Small Business = Local Business

Main Street MontanaThe value of locally owned businesses to our communities, to ourselves.

With the time for giving thanks upon us and Small Business Saturday coming soon — tomorrow! – we can’t help but take time to consider the blessing of our small, locally owned businesses. Yes, we’re one of them, but we’re part of a great American tradition: small employers who hire local employees to deliver the best in goods and services. Yes, we’re all behind the Small Business Saturday movement, even though its major sponsor is a giant credit card company that profits from businesses big and small. But small business to us means local business, the businesses that make our communities unique and productive.

It’s well known that small businesses in America employee more people than any other sector of the economy. But what’s not as well known is the value local businesses have to the communities where they’re located and the economy at large. Part of the reason for this is the huge amount of advertising and public relations money spent — we’re looking at you Wal Mart — to convince us what a valuable contribution to our communities the giant chains make. And while its true that the national box stores employ some of our neighbors and make donations to local charities, often with much fanfare, they tend to do two things. One, they siphon money off from far-flung locales and send it off to the corporate home. And two, they exhaust local funds from taxes in subsidies, infrastructure costs, and “non-associated” impacts like traffic. Having a big box store in your community — or any community – puts a burden on all of us.

What we want to emphasize here is the value of shopping locally. Time magazine had a good article on the benefits not all that long ago. More and more studies are finding just what a boon small, local businesses are. Sustainable Connections has a good summary of why local businesses are so valuable to the communities they’re located in. Briefly:

  • Money spent in local businesses tends to be re-spent at other local businesses, thus stimulating local economies by keeping the dollars spent at home.
  • Local businesses are more invested in community. They tend to make more local charitable contributions and their owners, as well as their employees, tend to take an active role in the community.
  • Local businesses tend to demand less energy, are more environmentally and sustainably friendly than corporate chains. Local businesses tend to be located inside cities, often in existing structures, rather than situating on the edge of city limits (or even just outside in an attempt to fore go community taxes) like the big boxes.
  • Local businesses tend to give better service than that found at big box stores; they know their communities’ needs and tend to stock accordingly.
  • Local businesses are more employee friendly.

We invite you to check out these studies — please go through every one — and spread these ideas to your friends and neighbors. They’ll appreciate it because many of them own or are employed by small, locally-owned businesses.

What kinds of businesses are we talking about? Small specialty retailers in clothing, sporting goods, hardware, and appliances. Restaurants. Downtown store fronts that offer one of a kind, often hand-made items. Small, often organic agricultural producers. Almost every kind of service that you can think of, from accounting to house-cleaning and home repair. Brew pubs. Independent book stores. Locally owned grocers. Small manufacturers. Independent auto repair shops. Even locally operated franchises. And, yes, gardening and nursery stores.

In a time when even our small towns are being taken over by big-box stores, we still and always will believe that small, local businesses are the backbone of the American economy. On this Black Friday, tomorrow on Small Business Saturday, and every other day of the year, support your local businesses. When you do, you support yourself and your community.

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