The new and emerging cities and towns have to direct their attention towards the small business development of current and new organizations. This is not a new theory but as I watch another year go by of cities and towns chasing that market and others going for the big score, its apparent which ones are creating a community and not a corporation. Small business blood is what drives downtowns and local charm. It makes an inner city have feelings and social engagement. Small businesses doing well in a specific area with the love and affection of its city leaders will give and give and give. But a town that says they want small business but tends to focus on a major corporate draw, has a hard time bringing that culture to its community and it can’t be easy to reverse. So I have a couple of simple reasons why a community must intentionally push for small business startup, development and growth. And from an economic development standpoint there would be nothing more gratifying then knowing that a community sustains itself on people and not events. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the economics of a theatre or amusement park. But I also understand long term growth and the results of focusing on the little guy.
1. Small Business Owners Want to Help-People that own and work for a small company or start up want to get out there and be involved. They want to donate time and money to create a vibrant community for their friends and family to be proud of. They will organize, volunteer, donate and spread the good word better then any city department could dream of.
2. Small Business Creates Culture-You notice when you go to the great redeveloped cities, they have a culture. They have a uniqueness and an experience that you can’t get just anywhere. They have a thriving row of local restaurants and shops that have a loyal local following. It also creates a “place to be” atmosphere. Locals hang out and engage others to do the same when an inviting culture exists. Think Naperville, Broadripple and Mass Avenue. None of them have a big corporate feel and they are doing fantastic.
3. Small Business Brings Money-As corporations and big business look to invest in communities, they are looking to make a difference. They are looking to find the most efficient and effective way to use their money to build on an idea or plan of a local community. Being apart of something that changes lifestyles in an ongoing fashion is a lot more attractive to the big donors then protecting an already saturated market share. Think about the last professional sporting event and try to remember what brand cola or beer they serve. Its tough. Now think about walking down a newly lit and landscaped street sponsored by a large brand. The story would and does resonate much more then the thought of big business fighting over stadium cups.
4. Small Business Builds Neighborhoods-Today we spend more money then ever in our communities on groceries, services and large purchases. The retailers know this and follow. But they don’t go first, they FOLLOW. Small business owners create jobs and with jobs comes housing. With housing comes retailers, car repairs, banks, restaurants and obviously more community advocates.
See its important for a city to grow but its also important for a city to stay true to what really works and what sort of works. We have lots of organizations in place in every little town that have lost touch with these differences and are chasing a dream that may not be able to sustain long term success. I am in support of a community built on small business, small business owners and small business growth. Because with them come the natural big business dollars, big business tax base and big business attractions.