Communities can control small business success

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 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 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, 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-TIF’s 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 their efforts inward and determine if their community is doing everything possible to support and build their 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 their future in their 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-TIF’s, 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 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 soul of your community, but national statistics also indicate investing dollars into your downtown bring the highest return (ROI) to your community. 

When downtowns are left to deteriorate, you can assure other parts of the community will soon follow. You won’t see it overnight, it will be like a cancer or 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 drives 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.

John Newby, Pineville, Missouri is a nationally recognizedpublisher, a community, chamber, business and media consultant, and speaker. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column is carried in communities around the country. The founder of Truly-Local, dedicated to assisting communities, their businesses and media to build synergies that create more vibrant communities. He can be reached at [email protected].