sure to find a local business near them to support. Gift suggestions are listed by category, price, and location to offer a variety of gifts for everyone. Available digitally at thinklocalfirst.org and in print from any WECU location, gift givers can find plenty of local businesses offering online shopping, local delivery, outdoor dining, and takeout options.