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MarketMaker links local holiday shoppers, buyers
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Local products have great appeal as holiday gifts because of their uniqueness, and finding new ideas and new sources has never been easier than with the online tool Mississippi MarketMaker.
MarketMaker is a free online service that exists to connect “willing markets and quality sources of food from farm and fisheries to fork in Mississippi.”
Amanda Seymour, a MarketMaker marketing outreach coordinator with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said MarketMaker puts consumers in contact with local retailers, producers and processors of food items in the region.
“This is a unique tool that allows users to find Mississippi-made products and helps out businesses in local communities,” Seymour said. “Some of our small, locally-owned businesses don’t have the resources to advertise widely, but almost everyone is on the Internet. MarketMaker helps put willing buyers in touch with sellers.”
Shoppers looking for specialty candy, sweet potatoes, pecans and pecan goodies, fruit, Christmas trees, baked goods or other food or farm products can find local sources on MarketMaker. Consumers on http://www.ms.marketmaker.uiuc.edu start by entering their information in the middle box of the site’s main page under Farmers, Fisheries and Businesses.
Baked goods are a popular holiday treat. A MarketMaker search of food retailers of candy, nuts and confections results in 42 locations scattered across the state. A phone number, physical address and business details are one click away.
Ken Hood, MSU Extension Service agricultural economist, said shopping close to home is always good for the local economy.
“In bad or good economic times, it benefits the local community to keep as many dollars in the local economy as possible,” Hood said. “If the dollar is spent somewhere outside the community, then part of the economic impact goes to other economies outside the local community and may never return, a principle we call leakage.
“Dollars spent within a local community will have less leakage and create more economic activity within the local community, as the dollar is turned over and over for more goods and services in the local community,” Hood explained.
Seymour said the fact that using MarketMaker is free makes it an even better resource for buyers and sellers.
“This is a great way for a niche product to find a larger audience, and a way for those who like to shop locally to find new sources of favorite products,” Seymour said.
Ben Posadas, associate Extension and research professor of economics at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, said MarketMaker expands a business’s market beyond its traditional limits and helps those people looking for a specialty product find what they want.
“A tool like MarketMaker helps local businesses by expanding the reach of their marketplace,” Posadas said. “As long as the local business is listed in MarketMaker with sufficient market information about what they offer buyers, MarketMaker can bring in additional transactions that will enhance their sales of products and services.”
Posadas said more than 10,000 Mississippi businesses are listed on the state’s site. Each month, about 3,000 visitors come to the site for market assistance.
Seymour said MarketMaker’s usefulness to a business depends largely on how carefully the owner describes the business when listing it on MarketMaker. Depending on the item being listed, the service allows users to search within set geographic limits and by keywords, such as organic, naturally processed, vegan and more.
“If Mississippi products are on your holiday shopping list, visit MarketMaker to find retailers in your area selling the products you want,” Seymour said.
MarketMaker was developed in Illinois and is hosted nationally by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. To date, 18 states use the service, and two more are joining. In Mississippi, it is free to all users, funded by a grant through the MSU Extension Service and the Mississippi Department of Agriculture.