It's the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season — Black Friday.

Millions of Americans brave big crowds to find big deals on gifts for their family and friends. According to Credit Sesame, a personal credit management platform, U.S. consumers spent an average of $465 on Black Friday in 2017.

Online spending has ramped up, too. In the first 20 days of November, shoppers spent $31.9 billion online, nearly 17 percent more than a year earlier, according to a report from Adobe Analytics.

While shopping malls and chain stores get most of the attention during the shopping season, it's important not to forget the small, locally-owned shops and restaurants that support our communities throughout the year.

Small Business Saturday began in 2010 as a marketing campaign by American Express to promote small businesses.

Shopping locally is important. It not only supports those small businesses and offers opportunities for unique gifts, but it helps the community.

In Blair, 1.5 percent of every dollar spent goes into the sales tax fund, which is used for upgrading and repairing the infrastructure in the community.

In 2017, the local sales tax helped fund a new restroom at Lions Park, a new park pickup truck and mower, playground equipment and more than $140,000 was used for the Blair Public Library and Technology Center.

The funds are also used for property tax relief. Nearly $1.5 million dollars worth of sales tax revenue is used toward property tax relief in Blair.

Arlington and Fort Calhoun have also seen benefits from the 1.5 percent sales tax.

Arlington has used its funds to purchase solar lighting for the walking trails through Bell Creek Park, new Christmas decorations to adorn the street lights, and most importantly toward its new Village Hall.

Fort Calhoun approved its sales tax in 2016. In its first full year, the city received nearly $250,000.

Now, it's using those funds as seed money to receive grants to make improvements in the Adams Street corridor, including a splash pad and trails throughout the city.

When you take your dollars to the big city, or you shop online, your local sales tax fund gets zero dollars. Just think about what we would not have without local sales tax funding.

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