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“Local broker” usually translates into a full service broker which usually means high transaction costs and often proprietary mutual funds with loads and high expenses. There are some exceptions, however. Schwab has local offices and are highly regarded, Scottrade is primarily an online broker, but, does have local offices.
There are also banks and credit unions that also provide an investing branch or affiliation. It sounds as if that is who currently has your account.
That leaves the mutual fund companies and the discount brokers although there may not be a clear distinction between the two since many mutual fund companies that sell direct also have a brokerage service and mutual funds are available through discount brokers. I would guess that most at the Motley Fool use a discount broker or deal with a fund company or both (like me).
The decision between these two probably depends on what you intent to invest in. If you will primarily be investing in individual stock then probably a discount broker is where you should be looking. If you will be investing in mutual funds (index or other) then perhaps you should be considering mutual fund companies. Vanguard, Fidelity, and T Rowe Price come to mind. More information about discount broker can be obtained from the Discount Brokers board at the Fool. I should point out that mutual fund purchases through a broker often comes with a transaction fee that would not be incurred if purchased direct from the fund company.

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