Written by Travis Stephens, President and CEO of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce
No spoiler alert here: small businesses play a vital role in creating vibrant, thriving local communities and provide significant benefits in various ways. This includes everything from job creation, economic growth, and personalized customer service to diverse and unique product offerings, and community involvement, and philanthropy.
This is not to say that chains and big box stores are to be dismissed or discounted, far be it. Chain businesses fill many consumer needs and wants that small businesses can’t and they can definitely support their share of local causes, sports teams, and so on. Small and large, local and national, businesses of all shapes and sizes work in tandem to provide a community a robust quality of life and sense of place. But above and beyond that, it’s the small, locally owned businesses that give a community its unique identity, local flavor, and character. And given small business week runs from April 30 to May 6. I wanted to give all the small businesses, and their owners and operators, their due.
But beyond the character and the charm that small businesses create, there is an economic component as well. For those who are new to community economics, let this sink in: Somewhere between 60% to 80% of every dollar you spend at a local small business in the Joplin area is going to stay and be reused in the Joplin area. It will be passed on by the small business owner to a nearby restaurant, to a local pest control service, to an organization hosting a ball game or a performance, or to another retail store. That dollar will continue to be circulated throughout the community to other businesses. Meanwhile, for every dollar you spend at a box store, somewhere between 20% and 40% will remain, meaning that the lion’s share will end up leaving the local community to a far away land. In essence, those funds are leaving to support someone else’s community.
Thus, I want to make an ask of you. Whenever you are in the market for a new product, simply practice the habit of searching local first. Then, and only then, if the product isn’t available, consider the alternatives. And don’t get me started on shopping online.