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OPINION: Communities Can Control Small Business Success!

April 14, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

This week let's start with a quote by Albert Einstein. He said, "The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking." Put another way, we must change our thinking of the past to realize and facilitate change within our community today.

After the past couple of years which impacted many small businesses and communities, it is important we remind ourselves of the real and tangible value small business brings to our community. Analyst Nick Rokke, of the Palm Beach Daily, recently indicated some astounding small business facts. Small businesses make up 99.7% of U.S. firms. They employ 49% of all Americans and create 64% of all new jobs. Stop, and let those figures sink in!

Prior to the last couple of years, the locally owned business environment was generally favorable in most communities throughout the country. Governments over time, and more recently with the help of covid, have become less favorable to small business. Even communities incorporating many of the proven tactics such as micro-TIF's, favorable tax rates, fewer regulations, city commitment, and other initiatives to assist small businesses, are struggling to survive.

Rokke also points out that, with fewer regulations, businesses can more accurately predict the future, allowing them to hire more employees and expand. Competitive tax rates allow businesses to keep more of their profits, creating a stronger small-medium business base in the community. Micro-TIFs provide targeted funds for targeted areas of your community. City commitment and leaders can instill confidence and support.

Why do I point out the above information? Now is the time for every community in America to focus its efforts inward and determine if its community is doing everything possible to support and build its local business base. Now is the time for your community to double down on efforts to assure small business growth. Now is the time to create an atmosphere of innovation, change, entrepreneurship, collaboration and synergy.

There can be many reasons why this may not be occurring in your community. It may be regional headwinds not seen in other portions of the country, such as being tied to oil prices. It may be local and state taxes, coupled with regulation, such as we see in states like Illinois, New Jersey or California, stifling growth. It might be a soft labor market where open positions are hard to fill. The list of economic reasons is practically endless.

In spite of the reasons above and others that we could add to the list, each community must take its future into its own hands. Be the future you wish to see. If taxes are too high, offer tax incentives. If regulations are stifling, reduce regulations, making start-ups easy and painless. If you haven't taken advantage of micro-TIFs, look into it and see if that fits your community. You might be surprised. If you have a tight labor market, provide tax incentives for hiring locals in lieu of out-of-town employees. For every issue, there seems to be an excuse. Don't dwell on excuses, seek solutions to overcoming your issues through creativity, innovation, and a willingness to invest in local people.

Many communities invest major dollars in courting national businesses, not that this is always bad. Evaluate the long-term impact of those dollars on your community. In most cases, the long-term impact is much worse than we can imagine or realize. Not to mention, when times get tough, national chains know no loyalty and will leave.

Most importantly, while investing in small business, simultaneously invest in your downtown and the surrounding area. Not only are your downtowns the eyes into the soul of your community, but national statistics also indicate investing dollars into your downtown brings the highest return to your community. When downtowns are left to deteriorate, you can be assured other parts of the community will soon follow. You won't see it overnight, it will be like cancer or a degenerative process that slowly infects the body until it is too weak to battle back.

On the other hand, I have yet to see a rebuilt and vibrant downtown that hasn't positively impacted the entire community.

Our downtowns are treasures, they link the past, present and future together. They are what drive small business growth throughout the entire community. They are what connects the young, middle-aged and the mature. They are the future for those communities seeking answers to a better tomorrow.

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John Newby, of Pineville, Mo., is a nationally recognized publisher, community, business and media consultant and speaker. His "Building Main Street, not Wall Street" column appears in many communities around the country. He is the founder of Truly-Local, dedicated to assisting communities, creating excitement, energy, and combining synergies with local media to better their communities. He can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Print Headline: Communities Can Control Small Business Success!

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