November 18, 2012

Small Business Saturday has impact

Next weekend we will celebrate Small Business Saturday across our nation.

If every day was Small Business Saturday, our region would be much stronger. Instead, when too-big-to-fail sneezes, small businesses catch pneumonia.

When George Bush bailed out big banks and insurance companies, and state governments indemnified civil servants, there seemed to be nobody looking out for small businesses. This oversight is ironic, given how many new jobs small businesses generate and how vulnerable they are to macroeconomic mismanagement of the follies of those too-big-to-fail and leaders more concerned about politics than prosperity.

I say “they,” but I confess for me it is a “we,” as my wife and I toil to develop a local wine industry. Like most small businesspeople, we do so not by seeking gifts from government but by the passion of entrepreneurship and the sweat of our brow.

Every small businessperson ponders the larger economy, and must be wise to succeed. The Walmarts and the bulk outlets will always have an advantage in cost. For commodities like cheap cheese and inexpensive wine and beer, mass-produced shoes and clothes made in China, the bulk outlets serve a role in our economy.

I don’t begrudge them. If people can save money on those things for which quality of product or service matters little, our household budget goes farther, which allows us savings to afford the occasional higher quality product that we might not otherwise consider.

Walmart and outlet stores have commodified much of what we buy. We have no expectation of good service or product knowledge. And, the large profits large stores generate that often leave our county are a price we can ill-afford.

Buying local means buying a level of service that large outlets have all but forgotten. It also returns a hidden dividend. When you buy local, you may pay a very small bit more for local knowledge, for a proprietor that cares about you and insists you are always right, and for someone interested in filling your product needs that might otherwise go unmet.

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