The great businessman Harvey McKay once said, “People begin to become successful the minute they decide to be.”
Another great quote by Albert Einstein, who said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Simply put, we need to believe we can change and then we must alter our traditional thinking to enact and facilitate that change within our community.
Small businesses and communities have been challenged in recent years. Through all of this, we must remind ourselves of the true value small business brings to our community. Analyst Nick Rokke, of the Palm Beach Daily, pointed out some interesting small business facts. Small businesses make up 99.7% of U.S. companies. These same small businesses employ 49% of Americans and create 64% of all new jobs. Let those figures sink in!
Prior to 2020, the business environment was generally robust in most communities throughout the country should come as no surprise. Beginning in 2020, the dynamic changed almost overnight. Even communities that incorporated many of the proven successful tactics such as micro-TIF’s, favorable tax rates, fewer regulations, city commitment, and other initiatives to assist small businesses, found themselves struggling to survive.
The equation is simple, with fewer regulations, businesses can more accurately predict the future allowing them to hire more employees or expand. Competitive tax rates allow businesses to keep more of their profits providing the ingredients of a strong small-medium business-inducing environment. Micro-TIFs provide targeted funds for targeted areas of your community. City commitment instills confidence and support.
Why is this information important? Now is the time every community in America must shine their light inward and determine if their community is doing everything possible to support and build their future through their small business base. Communities must double down on their efforts to assure small business growth. Now is the time to spring into action and create an atmosphere of innovation, change, entrepreneurship, collaboration, and synergies.
There are 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 jobs are hard to fill. The list of economic reasons is practically endless.
Despite the reasons above and many others, 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-TIFs, investigate it and see if that fits your community. If you have a tight labor market, provide tax incentives for hiring locals in lieu of out-of-town employees. For every issue, there are also excuses. Don’t dwell on excuses, look for solutions to overcome your issues through creativity, innovation and willingness to invest in LOCAL people.
Many communities invest major dollars in courting national businesses. This isn’t all bad. However, evaluate the long-term impact of those dollars on your community. In most cases, the long-term impact is much worse than we realize. Not to mention, when times get tough, national chains typically have little local loyalty and will leave.
Most importantly, while investing in small business, simultaneously invest in your current downtown. National statistics indicate those investment dollars bring the highest financial return to your community. When downtowns are left to deteriorate, you can plan on 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. I have yet to see a rebuilt and vibrant downtown that hasn’t positively impacted the entire community.
Our downtowns are treasures, the link between the past, present, and future. Downtowns are what drives small business growth throughout the entire community. Downtowns connects the young, middle age and the mature. Your downtown is the future for those communities’ seeking answers to a better tomorrow.
John A. Newby is the author of the “Building Main Street, Not Wall Street” weekly column dedicated to helping local communities keep their consumer dollars local. He can be reached by email at: [email protected].