Your community, state and region are experiencing an economic crisis. How are you responding? What will you do to help change the trajectory of the crisis?
As businesses reopen with social distancing precautions in place, online shopping seems to be the safest and most convenient route.
Small businesses with brick-and-mortar shops have more at stake than an online business that solely delivers to your mailbox or front door. The dollars you spend at small businesses in your area pay employees and provide benefits to people you know. Those employees spend their hard-earned paychecks in your community.
What’s the most significant setback many small businesses face today during the COVID-19 pandemic? Businesses need customers. Customers still need to show up while respecting the social distancing guidelines. When you support the businesses in your town, your dollars energize your community.
The mom-and-pop businesses support local school, church or fire district fundraisers. Your kids and grandkids will ask the businesses in your community to fund their future music and sport activities, camps, youth group trips, county fair, scholarships and the list goes on.
To be successful, small businesses need to let people know about the products and services they provide. In my experience, small businesses offer superior customer service and support versus many box stores. Their support after the sale goes beyond a 1-800 number or online submission form. In a lot of small businesses, you can call and speak directly to the manager or owner.
A second key to success for small businesses is trust. That trust must be earned – and the resulting support should come with no drama attached.
Community dynamics can influence a person’s decision to support a local business. For example, you might not particularly like the pop of the mom and pop store on main street. After all, his son took your son’s starting position on the football team 20 years ago. You know what I’m talking about. Those grudges and hard feelings can last decades. A global pandemic calls for letting go of those feelings and supporting the pop’s store now. Your community could lose his family business, resulting in layoffs. The domino effect of waning local support in the post-COVID-19 world matters more than anything that occurred on the football field 20 years ago.
A critical indicator of economic growth is sales tax growth. When a business delivers a product to your community, the sales tax is collected for your town.
For example, say you purchase a chest freezer (which I hear are hard to find these days) from a family-owned appliance store in the next town over from you. The appliance store delivers the freezer to your community. They collect the sales tax for your community where they made the delivery. Your direct purchase still supports sales tax dollars. Did you know that?
By April 10, almost 70% of small businesses in America applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan program offered by the Small Business Administration. PPP is a Band-Aid, offering protection for an eight-week period and helping businesses maintain payroll.
We cannot expect the federal government to revitalize our communities. Long-term, our communities need you and me to show up and spend our dollars locally. I hope I can write a column 90 days to six months from now that shares how people showed up for the small businesses in their community while practicing social distancing. I want to see small businesses, the backbone of our American economy, experience a renaissance of growth. It starts with responding now with our support.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.