Our world is seemingly dominated by the twists and turns of the nation’s largest corporations, where billions of dollars are constantly at play, and millions of jobs on the table.
Because of that, it’s easy to overlook the businesses that aren’t trading on the New York Stock Exchange, or that may not have a lot to spend on marketing and branding — where the owner knows every employee, and every employee knows her.
These are our small businesses — our mom-and-pop businesses. And while they might not be the Apples or the Disneys of the world, they remain vital to our communities, and our very lives.
There are 90,000 businesses on Long Island, according to Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, and a vast majority of them employ fewer than 50 people. Many might not be household names beyond their immediate neighborhoods, but where they are known, they are important.
Yet with each passing year, our society pulls further away from the small businesses that we so cherish and pushes further into the realm of the mega-corporations. Not that there isn’t a place for the conglomerates — it’s just best that they don’t devour too much of our economic base.
Small businesses account for 44 percent of U.S. economic activity, according to a report from the federal Small Business Administration just ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, and their share of the nation’s gross domestic progress is slowly, but surely, shrinking. Between 1998 and 2014, the small business share of GDP dropped from 48 percent to 43.5.
Small business GDP itself is growing — but just under 1.5 percent a year, as compared to the 2.5 percent of larger businesses.
A lot of that shifting began after the 2008 recession, and continued as big-box stores grew dramatically, as did online retailers like Amazon. That’s a primary reason why organizations like the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce — which represents more than 50 chambers of commerce in the county, and more than 10,000 businesses — are so keen to promote “Shop Local.”
Small businesses need us, and we need them. Small businesses provide more jobs and more opportunities to people in their communities, corporate recruiter Martin Rowinski wrote in Forbes magazine last year.
“Successful small businesses put money back into their local community through paychecks and taxes, which can support the creation of new small businesses, and improve local public services,” Rowinski wrote. “No matter how small it starts — one, two, five, 10 employees — within that town, the city or the county, your small business creates new economies where once there was nothing.”
And that should be the definitive conclusion to this discussion, but sadly, it’s not. While it’s nearly impossible to find anyone who would consciously choose a large company over a hometown business, it still happens all the time. Many times, it’s because we simply don’t think about the impact of ordering something from Amazon, or ordering a pizza from a chain rather than a local pizzeria.
More often than not, it comes down to cost — more often than not, it’s cheaper to head to Home Depot than to a local hardware store. Or to the 7-Eleven instead of the family-owned bodega on the corner. There is a place for the Home Depots and the 7-Elevens in our communities — but just not at the cost of local business. And it’s important to keep that in mind when we choose where we spend our money.
One of the biggest spending periods of the year is coming up after Thanksgiving, and there will be so many businesses chasing after us, hoping to receive the dollars we’re looking to spend.
But let’s make every effort we can to keep those dollars right here in our communities. “Shop Local” isn’t just a slogan — it’s key to keeping our communities thriving. And it ensures that our small businesses will never be overlooked.